Can I just stop and say--so that you can take a deep breath--we are daily seeing little miracles in our boy. Little things that before were impossible, he is now taking in stride. He is learning to count before he reacts. He is learning to say "Excuse me", before he screams at an offending playmate. He is becoming more determined, more independent. This morning, after having an accident, he came and told me. Then, he ran upstairs, grabbed new underwear and pants, and brought them back to me. And then put on his underwear, by himself. Because he wanted to. He helped me clean up after every game he played. He helped me wipe off the table after breakfast.
On my lowest days, I couldn't have imagined it. These moments are miracles to me. Just today I remembered Noah's reaction the first time I blew bubbles for him when he was around 18 months. He was utterly terrified. Like running into walls and growling kind of terrified. He thought they were going to hurt. And to see him now...
Ok. Picking up where we left off.
So, my cousin is a Speech Pathologist and she works at a center providing all kinds of therapy for all kinds of needs. She referred us to Ms. Karen, an Occupational Therapist. One fine day in September, we met her so she could do a "screening" to access Noah's needs/abilities.
For me, as I have said, the hardest part has been the fact that Noah's needs aren't visible and generally manifest in behavior issues. Which, to the outside observer can be translated as, "That momma ain't doing her job." To have Ms. Karen take an hour with Noah and engage him in activities that tested all kinds of comprehension, and fine and gross motor skills was fascinating. Her personality is warm and playful, but calm. Noé warmed up to her right away (which doesn't always happen) and did his best.
A few days later, Ms. Karen called us back with her findings: She found that Noé scored very high in sensitivity to stimuli and was "sensory avoidant" or "vigilent". He was very low on his self-care abilities. He displayed some rigidity (in other words: if something is this way once, it has to always be this way). His full-body control was great, but he struggled with fine-motor control. The thing he scored above his age level in was visual memory. That didn't surprise me! He was low for oral comprehension.
Ms. Karen's hunch was that Noé's main issue could actually have to do with not having a natural sensory organization. Like that his mind wasn't automatically sorting out all the sensory information he was getting, so he was more or less doing it manually so it was taking longer. Also, this would explain some of his lack of problem-solving skills and lack of determination/independence. And, with his mind being busy with that, while he was trying to simultaneously shield himself from any unknown sensory input, it was making for a kid with extremely emotional reactions.
Strangely enough, hearing these things actually let a little pressure out of my emotional balloon, because it's one thing for the mom to say she thinks something is going on with her kid. It's another for a complete stranger and professional to say them. We were set up with weekly therapy sessions with Ms. Karen.
At the same time, Pre-K started for Noé at the local school here in town. I was so excited to hear about this 3-hour, 5 day-a-week program Noé qualified for called "Bright Futures". People had only wonderful things to say about the program, the school and the teacher. However, as the first day of school got closer, I found myself lying awake night after night, crying. How could I be sure this was the right decision? I wondered. Noé is only 3. Maybe I should wait another year. Noé has never even let us leave him in a church nursery--how will he be able to put up with being left at a big, foreign school with 20 other 3 & 4 year olds? What if he was so traumitized it actually made him regress? My mind was a mess.
However, in talking to my cousin, she pointed out that perhaps with two years of Pre-K, Noé would have the skills needed to be able to transition into a "regular" Kindergarten class. Give it a chance, she said. Sit with him in class the first day. That made sense to me, so I did.
The first few days were rough. The first day, he sat in the "Safe Area" the entire time and refused to interact with anyone. I could feel the fist of anxiety closing in my chest when I heard that. The next day, he cried the whole last hour. The next day, he did fine after he got over his first tears at goodbye time.
And now? Now he LOVES school. He can't wait to go. He knows all the names of his classmates and sings new songs almost every day. The teacher does a great day of keeping a very visible organization technique for the children and the time is very structured. Just what Noé loves.
This afternoon, I go in for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting with the teachers, therapists and principles to figure out what (if any) modifications need to be made so that Noé can continue to thrive. When I worked in the school district, I never imagined my child would one day be discussed in one of these kind of meetings--but at the same time I am so excited by and proud of the progress he has made.
Noé loves Ms. Karen like crazy. They have all kinds of fun in their weekly therapy sessions. Basically, the therapy is kind of like a controlled and focused form of rough-housing. Trying to help Noé overcome fears of falling, to loosen his need for control of everything. To build patience and fine motor skills. To help him mature his attention to verbal commands and his hand-eye coordination. And to more or less desensitize what is hyper-sensitive. Ms. Karen says her job is to "Help even her out." I feel like Noé sees Ms. Karen as someone who really gets him. And that means a lot.
I have read that many children with Noé's "issues" struggle with self-esteem or confidence, because they can see that children around them are "getting" things much easier than they are or are not having meltdowns while experience the same situation--and that can cause them to just not even want to try. Or to not believe they can. Or to give up to soon.
And, this is the part that causes my momma-heart to swell and my eyes to water. I can see Noé's confidence growing every day. I can see it when he marches into school alone, his backpack bouncing as he waves goodbye. I can see it when he counts to 10 so that he can be patient. I can see it when he walks up to people he doesn't know and starts chatting. I can see it when he is feeling uncomfortable or has his feelings hurt--but he keeps it together.
No, things aren't all the way "evened out" yet. No, we aren't at the end of this journey. But, there is hope! We feel so loved by our heavenly Daddy because we know that He cares for Noé more than we ever can. And that He brought us to live in this school district, that He put us in contact with Ms. Karen, that He is at work daily in the heart, mind and body of our boy!
Building a tower, he was telling me it was "Huuuuge!" when the picture was taken ;)
Daily becoming the best helper I could ever ask for:
Pretending to be momma:
Getting his school picture taken like a champ:
Rug time at school: