Sunday, August 19, 2007

Big Day Ahead!

Tomorrow's going to be a big day here. Company coming! Not relatives, not friends, no -nothing like that.

Tomorrow, the psychologist who did the evaluation on Maya will return along with some staff personnel from the Agency handling Maya, the teacher from the Pre-school for Autistic kids and her play therapist will be here to meet with Mandy -and by that token, I guess with me too. The purpose of this meeting will be to review Maya's progress, bring the teacher up-to-speed with what advances Maya has made and then, to plan her IEP for the coming year. The day after Labor Day Maya will begin attending pre-school classes at this center in Hyde, which is adjacent to Clearfield. The agency will send a minivan daily to pick Maya up here at the house, take her to the school and of course, bring her home in the afternoon. She will attend classes there four days a week - from Tuesday through Friday and from 9 a.m. until I believe 1:30 or 2 p.m. She was eligible to attend classes at this school last fall, after her third birthday but at that time neither Mandy nor I felt she was mature enough to handle to routine, the regimentation or riding the van without one of us with her. This year, I think, as does Mandy, that she has evolved adequately enough that she will be able to deal with the van, the separation from either of us too.

But boy, it is a scary time to think about her going off "on her own" so to speak and it's definitely going to change many things around the house too while she's over there. Boy, is this place ever going to be quiet! Might even stay half way clean for two, possibly even three hours too! Woo hoo! That will really be a switcheroo!

My blogging buddy, Maddie, in her post today mentions the aspect of "play therapy" and how some folks apparently have been rather surprised to learn such a therapy exists. However, they couldn't quite grasp why it was needed because they seemed to think "play" was something that comes quite naturally to children and was actually something they did best.

I probably was about as ignorant about the need for play therapy too prior to Maya's having a "play therapist" assigned to her two years ago this past June.

Now, at that time, I knew that Maya wasn't exactly actively involved in playing appropriately as that for her consisted then of picking up a piece of paper or some strange small object and just carrying it around, holding it above her head usually, as she would then run from room to room throughout the downstairs of the house. Ok, we all recognized that wasn't the correct way to play but none of us really knew exactly how to go about getting her to learn how to play with the many and varied toys she had here. That, plus she exhibited very, very little interest in those toys too. How do you "Teach" a child to play, exactly?

Although I was usually present for almost all her therapy sessions, I can't really begin to explain exactly how the therapist began to "teach" her, but she did get the message across to Maya somehow.

Initially, the therapist suggested we have her seated in her high chair as that way, it was much easier for her to work with her and to have some form of control in keeping her attention where she wanted it - on the toys! We also used the same seating method for Maya when her speech therapist came too as again, for her, it was easier to keep Maya focused on the work at hand.

Both of these young woman labored long and hard from June until about last February until we really started to see some definite changes, some good results.

It took quite a while before the play therapist got Maya to work with various toys, but one of the first things she did begin doing was taking blocks, wooden blocks, with a letter on one side, a number on another side and a picture on each of the two remaining sides of either a toy, animal or some type of inanimate object on the it and the first reaction Maya had to the blocks, once she began to work with them was to line them up on the tray of the high chair. But, she didn't just line them up any old way. No sirree Bob! She had to have them in order so that if the first block she placed there had a letter face up, then each subsequent block had to have a letter showing face up. After that she began lining up matchbox cars -not by any specific type or color or anything -but they had to be in a straight line, just so!

In between playing with the blocks and cars though the play therapist introduced Maya to jigsaw puzzles - wooden puzzles - and that was where we first really saw the progress beginning to take shape as she quickly grasped the concept of putting the pieces into the correct slots.

From working with the blocks, along with watching Sesame Street too, by last June, Maya had learned the basic numbers - one through ten -and was able to identify them on sight too. We used to work with her on counting first, up to five, using our fingers and then, when she could repeat that process, we moved up to counting to ten. However, we had never "worked" with her here on the numbers that come after ten but all of a sudden, she started naming those numbers too -and identifying them. We finally came to the conclusion that she had learned the other numbers from watching "The Count" on Sesame Street. During that same time span, she also learned to repeat the ABC's and also, could identify each letter and name it on sight by the end of June of 2006. She was just over 2 1/2 years old at that time and we thought that was remarkable for her, at her age, to be able to do that!

Since then, she has learned to print her name, to print "Mom" and "Dad' too and she knows how to spell "Gram" as well as "Lois" and "Peggy" - the names of two of Mandy's co-workers at the job she had held for the previous 2-3 years of so.

Today, Maya plays easily with her Barbie dolls, the Bratz dolls, cars, a play camera, an old cell phone her Dad used to have as well as being able to ride a tricycle in the house and she can even ride a two-wheeler bike now with the training wheels.

It's become a fairly common thing to find Maya on the living room floor with her Barbie, Bratz and princess dolls all around her and playing with them -using conversation with the dolls too! Some of the sentences she says then are really cute and comical as we try to figure out who around the house she heard saying some of the things she now repeats to her dolls. Anytime she does let fly with an occasional four-letter word that wouldn't exactly be on any required reading list or anything like that, I'm almost always the one who has to take the blame for having let this or that word slip in front of her -well, most of the time anyway!

So, if you're child (or grandchild, as is the case for me, with Maya) is diagnosed with autism and play therapy is something suggested for the child, based on the results we've seen take place with Maya, I sure would recommend this type of therapy! No, I'm certainly not trained in this process - just speaking from first-hand experience here and I realize what worked for Maya may not work at all or not as well with other children, but even if it only helps a little bit, that little bit of learning, of change - adaptation, if you will - is worth so much to helping the child and from my daughter's and my perspective, all the money in the world couldn't buy the happiness we share now in watching her at play.

There is a downside to this though. Yeah, I know -here's the bad part, cause you know everything isn't all peaches and cream now don't 'cha? Expect the floor of your living room or playroom or family room or kitchen - or whatever - to take on a whole new decorating scheme!

Most likely, it will become a labyrinth of toys strewn from one end to the other! But heck, at least they aren't just sitting in a toy box now waiting for some child to come along and play with them and making you feel like you wasted a bunch of money trying to provide an ample supply of toys for the child though, would it?

Good night and God Bless!


Paula said...

I bet it is incredible for you guys to watch the changes in Maya as she learns to play and interact. Thank Heavens that the research has been done and is continuing to improve for those little ones with autism. Take care!

Anonymous said...

I think it's scary anytime our children go off to school. Imagine leaving home w/no picture ID, no wallet, no credit cards, no keys.

You'll have some quiet but I bet the moment that school van turns the corner you'll be right there at the door awaiting Princess Maya:-)

Hope your night's restful, friend.

Debo Blue