Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The view up here

Somewhere during our journey through the last 18 months, I developed a mental picture viewing my role as a special needs parent from the perspective of a mountain-climbing experience.  In this mental picture, our entire family is working as a team to scale this monolithic rock face, and each family member has a role in the process.  We all take turns being the motivator, the weak link, and the worker-bee.  We gather tools along the way, and we are constantly pushing Jennica ahead of us. Or, let's be honest, some days we're dragging her kicking and screaming behind us. 

Some days/months, we seem to make a lot of progress on our ascent.  Other days/months, we all seem to be tied together and scrambling desperately for a foothold.  But overall, we're always headed in a generally upward direction.  My vision of what lies at the peak of the mountain changes a bit from day-to-day.  But it is always some version of an independent, functional Jennica in early adulthood and we're all gathered around her, smiling.   

Every once in a while, in this mental expedition, we all get to stop and take a long drink of water.  We sit down on a rock, share snacks, smile at each other, and enjoy the view for a little while. 

This past Monday, we all got a reason to take a break and enjoy the view.  Let me explain.

On Monday, Jennica visited her naturopath for the first time since last September.  For a long while, visits with the naturopath were frequent.  To say the least.  But as of last September, we had completed all the testing we were going to complete for awhile, we had a dietary plan in place and were following it, and we had a supplement plan in place.  It was time to just "walk the walk" for a while, from a nutritional standpoint.  Improvements from nutritional changes are not instantaneous, and it was time to just let it all work. know how we all get the comments of, " you've grown!" from the long-lost aunt?  But we don't see it as pronounced in a child that we see daily because we have witnessed the changes slowly?  Well.......I got the "long-last aunt, bug-eyed look" from our naturopath on Monday when she opened the door.  It was good great for my ego to have her look at Jennica in absolute shock.  And then she started bubbling over, "WOW!  She looks great!!!  She's grown!!  Her weight is up, too isn't it?"  And then more, "WOW!"  I admit that I felt like I was basking in the sunlight while she commented under her breath throughout the visit, "Look at that eye contact...." and "The shadows under her eyes are gone!" and more, "Wow!"  And through her eyes, I could see that Jennica does, in fact, look healthier.  She is also chattier, brighter, and much more focused.  We both agreed that it is time to re-run the amino acids test that provided devastating insight into my daughter's nutritional issues, and diagnosed Jennica last summer with malabsorption (on top of the SPD).  Its been almost exactly one year.  I'm a little nervous to see the results.  What if the improvements are all external and she is still internally malnourished?  But then again, we need to know.  It is what it is and if she is still facing deficiences, we need to set about correcting them.  So....until the results are in, I'm going to enjoy the moment of her obvious, external health.  We're going to pray and pray some more for internal improvements as well.

After visiting our naturopath on Monday, we went to our first private occupational therapy appointment since December.  At the suggestion of our OT, we had taken a 6-month break.  Jennica receives OT in our school district, and we were driving 3 hours round-trip to private OT.  So.....we took a break to let Jen really integrate into school full-time and let things just sort of "be" for awhile.  Our OT session this past Monday started on a flat, platform swing.  Jen has always loved to lie or sit on this swing, but this time, she hopped on it and rode it like a surfboard.  She was using a ton of upper body strength to pull the ropes, and was really sailing--something she has been resistant to do in the past.  From the flat swing, she moved to the trapeze bar where she initiated a ton of knees-to-chest type moves--more stuff that she has been prompted for in the past and responded to with marked resistance.  I could see the wheels turning in our OT's brain, and she quickly moved Jennica to a sequencing activity with Play-Doh.  And then they went to jumping with a counting association......back to the flat swing.......and at Jennica's request, more table activities.  The OT finally turned and mouthed a huge, "WOW!!!" at me.  We finally got a chance to talk freely at the end of the session, while Jennica pumped herself (Can you say motor planning?) wildly on another swing with huge pulling arm movements.  The OT raved about the level of improvement since December.  Jen's core strength, motor planning, and mental focus are SO much stronger.  She initiated a variety of conversations with the OT throughout the session, with great improvement in pragmatic language.  The OT asked me what direction we wanted to focus on with our sessions this summer, since the child that she was expecting to see (the "old" Jennica) is ready to tackle some more advanced obstacles!

Does Jennica still have SPD?  Absolutely!  Do we still have a long climb ahead of us?  Definitely!  But the enthusiasm and boost that we get from these positive signs of progress are huge.  So....I'm picturing us.....sitting on a rock in the sun, sharing a snack and some conversation, before we stand up and dust ourselves off and head for the heights above.  The view from here is great!

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