Thursday, July 31, 2008

I think we may have found a new therapist

Well, Bil and I took Danny to Terre Haute (about an hour away) to be evaluated by a new Occupational Therapist. Our goal is to find someone who has a decent working knowledge of SPD who we can meet with at least twice a month. I think Mandy is our girl!

We first went into a small room. To get to it we had to pass through a big gym-like room filled with swings and slides and balls, which of course completely captivated Danny. He was very resistant to entering the small, boring room and I was worried that it would just go downhill from there. Keep in mind that he had been in the car for over an hour (we got slightly lost) and just wanted to move. Luckily, the room was well-stocked with all kinds of fun sensory toys: cars, games and the requisite shaving cream and thera-putty, which kept him happy long enough for us to answer the myriad questions the OT had. I have filled out so many of these sensory questionnaires over the years, I could practically do it in my sleep.

If you have an SPD kid, you know what I mean: questions like "Is he sensitive to certain fabrics?" Oh yes! "Do noises rile him up, even background noises like the fridge or air conditioning?" Definitely. "Does he take a lot of risks?" All the time. The list goes on and on. My favorite, though, has been asked by pretty much every therapist he has ever seen (and that is a pretty big number for being only five years old): Is this how active he is typically? they ask a bit awestruck. And the answer is, "Oh, yes, definitely."

It makes me think of a goal his Early Intervention Physical Therapist set for him. This goal was to reduce the amount of times Danny spent tackling and or climbing on his mother. The funny thing was up to that point, I think I had become desensitized to it, I think I maybe thought all kids were like the Tazmanian Devil running through life like whirling dervishes. I have since found that this is not true. Some of my friends actually have kids with normal energy levels. And sometimes I find myself envying them. OK, I admit, at times I find myself CONSTANTLY envying them. The friends with kids who were potty trained by three or even by four. The friends with kids who can be in a big group of people without completely going super-hyper and crashing into anyone nearby. The friends with kids who don't need all types of therapy or picture schedules to get through the day. The ones whose kids will actually handle going on several errands in a day with little incident. The ones whose kids who do not freak out in certain stores because the lights are weird and buzz. The ones who can change their schedules a bit and their kids go along merrily.

Sorry for that pity party. Of course, I wouldn't change him for the world. With all his difficulties also come some great attributes that make him so lovable. With his amazing energy levels comes a really enagaging exuberance which pretty much touches all around him. And I have learned so many lessons from him that I don't think I would have picked up normally.

Well, anyway, I digress. The point of this post is that the therapy session went well. The therapist seems to really get SPD and what these kids need. Bil and I are pretty confident (not to mention relieved!) that this might just work out.

After the therapy, we grabbed lunch and went to this amazingly huge and beautiful park in the city, where Danny was in ecstasy. Not only was he able to play on huge play structures, but we also even got to ride this cute little train dubbed "The Spirit of Terre Haute." It made his day. Bil is planning on taking a vacation day for our next appointment and we will bring Charlotte and make an entire day of it. I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I have been pretty stressed and worried this week. After being in Chicago last week and seeing Danny's therapist, I have begun to question the quality of care he is getting. His therapist in Chicago is wonderful: knowledgeable, up on the latest findings on SPD, caring and intuitive. It is his therapist in Effingham that I have serious concerns about.

That therapist would be me.

Linda, Danny's Chicago OT, set up a home program for us to do regularly with Danny. We have bought tons of therapy equipment for him, spending probably over a thousand dollars. I have kept notes on our work, we have used every known candy as bribery to get him to do his therapy, and we have worked hard. But the bottom line is, I am not an occupational therapist. Not even close. I have degrees in English and Education, so I didn't learn a whole lot about the nervous system, the bones, muscles or kinesiology in school. When it comes to helping my son, my education has failed me miserably. Unfortunately, the ability to quote Shakespeare's sonnets or dissect all of August Wilson's plays and their place in African American Literature just don't really matter in Sensory Integration Therapy.

I have already seriously thought about going back to school to become an occupational therapist, but there are no schools that offer the program anywhere near my town. Plus, it would take so long to get the degree and I need a good therapist for Danny NOW. I so worry that I am wasting precious time. We have been through a few therapists in the area who were terrible. One recent therapist after 6 months with Danny never realized that his knees are becoming deformed because he needs orthotics! I mean, c'mon, people! I could have had him treated for that months ago.

Anyway, so I am stressed and worried and a bit uncertain where to turn. I have done a bunch of research and I think I may have tracked down a really amazing therapy clinic in Terre Haute, IN, which is about an hour and 20 minutes away. I am waiting for them to call me back. I so hope this will work out. Otherwise, Bil and I are actually considering moving somewhere so that we can get Danny the therapy services he needs. I would rather not move, but we may have no choice. Danny's therapy needs are getting more complicated and I feel ill-equipped to meet them. We would still work with Danny and do exercises, but I would at least like to feel like a professional is in charge and is checking up on us regularly so I don't completely scar my child or miss potentially crippling problems that need to be addressed (at least anymore that is inevitable when you, as a mother have so many neuroses!).

I am just exhausted by it all and feel like I am groping in the dark.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Native Daughter

I recently read online that author Stephenie Meyer describes her three young sons as "chimpanzees on cocaine." I liked that. I often compare my two darlings to wild animals or cavemen. They sometimes just seem so primal.

Today was a perfect example. I had a bit of leftover chocolate cake and let the kids have some for a snack after nap time. Charlotte was completely naked, because that is what she does: she constantly sheds her clothes and diaper whenever she can, and most especially during nap time, which has led to more than one nasty episode involving dirty sheets and an irate mom.

I hand Charlotte her plate with a piece of cake on it and she promptly drops it frosting side down. When she picks up the cake, all the frosting is left behind on the floor. What does she do? She squats on her haunches and merrily scrapes frosting off the floor and eats it, in the buff. I have a couple of great pictures of her wearing nothing but chocolate all over her face, devouring cake off the floor with a glint in her eye.

Pain, Steroids and Aging 35 Years in One Short Doctor's Visit

I am in a whole big world of hurt right now. I type this knowing I am about to sound like one of those elderly people who respond to "How are you?" with a litany of aches and pains and other ways their bodies have failed them. At this point, though, I am feeling an enormous amount of empathy for those who live life with near-constant pain.

It started several months ago when I developed pain in my left heel. I was fairly certain the culprit was a heel spur of the same variety from which my mother suffers. I treated it with a bit of Ibuprofen and then just ignored it, thinking it would go away. Unfortunately, it did not go away and I lived with some really painful moments and the dawning realization that I now walked like my 65-year-old father who suffers from arthritis. Suffice it to say, he is not the most graceful creature in the world.

After x-rays and an ultrasound of my feet, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, bursitis, heel spurs, and a few other things that made me feel older by the second were thrown in for good measure. No big deal. All I had to do was take some anti-inflammatories and probably wear some orthotics in my shoes. Then, after a few more doctor's visits, it was determined that I am deformed--yes, the doctor used the word "deformed"; for some reason I found that pretty funny--and my foot hits the ground the wrong way, which has caused the inflammation and pain. Again, not to worry, because the orthotics could take care of all that.

I just went back to the doctor today after wearing the orthotics for a month. He wanted to check on the progress of my healing. Regretfully, my foot is really not very much better; it still hurts almost unbearably when I am barefoot (especially during my nightly trips to the toilet). So, the kind doctor decided I needed a cortisone shot to my heel. He told me that the side effects might include some pain in my foot for a day or two. He said it might feel like someone had punched my foot.

Well, despite never having experienced a punch to the foot, (who has?) I can safely say this hurts a heck of a lot worse. It's either that or Dr. Graham was implying that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the puncher of my foot, and that while punching, he also mutilated the foot, rubbed salt in the wound and broke every bone in it while he was at it. Then, maybe the pain might come close. Maybe.

The irony is that the cortisone is supposed to get rid of the inflammation, but the shot itself actually causes more inflammation, at least for a day or two. So I went to the doctor to receive some relief from pain and inflammation and he ended up giving me more of both. And to top it off, I will be getting a hefty bill for his services in the mail in a week or two.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pool Reverie or Why Hollywood Sucks

We have been spending a lot of time at the pool this summer. It seems to be the only place where the kids are almost always happy and agreeable with very little work on my part. Plus, I often run into friends and acquaintances, so there is the added bonus of adult conversation. It has been my saving grace!

There is a downside, however, and that would be pool attire. I do not like bathing suits. More specifically, I do not like bathing suits on MY body. I typically feel fat and frumpy and matronly, even though my suit is relatively cute. So, I have decided to work on my body issues and stop criticizing myself. This proved especially difficult when I ran into a woman I know who is so pretty and probably a size 4 or 6 (even after birthing 5 children). Despite how pretty and skinny she is, she spent the whole conversation lamenting her inability to wear a bikini, because in her words, since having kids, her body has just not been the same and she can't seem to lose her belly.

At first this conversation made me feel really uncomfortable. After all, I am nowhere near a size 6, and frankly, never have been. So if she thinks SHE'S fat, what does she think of me? Then, I got annoyed because I felt she should have been a bit more sensitive to my body issues. Finally, I started to just feel sorry for her and for all of us who are so darned critical of our bodies and looks. I don't know a single woman who doesn't have body or looks hang-ups, yet these friends of mine are all beautiful (I am talking about you!!).

Yesterday while at the pool I took a good look around me. At first I was just noticing the kids. Then, I began to see the women. There were women of all ages and shapes and sizes. One was pregnant, another had bad varicose veins on her legs. None of them were perfect, at least not by Hollywood standards. One woman had very curvy hips, while another had a pretty flat chest; there were little and big rolls of extra flesh everywhere I looked.

This time I spent observing led me to two small epiphanies. First, the look that Hollywood promotes doesn't really exist, at least not on 98% of the population. And second, the more I looked at the people at the pool, the more I realized that what they probably perceived as their flaws, were actually beautiful and made them unique. I know these are not earth-shattering discoveries, but it is the first time I really began to see imperfect bodies as beautiful. I guess this is because for most of my life I have been so critical of my own body, I couldn't ever imagine someone finding me attractive despite my flaws.

Next, I looked at my beautiful daughter who was joyfully enjoying the water. Her swimsuit clung to her chubby belly and her face was lit up in a smile. She flailed in the water, jumping and splashing about, never once wondering if she looked fat or clumsy. She didn't even notice her legs except in experimenting with what they could do for her. This sight just renewed my desire and comitment to work on my body issues so that I don't pass on my neuroses to Charlotte. Wouldn't it be great if I could teach her to be grateful for what her body could do instead of obsessing over how it looked?