Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The teacher becomes the student

Over the last four months, we have been pursuing Early Intervention Services for Benny.  It started with a suspicion raised after a playdate with a couple of above-average talkers.  It lead us into the world of case management, only this time, from a client's perspective.  From there, we've been linked to different therapists for evaluations.  Ultimately, he was referred for speech therapy, and after a bumpy start with a less-than-stellar professional, we've met our person.  Her name is Karen.  She is magical.  Like, rides a unicorn to work and performs miracles-type magical.  She is Ben's speech-language pathologist and over the last month, has gotten more progress out of Ben than we were able to all summer long.  Maybe it has less to do with the unicorn and more to do with the advanced degree, but nonetheless, we are keeping her.

Ben started therapy about a month ago.  It's a strange feeling to observe a session between a client and a therapist as the mother.  I don't go back to the office to type a note about it.  I don't file the claim, and I don't meet with my supervisor about it.  I observe my son, and his proverbial wheels turning as he figures out the task at hand.  I have an amazing sense of pride when I see the activity click and hear a new word come out of his mouth.  Even if it's just an approximation, it's magic.  And a much different feeling from the frustration I've carried for months now.  And I see it in Ben too.  I see the weight slowly lifting from his shoulders every time he learns something new.  And when Karen rides off into the sunset on her unicorn, he and I are communicating just a little bit easier than we did the day before.

We're probably in the 30 word vocabulary range.  Up from about 7 or 8 words in July.  Including signs.  He is willing to try most new sounds and one or two syllable words.  And since therapy started, he's even started some spontaneous conversation.  Meaning, he'll initiate by observing something in his environment and saying it out loud.  Something we completely skipped at around 12 months when he should have been pointing at things, but wasn't.  A point, at anything, whether it be a plane in the sky or a cookie he wants, counts as a "word".  The pointing thing never came together for Ben, and he seems to be skipping over it completely.  Instead, he names the item he observes.  Most notably, "Ti-ti" (any cat, squirrel, or small mammal) and "ball" which refers to anything sphere shaped.  For example, the sun is a ball, and an egg is a ball.  I'll take the overgeneralizations, we're labeling things!  Another super cute generalization he's made is toward food.  When he sees a fast food sign, or a commercial for anything food related, he says "Mmm, yum" in a very matter-of-fact way.  Today, while driving to the friendly neighborhood McDonald's, he spontaneously said "Happy!".  I'm guessing this is in reference to a Happy Meal.  Or how he felt about the situation.  Either way, it was completely awesome.  A seemingly mundane detail that makes me as proud as if he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, because I know where we started just a few months ago.

We've been working hard on the alphabet.  He digs the song.  Most of his musical toys sing it.  Not sure what the alphabet has to do with his Fisher Price barn, but whatever.  It's not a new one for him.  Coincidentally, he has lots of farm-themed toys.  So Old MacDonald is also pretty familiar.  When we run through the alphabet, letter for letter, he's pretty awesome at it.  As in, "Say A!" "Say B!" etc.  He'll go "Aaaaaaaa, Beeeeeeee" and be so proud.  And when his favorite game show, Wheel of Fortune is on, he will gladly help the contestants.  "I'll take an R, Pat!"  "Aurrrrrrrr!".  Pretty cute.  When we sing Old MacDonald had a farm, he supplies the "E-I-E-I-O" although it's more like "di-I-di-I-YO!".  But when we sing the alphabet and I give him the "A-B-C-D" and try to get him to finish, he adds the "di-I-di-I-YO!" and claps for himself.  It's adorable.  Incorrect, but adorable!

Related to that, he's been really into singing.  He's always been a dancer, but has recently added the song part to his performance.  He sings the Yo Gabba Gabba songs while he dances them, and is a major Justin Bieber fan.  Our friend Justin won several awards on the AMA's the other night, and Ben, aka, Justin's biggest fan, couldn't have been more thrilled.  While Justin approached the stage to accept award after award, they played his super annoying hit, "Baby", which prompted Ben to booty dance and go "baby baby baby OHHHH!" over and over again.  And all of this super cute behavior wasn't even on the map a month ago.

Can you tell I'm a proud Mama?  I used to reject praise when people would tell me how amazing I am for "teaching" people activities of daily living and other basic skills.  I still maintain that they were teaching me WAY more than I could ever teach them.  And here I am, years later, learning life lessons from a 2 year old.  MY 2 year old.  I'm in awe at his progress and determination, hopeful for his future, and a tiny bit more understanding of what other mamas like me have gone through.  Thanks to Ben, his support team, and a lovely lady that rides a unicorn.

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