Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?!!?

Now that I've caught you all up on Elena & her speech development, I want to start sharing some of our funny interactions. I mentioned that I understand her most of the time, but there is still a learning curve...
A month or so ago, Elena started saying the same phrase very often. It sounded like, "E-ma A-ba, E-ma A-ba" & she should almost sing it. I would ask what she means or if she could show me...she would smile but couldn't make me understand.
On one of the rare occasions I was home to take Elena to preschool, she started her sing song "E-ma A-ba, E-ma A-ba" & I asked pleadingly, "What does this mean?" & she replied, "S-koo" "School?" I asked...she replied, "Ya, own-ee Fi-day, no Two-day"
That's when it all became clear to me!!! You see, Elena's preschool is run out of a Jewish synagogue! The have Shabbat Party every Friday!! She was singing, "Ima" & "Abba"!!! When I told this story to her teacher, she explained that there is a Shabbat song they sing every time. What made us laugh is that Elena reminded us Shabbat Party is only Fridays, not Tuesdays!
This is Elena's 1st time getting to play Ima.
She was so very proud!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Say Anything

This post is a long time coming & far too long overdue…Elena’s speech. For those of you who have parented a toddler, remember when they were a year or so old & started saying words & then sentences…remember how exciting that was? In a nut shell, that is where Elena & I are now. A difference being that since Elena is so much older; her thoughts are that much more complex. It’s unbelievable what she comes up with. She has been a sponge these last 2+ years, taking everything in & now that she’s becoming able to express herself, it’s amazing to know what is going on in her head! It is so exciting to be able to understand (most of the time) what Elena is trying to say & she is really coming out of her shell as she gains confidence in her ability to communicate.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we were enrolled in a program through our provincial Early Words initiative that ran from last September (2013) thru December. Elena was thoroughly evaluated & identified as having an expressive language speech delay. The purpose of the program was really more about teaching me, as her parent, how to better facilitate her being able to develop her speech. I learned a great deal about speech development. I know I didn’t cause her speech delay but I realized how, in many ways, I made it so much harder for Elena.

In the program I learned many techniques. I learned that I needed to let Elena lead the conversation or play by Observing, Waiting & Listening. I realized how important it was for me to get down on her level & play face to face. I learned that I needed to identify objects in a way that made it easier for her to imitate. Me saying, “That’s a ball” was too much. She needed to hear, “Ball” so she could imitate that more successfully; then later adding descriptions, “Blue ball”. It was important for me to change how I spoke to her to. I knew she could indicate yes or no so I would phrase all my questions so she could answer this way. This did nothing to help her speech development. I had to make the conscious effort to ask open ended questions & also offer her choice so she’d have to articulate an answer. Every situation became an opportunity to encourage her speech development.

Because Elena had, on her own, developed her own signs & gestures to express what she was trying to say, I was encouraged to teach her signs. I will admit that when the pathologist made this suggestion, in my head I was extremely frustrated. I was looking for Elena to learn to speak & felt that teaching her signs would be a step backwards. Why would she try to speak if she could just sign? But I know I’m not the expert so I taught Elena the first 3 signs the pathologist advised, Milk, Juice & Water. Well lo & behold, didn’t Elena attempt to speak the words as she signed! I was hooked! We download the My Smart Hands app & were on our way. I’ve already mentioned how she would play with the app on her own & teach herself signs!

I was thoroughly amazed at the progress Elena made but I thought that we’d go through this program & Elena would be “cured” & we’d be on our merry way. That’s obviously not how this works…once the program ended, we had to be placed on the waiting list for further services. I was told we here near the top. We saw the speech pathologist, Ms. D, who ran the program, a few times after but her caseload was full & she couldn’t take on Elena for the amount of service Elena really needed. I am grateful, however, that Ms. D advocated for Elena to get the services she did need.

You see, I learned that you really have to be the squeaky wheel…but I really don’t like to be squeaky. I get really anxious when I have to “nag” people about things. I hate having to make repeated phone calls saying, “You said you’d do such & such…how’s that coming?” But Elena needed me to…I could see what a struggle it was for her to have so many big ideas in her head & have them blocked by her inability to express them. You could see the wheels turning as she tried to make you understand what she was thinking…then the look of utter defeat when she realized you just didn’t get it. What we had learned in that first program had taken us this far…but she needed more.

So I sucked it up…I got over myself & made those nagging phone calls. Every two weeks I would call Ms. D asking if there was any news on getting Elena services. She in turn would contact the powers that be & remind them that my little girl needed help. We’d be told that Elena was at the top of the list & I would receive a call back within a week. Then 2 weeks would go by without any word. I knew Elena was at a critical juncture. She was trying so hard but the frustration was building. I was very afraid she would just give up. So I kept calling…

We just kept getting the run around. Ms. D would call the program, they would tell her Elena was at the top of their list & they would call me, I’d hear nothing & call Ms. D…I cannot tell you enough how grateful I am to Ms. D because she got tired of the loop before me & went pleading to the other pathologists in her own department. Thankfully Ms. K had an opening. She could take us on for 1 hour a week & even had a 4pm time slot so I would be able to attend.

We started with Ms. K in July. Her program takes what we previously learned a step further. She breaks down the common sounds in speech & starts there. She combined those sounds with gesture cues. I knew this would be successful based on Elena’s previous progress with her own gestures & the signs we learned. Now that Elena has practiced & learned these basic sounds, she is able to combine them into words & those words into sentences. She has gone from a vocabulary of maybe 20-30 words in July to well over 200 now as well as 4+ word sentences.

Elena & I have our homework every night. Ms. K gives us flash cards with words & pictures & I use the gesture cues for Elena to say the word. Every week our stack of cards grows larger. We also combine the cards to make small sentences. Ms. K is as amazed as I am with Elena’s progress. Often now I don’t even have to cue Elena, she sees the card & knows the word. Ms. K explained that this is early literacy. Not only is Elena learning to say words & sounds, this is also a first step to her learning how to read.

I was also amazed & surprised to learn that Elena knows how to count! She just didn’t have the words for the numbers. She can now clearly say numbers one to ten, with just a little trouble with six & seven but those are more complex sounds.

It is remarkable to see Elena blossom in this way, to really get to see her personality shining through. I’m also so very grateful that we got this help before she enters public school. If we’d waited until then, who knows how defeated & frustrated she’d have felt by then. I am so thrilled to be witness to this wonderful little girl come into her own!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Do This!


It's that time a year again...please take the time to review your archives, pick your best post & submit it to the Crème!
Thank you so much to Mel for doing this for the 9th straight year!!

Friday, October 10, 2014

1st Anniversary of my 39th Birthday

When I was turning 30, I did not want to acknowledge it...for a few years, I didn't say I was celebrating a birthday, instead I'd say I was marking the X anniversary of my 29th birthday. I didn't like who I was when I was 30 & I didn't like where I was in life. I had nothing I thought I'd have by that point in my life. I felt I had no purpose or direction. 

Now, today, I turned 40. I am glad to be forty....wait, what did I just say? Yup, you heard me correctly. I am glad. I feel like it's a huge accomplishment & I am proud to have made it here. There was a point in my life that I truly didn't think I'd see 40. And now here I am & I could not ask for anything better. I have a job that I enjoy, family & friends whom are priceless...& I have Elena. 

Today was an awesome day! I got to wake up to the smiles & giggles of my amazing daughter. After seeing her off to preschool, I got to go back to bed! And sleep for another THREE hours!! Talk about luxury!

Elena surprised me when she got home from school (with my mom's help, of course) with a bunch of balloons! And the most perfect card!

We then headed off to the Rockton World's Fair! Let me tell you, there is no better way to feel young when turning 40 than to ride a bunch of amusement rides with a 3 year old! It felt so amazing to laugh and scream with my little girl!

We then met up with some friends to watch the Demolition Derby...Elena had her first Funnel Cake & we got to ride some more rides (at night, in the dark! Elena was in awe!) before heading home. My exhausted girl was asleep before we left the parking lot & didn't even wake up when I carried her inside, put her into her pajamas & slid her into bed.

Today was the most perfect way to turn 40!!