Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why New People Are Good For My Kids

This family has been through lots of changes this fall. Both of the boys have started new schools and have been assigned new therapists. Whenever routines are broken, at least one of us breaks down and many times, that person is me. It's been hard on all of us but in the end it's such a good thing.

What I've learned is that change is the only way you can see how well your child is generalizing their skills. I think kids with neuro-challenges really have a hard time doing that. For example, Spencer would say certain words with one therapist and in that same day, with the same toy, he'll say different words or will not perform the skill at all because he's not "generalizing across people," the therapists told me.

I know that anxiety is a huge issue for my kids but I think generalizing is also extremely difficult for them. For example, Logan is now in a new school and I can see that he is behaving differently in this new setting. His new school really emphasizes appropriate behavior for the sake of it being the right thing to do and not because you will get a token or avoid a time-out (his old school's approach). I like this approach even though it is different from what I use at home. I think his school's approach really presents real-world expectations but in a caring and loving setting. He is so lucky to be there.

Nevertheless, this approach is really foreign to Logan but you'd think that some of the self-control skills he learned in preschool would carry over to Kindergarten. Unfortunately, in some respects, they have not. I knew this would happen and yet, I don't think I can't stop feeling restless until he has adjusted and is having more successful days.

Additionally, I'm learning a lot about Spencer through some changes as well. We have a new occupational therapist that works with him twice a week in his school's sensory gym and she has seen some things in him that I sometimes overlook. Moreover, he is currently being evaluated for special needs preschool services and the evaluation findings have been really surprising. He basically did a lot worse on his speech evaluation than I thought he would. He wouldn't even count for the therapist but he does it for me all the time.

It really makes you think about how important it is to have someone outside of his life evaluate your child. While, it's good to get progress reports from people who are working with your child on a regular basis, someone from the outside can see if your child can take a skill that they've learned and apply it elsewhere. Thus, I am currently questioning how much skill a child truly has when he'll only perform a task for certain people and not others.

For now, I am going to say that the child doesn't wholly have the skill since generalizing is so important. What good is it if Spencer can count to twenty but can only do it for four people? I really don't know how to teach a child to generalize better and that is not good because this is really hard for kids with ADHD. I think they might even be called "adaptive skills." I don't know how to improve this when we are always encouraged to have structure and a routine, and thus there is nothing to which to "adapt."

I suppose all I can do to improve these skills is to mix things up but not overwhelm them with too much change. This is the only way I can know how much they can really do and I've been learning a lot about them this season. For example, I found out that Spencer can eat ham, Logan still can not do Tae Kwon Do class without breaking down, Spencer is still very behind in speech/communication skills, Spencer has some ritualistic behaviors (OCD??? hmm), and Logan can have a successful birthday party experience if it is with his classmates. (We went to another birthday party and I think I lost five pounds trying to keep them inside with the group. We were the first to leave.)

Breaking the routine might be hardest for me but once in a while, they do something that shows they can accept the challenge and do it well. Something so small as Spencer being able to add ham to his food repertoire, made me so hopeful that he can eat even more things and that I just need to keep trying. On an even more positive note, Logan went to a bowling birthday party and he bowled well and finally did better at taking turns after he realized the blinking arrow on the screen would go to his name when it was his turn.

It's interesting that after the bowling party, he said that he didn't like bowling. I think it's because he dropped a bowling ball on his foot. That's our Logan! Either way, I'm excited to have him even more new things like roller blading and ice skating and maybe even tennis and skiing! This is all thanks to the new school, the new classmates, and the newfound courage I need to challenge them.

Video: Spencer has a pretty tight schedule in the morning but this week, he had a couple of cancellations so we just played together. I left him alone for a bit and he started doing this! I was floored. I had no idea he had it in him.

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