Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Diagnosing Girls with Aspergers

As some of you know from reading this blog, Hannah will be going to the Riley Developmental clinic in February for an appointment. What you may not know is exactly why. So many people see Hannah and think (and often say) there's no way she has any developmental delays, she's so smart. BUT from a very young age we knew that there was something different about Hannah and it wasn't just her intelligence. From before she was a year old I suspected autism based on my work in special education and therapeutic horseback riding, but of course no one really wants to believe their child has autism so I was always searching for things to prove to me that there was nothing really wrong. After all, Hannah is extremely verbal, makes eye contact, and doesn't do obvious self stimming activities like hand flapping. Still, it lingered in the back of my mind every day. At her 18 month well baby appointment Hannah was put on an autism watch list. When she hadn't made satisfactory improvement in the areas of concern by her 2 yr check-up we were referred to the early intervention agency. That's where we learned about Hannah's SPD and I pretty much put autism out of my mind, or at least I tried to until the doctor referred her to the Riley clinic. The more research I did on the Internet and through reading books I learned that although Hannah doesn't fit the typical profile I've come to expect for Asperger's Syndrome (a type of high functioning autism) she does seem to fit the profile being developed for girls' with Asperger's Syndrome. Apparently girls with Aspergers often present with different indicators than boys and so it is often left undiagnosed and therefore those girls are denied services that could significantly impact their life for the better. I came across a very interesting video done by ABC News back in January 2008 about diagnosing girls with autism. To watch the story click on the link below and then click on the corresponding link on the blog I have linked to. For some reason I can't make the direct link work.

Blog with link to a video of diagnosing girls with aspergers syndrome

While Hannah is much younger than the little girl in this video, so much of her reminds me of Hannah. I am so anxious for February to get here so that we can talk to the developmental pediatrician to see what her take is on our observations. Speaking of reminding me of this little girl. Here's a picture taken of Hannah at a Christmas party we attended that really captures how Hannah reacts to stressful social situations. Notice the other kids playing together while Hannah stands off to the side with her hand in her mouth looking dazed.

Holiday Mayhem

Christmas Day has come and gone, but we still have two more family Christmas dinners to attend. While the time spent with family and friends has been nice, I am looking forward to the season being over because of it's effect on Hannah. Every single holiday gathering we have attended-including Christmas Day at our house has caused her to become seriously over stimulated and resulted in meltdowns. All the people, changes in routines, disruptions to her sensory diet, and other folks' houses have been a recipe for disaster and have definitely limited the enjoyment we have been able to glean from our various family gatherings. It has just been too much for her (and very stressful for Kyle and I). I know there are some who would say that we are over reactive and that it's not a big deal, but it really is. Well over an hour straight of screaming in the van on the way home after an event (Hannah is normally quite happy to either sleep or read a book or just zone out in the car) is not OK if it can be prevented. At the risk of making people angry or hurting their feelings, I think we are going to have to seriously cut back on what we attend as far as holiday gatherings go next year. I just can see absolutely no sense in putting her through that anxiety for my benefit. One thing that has been difficult this season of holiday parties is parenting while in the midst of those who for whatever reason disagree with our parenting decisions or who believe Hannah's challenges are either non existent or at the most a result of faulty parenting practices. For some reason others genuinely believe it is ok to try to override our parenting while in group situations. While their intentions may be innocent, I'm sure they genuinely believe they are right, it seems so hard for others to accept our place as competent parents who actually know a thing or two about parenting our particular child and her specific challenges. Just because the work we do behind the scenes before events is not apparent since it's done it's job and allowed Hannah to cope much more successfully than she would otherwise, does not mean that those added steps we take to maintain control and a successful visit are unnecessary. UGH! I seem to run into this all the time with well meaning friends, acquaintances, and especially preschool. If I had a dollar for every time someone pointed out to me that something I've mentioned is a problem for Hannah was not a problem for them with her while I was away then I would be a very rich woman. Something we've learned is that not all reactions are immediate. While Hannah might not react at the time, especially in a place where she may be uncomfortable, she will most likely fall apart later when she feels safe and can let her guard down. Apparently this is fairly common with kids with sensory problems. I see this EVERY SINGLE day she is at preschool and every time she spends the night at someone else's house. She is fine at school (she's never once had a meltdown there) or with my parents, but almost immediately upon returning to the safety of our house she finally lets go. It's like she just can't hold it in any longer. People don't see that, so they assume it doesn't exist. There are days when that makes me so angry. I get angry at the world for making me feel like I'm crazy or imagining things when I know I'm not.

Ok, enough of my soapbox. Christmas really was a very nice time for us this year. Hannah was totally into both the secular and religious aspects of the season. She loved the thought of Christmas being Jesus' birthday. She adored her Nativity and reenacting scenes from the first Christmas with it. She also really got into Santa even though I never did get around to taking her to talk to Santa. We read lots of stories about Santa and she saw him from afar at the mall. We talked about what he does and watched NORAD's Santa tracker on Christmas Eve. We made cookies and set them out with milk and carrots for Santa's reindeer before we went to bed. The first words out of her mouth when we opened her door Christmas morning were, "Are the reindeer here? Is Santa still here?" While she was very disappointed to not get to see Santa at our house, she was slightly consoled by the fact that he left her a thank you note for the cookies and milk and with the thought that he must be very tired after working all night and he needed a vacation. As hard as we tried to prevent it from happening, Hannah (as well as Kyle and I) was spoiled rotten by the generosity of our family and friends. She got many wonderful gifts, however I am pleased to report that the biggest hit of all has been the Little People house and carnival that Santa scored at the second hand kids' store for $10! :) Even Santa's bargain shopping in this economy! She has been playing with that thing like crazy. I knew she'd like it, but I had no idea it would be quite as big of a hit as it has been.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Events

So no one has any ideas for a contest prize that I could use to help rename this blog? Surely there are some creative people out there somewhere in the blogosphere!

We have our first two weekends of Christmas events under our belt and so far things are going pretty well. Last weekend we went to see Kayla perform in the Nutcracker and exchange gifts with Tiffany and her family. Hannah loved the Nutcracker just as I had predicted and managed to sit through the entire show just fine. She was even really good about being passed around to some people she didn't know at all and some others that she doesn't know very well. It was easy for us to see that it made her quite anxious, but there were no melt downs and she recovered quite nicely. She even managed to open up at dinner when it was just the people she was most familiar with. I had such a nice time at dinner watching Hannah and Kayla interact. Kayla is in kindergarten and just learning how to read, write, and spell. She would write a word she knew on a napkin with a crayon and then Hannah would read it. They had a blast together. It just melted my heart. Another wonderful thing that happened during the visit was that Tiffany's dad finally started to open himself up to Hannah a bit. He's a very nice man, but has been very distant from us and Hannah because he was afraid of getting too attached to her and then us not letting them see Hannah. Since Hannah's birth we had only seen him twice (at the twins' birthday party this summer and last) and both times he showed no interest at all in interacting or spending any time with Hannah. Usually during our visits he is purposely working so that he is not around. This time was different though. He chose to go to the performance we were attending, went out to dinner afterwords with us, offered Hannah a seat on his lap, and even bought her a snow globe at the souvenir stand during intermission. The best part though was when he referred to himself as Grandpa Charlie to Hannah. I am so happy that he is willing to let himself be a part of Hannah's life. But then, I don't know who would NOT want to be a part of her life after meeting her and getting to know her amazing personality. Those big blue eyes of hers are enough to melt just about anyone's heart!

This weekend we went to see Kyle's Dad and brother and exchange gifts with them. Kevin made an amazing lunch and afterwords we opened presents. We were all spoiled rotten, Hannah especially. Then the boys and Hannah had a huge Nerf gun fight. Hannah had a blast running around and shooting Uncle Kevin in the knees. She also loved collecting all the ammo. For dinner we headed over to my aunt's to deliver gifts to the family we adopted for Christmas. The family seemed to like their gifts and were very appreciative. It's nice to be able to help someone out so that they can eventually help themselves.

This week we have Christmas with my mom's side of the family on Tuesday and then Christmas Day at our house. After Christmas we will have two more holiday get togethers before the whole season is done. I guess that's just what happens when you have a large and complicated family.

The weather here is freakishly cold. Today it got into the negative degrees without the windchill and we had 35 mile an hour winds! We decided to pass on church instead of trying to take Hannah out in the cold. I'm hoping that the cold lets up a bit tomorrow because we have to go out since Hannah and I both have dentist appointments. This will be Hannah's first dentist appointment and she's never been to watch any of Kyle or I's so I'm a bit nervous about how it will go since she's not overly fond of brushing her teeth to begin with. We've been reading tons of books about going to the dentist and talking through what will happen while she's there, but I still don't know if it'll be enough to keep her from freaking out. Keep your fingers crossed that it all goes well and that she doesn't bite the hygienist or the dentist.

The word "NO!" has reared it's ugly head here at the Spontak house and it is not pretty. Hannah is saying no to pretty much everything and is rarely cooperative at all. It's gotten so out of control that we've had to institute a strict no tolerance policy for it. No more warnings, simply an automatic reminder (AKA spanking) for any utterance of the word in response to a direction. Even with that, the nasty word's grip does not seem to be loosening. We still hear it upwards of 50 times a day. Maybe even more. It's difficult to even come to terms with the magnitude of the problem it is so huge. She even says no when I know she wants to answer yes when asked a question about whether or not she wants to do something or eat a certain food. We aren't even telling her to do something. It's her choice to make and still she says no automatically. When you add that to all the other typical two year old disobedience, there are times when I think I just might pull all of my hair out by the roots.

Ok, so the dentist trip transpired before I had a chance to publish this post. Hannah handled it like a pro! I was so proud of her. Never in a million years would I even have dreamed that it would have gone this smoothly. She was fine with the electric toothbrush, the metal picks, the floss, the chair laid back, the light, and even the crazy magnifying glasses that the hygienists wear. Everyone in the office gushed over how cute she was and how great she did and she got to choose not one, but two treasures from the prize chest. She was thrilled. Shouldn't be a problem getting her to want to go back again next time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

When 2 Year Olds Dress Themselves

Here's the outfit Hannah insisted on wearing the other day. I managed to get if off of her when it was time to go out and run some errands, but she was pretty adamant about wearing it around the house all day. Notice that the colors "match" as Hannah logically pointed out to me. They also are "like the American Flag" which she also informed me about.

You gotta love the ruffles on the butt of the ladybug swimsuit though. How cute is that? Oddly enough, I had a similar swimsuit as a child although it didn't have cool lady bugs on it and I wasn't nearly as cute in it. Wanna see?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Name Change

I've been thinking about changing the name of my blog now that we are no longer in the process of adopting AND Hannah is no longer a baby. I'm not good at coming up with catchy titles (as evidenced by the current title of the blog!) so I was wondering if some of you out there with more creative juices had any ideas. Maybe I should have a contest to come up with a new title. I'm not sure how blog contests work. Is there any sort of formal etiquette or rules for this sort of thing? What on earth would be an appropriate prize (remember I'm a stay at home mommy, so I'm not made of money)? If any of you veteran bloggers out there want to help me develop a contest to rename my blog I'd be eternally grateful.

Interestingly enough, the fact that Hannah was adopted has been placed at the forefront of my mind over and over again recently as we have had to fill out and discuss medical history forms for a variety of specialists. It never ceases to take me off guard when people are shocked that we are still in contact with Hannah's birthparents and extended birthfamily. A woman (a social worker no less!) gasped today (at Hannah's meeting to begin transitioning out of the early intervention agency) when I mentioned that I could get any information I needed on the medical history form because I would be seeing Tiffany on Sunday. She said, "do you understand how UNUSUAL that is?" I was almost angry about her uninformed comment and popped off,"Well actually it's not unusual at all anymore. Open adoptions are quite common now." I'm sure the irritation I felt showed in my voice. I wish I had been a little bit more polite in my answer, but Jeez! She's a social worker for pete's sake. She should know a bit about adoption AND she should be sure she has the facts before she makes assumptions when talking to someone living open adoption.

To update everyone on all the medical stuff we've had going on lately. Hannah's staph infection is clearing up pretty well. It thankfully was not MRSA, but is was penicillin resistant so we did have to make an antibiotic switch mid treatment. She's still digging at her ears, but since we aren't even finished with her current round of antibiotics I haven't taken her back into the doctor's office. The visit to the orthopedic specialist went well. It turns out that Hannah does indeed have arches, but her ligaments are too loose to hold them up (this is also the cause of her over pronation). We got a prescription for an insert to put in her shoes. It turns out that we were right in thinking that Hannah is more flexible than the average two year old. She had 4 of the 5 clinical indicators of hyper mobility syndrome. Basically her ligaments are so loose that they allow her joints to move past the normal ranges of motion. Watching the doctor examine Hannah, it was really interesting to learn all the things her body can do that the normal body can't do. The thing that freaked me out the most was watching her thumb be bent back all the way until it was laying flat against her wrist and her not flinching at all. I bent my thumb back as far as it would go (granted my ligaments are extra tight instead of extra loose) and was in a lot of pain with still close to two inches to go until I even touched my wrist! Today Hannah bent herself in half (the pike position for all those gymnasts and divers out there) and then separated her feet and brought her legs on past her head until they touched the ground on either side of her head. Then she raised them back up slightly and began separating them until she was basically doing the splits while lying flat on her back. It almost made me ill to watch her. The good news is that as long as she doesn't complain of pain or start to have joint dislocations then we don't have to be worried about this at all.

Hannah has been enjoying the Christmas season thoroughly. I melt every time she mentions the word Christmas because she mispronounces it almost every time. She so rarely mispronounces anything that I have to cherish every instance of it that I can get. Instead of saying Christmas she says Crispex (as in the cereal!). Imagine how cute it is to hear, "I can see the lights of our Crispex tree in the window!" :) For me it conjures up an image of a tree made out of cereal boxes with tiny pieces of Crispex hung as the ornaments. She loves to point out Nativities when she sees them and has an eagle eye for Christmas lights. She's very excited about our family coming to visit on Christmas Day (every day she asks me if the family is coming) and to go see Tiffany (her birthmother), Chase and Kayla (Hannah's brother and sister), Uncle Robert (Tiffany's brother), and Grandma Donna (Tiffany's mom) on Sunday. Kayla is performing in the Nutcracker and Hannah is totally pumped about going to the ballet. She informed me yesterday after talking to Tiffany on the phone that she was going to dance with Kayla in the ballet! She may not make it up on stage (let's pray she doesn't anyway!), but I have no doubt that there will be much dancing going on in the audience during the performance. She also told me that she and Kayla would be wearing dresses, but that Chase was too big for a dress!! Never mind the fact that Chase is a boy, he's simply too big! Next weekend we will be delivering our gifts to the family we adopted through Family Services. I'm really looking forward to Hannah getting her first taste of what it feels like to be generous and help others in need. I think it's so hard for kids to understand what generosity means until you they can actually see how what they did helped someone.

Hannah's newest literary obsession is spelling. The other day she brutally drilled me at the dinner table about spelling. She started off spelling her name-first and middle and then moved on to cat and dog and then to other words she can read easily, but that I did not know she knew how to spell like up, is, it, me, go, the, see, and. She spelled each word just like our local hero Sameer Mishra who won the National Spelling Bee this year. She would say the word, spell it, then say it again. Up, U-P, up. It was so cute. After exhausting the words she definitely knew how to spell, she started asking me for words to spell. I'd give her a word and then she would attempt to spell it. After she tried I'd help her get it correct. She was really quite good at it. She would analyze each word and then do her best to phonetically spell it out using letter names and letter sounds. I was quite amazed. Her scissor skills are coming along quite nicely. I think I posted about her scissor project fascination awhile back. She can operate her scissors independently and cut right where she wants to cut although she can't always stay in a straight line. Now that we've figured out the mechanics of how to use the scissors we can work on fine tuning her control. Yesterday we made paper snowflakes. She got a HUGE kick out of snipping away at the paper and then opening it up to see what she had created. They are currently hanging on our window.

Here's a kids say the darnedest things funny story for you to chuckle about. The day I took Hannah to the doctor to have her sores looked at (the ones that ended up being the staph infection) I couldn't get her into her primary doctor so I took her to the walk in urgent care clinic down the street. Given it is the season for respiratory infections and stomach bugs, the clinic waiting room was packed. When we finally saw the doctor he had to do a biopsy of one of Hannah's sores to confirm that it was staph and to rule out MRSA. When he was done (Hannah was very brave by the way and didn't cry a bit!) he put a band aid on her bottom (that's where most of her sores are) over the one he took the biopsy from. When we walked back out into the waiting room Kyle was there waiting for us-he had stopped on his way home from work. The waiting room was even more packed now that it was past "quitting time." Hannah, excited to see her daddy and anxious to tell him about her experience, proudly and extremely loudly announced for the entire waiting room to hear, "Daddy, I have a band aid on my bottom!" Several people snickered and we got all sorts of kind smiles as we walked out. Though I might have been a bit embarrassed by her proclamation, maybe Hannah's antics managed to cheer up someone who wasn't feeling very well.

Some of the pictures I'm posting are from Thanksgiving. We spent the day at my aunt's house visiting with my mom's side of the family. Hannah was the only kid there except for my younger cousins who are in middle and high school and she lapped up all the attention. As many of you are aware, like many toddlers Hannah loves to be naked. She especially loves to be naked and running. You can guess what this will lead to in college! She might not even need the aid of alcohol to do it! Anyway, it's often a challenge keeping her clothed and Thanksgiving was no exception. My sister started snapping away as I tried to keep my little stripper from getting indecent. I failed miserably. None of these photos are posed by the way, so don't think I'm trying to create kiddie pornography or anything. Enjoy a good laugh while you observe my little streaker.

PS. Someone on another blog I read posted a picture of their daughter that they thought summed up how she approaches life. While I don't believe this picture sums Hannah up, it's a pretty fair snapshot of her approach to coping with her challenges. I was babysitting for a friend whose daughter is 18 months old. She's not super verbal, but VERY active and unpredictable like most toddlers. Hannah's not much for unpredictability so she was a bit stressed during the visit. Much of the time she spent placing physical barriers between herself and Scarlett and chewing on her hands. However, she's ever the observer and doesn't want left completely out of the action so she always had to be near Scarlett to know what she was doing. Notice in this picture Scarlett is busy, busy, busy chasing the cat and Hannah's placed herself on the other side of the filing box and is busy chewing her hands to stay calm. You can't tell in the picture, but she is also rocking herself back and forth which is another calming tool she uses. On a side note, you gotta love the 80's style head band and retro T shirt don't you?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I know Thanksgiving has come and gone and everyone else has done their "thankful" posts, but I'd still like to write one. I am SO thankful for my family. Hannah and Kyle are my reasons for getting up every morning. I am eternally grateful for God placing them both in my life. When I think about my life before the both of them it just seems odd. I feel as if they were always a part of me. I am thankful for a warm bed to sleep in and plenty of food to eat. I am thankful to live in a country where I can worship God without fear of persecution. I am thankful for my friends and extended family and all the fun times we are able to share together. I am thankful for Tiffany and Mike and the sacrifice they made in order for Kyle and I to become parents. I am thankful that they have both chosen to continue to be a part of our lives. I am thankful that Hannah will always know about her birthfamily and if she ever has questions she will know that she can either ask Kyle or I or just pick up the phone and call Tiffany or Mike and ask them. Most of all, I am thankful for Jesus and his amazing sacrifice of dieing on the cross for my sins so that I can live forever in Heaven with him.

Moving on to current news in the Spontak household. . . . Poor Hannah has a double ear infection AND a staph infection. Along with that she's got a cold and a horrible cough. She's miserable. I feel so bad for her. I gave behavior boot camp (more on that in a moment) a rest today to simply cut her some slack.

Even though she's sick, Hannah's been doing some mighty fine reading lately. Her sight word vocabulary continues to increase and she's starting to read sentences consisting entirely of words that are sight words for her quickly enough to have some comprehension. This is a big deal. She no longer labors over every single word pausing to notice each and every word, but reads fluently from one word to the next until she reaches one that is not immediately recognizable and then attempts to sound it out. Tonight in the bathtub she was asking me to write sentences for her to read on the bathtub walls using her tub crayons! Don't get me wrong, we aren't reading chapter books here or anything, but still mighty fine reading for a two year old if I do say so myself. Here's a sampling of what she was reading tonight in the tub. I can see a cat. The dog can run. Hannah sees the sun is up. Daddy loves Hannah. We like cats and dogs. Can you see the bus? They see it. We like to go to the zoo. Do you like bees? Mommy and Daddy love me. He is up. Is it on the top? No, you can not run to the bus. Are you sensing a theme here? :) One thing that is really cool is that she's very good at using picture clues and context to figure out an unfamiliar word. For example, the other day she was reading a book she had never seen before that had two sentences per page and followed basically the same format on most pages. The first line was usually, "Can you see it?" Then the next line was something to the effect of, "I can see a ____________." (or we see a, they see a, he sees a, etc) Most of the words for what the people saw were not words Hannah is able to sound out, but she was able to figure out the mystery word using the context and the picture on each page. She read the entire book without error pointing to each and every word as she said it, even difficult words like rooster, horse, and mouse. I was so proud of her. I thought Kyle was going to have a heart attack when she picked it up and read it like a pro for him. When she finished he turned to me and said, "Does she have it memorized?"

Ok, about behavior boot camp. Lately Hannah has been VERY sassy. She says "NO!" all the time, shouts, whines, and uses a nasty tone of voice to attempt to get what she wants. I've tried about everything, but hadn't really seen any results. Things got really bad over the holiday weekend after being indulged by various extended family members at Thanksgiving gatherings. I finally had enough and informed Hannah that she would no longer get warnings about speaking rudely, arguing, or saying "NO!" when told to do something. Now she is immediately put in time out without discussion or elaboration for any of those offenses. So far this shock and awe method has been working fairly well, but it's too early to say if it's a real change in behavior or if she's simply feeling out the changes.

Hannah's appointment with the orthopedic doc is Monday. I'm very anxious to go and see what they suggest. Lately her running style has become more and more "odd." For you horsey people reading, she very significantly wings out when she runs and this really slows down her speed, causes her to veer to one side, and seems to increase her tripping. Tuesday is our meeting with the special education department within the local schools to begin the transitioning process from early intervention to the public school system. I am also anxious for this meeting since I just have a feeling that it's going to be a tough road given her gifts to convince anyone that she ought to qualify for special services. I plan on taking some videos of her at school and at home to demonstrate the significance of the difference between her capabilities and what she is able to display at school to take to the developmental clinic in February, so if I need to use some of that footage to convince the folks here that there are definite issues then I will.

Hannah is seriously excited about Christmas this year, but doesn't quite get that Christmas is a holiday/event/day and not a place. Multiple times a day she asks me if we are going to Christmas today. She's still sorting out the secular and religious aspects of Christmas. Today I gave her a children's nativity set to play with. While I was opening it up she saw Jesus in the manger and correctly said, "That's baby Jesus!" Then she caught a glimpse of a donkey and asked, "Is that Jesus' reindeer?" I had to bite my lip not to laugh hysterically in her face. A lengthy conversation resulted detailing the characters in the Christmas story and differentiating them from Santa and his friends. Last year she wouldn't go near a Santa and referred to all Santa's she saw as "No-Na" AKA Noah as in Noah's ark. This year she's requested several times already to go see Santa (and his reindeer). I plan on taking her, but I'm not optimistic about the prospects of the visit being successful. Then, you never know. She does have a thing for men with facial hair! I'm really looking forward to decorating the house and picking out the tree with her this year. I just know she's going to have a blast. Now will be the time when she starts understanding and remembering traditions and begins to form warm fuzzy (hopefully) holiday family memories. We will also be going to see the Nutcracker in a few weeks. Kayla (Hannah's birthsister) will be performing in the production and we've been invited to attend. I'm super excited because I've always wanted to see the Nutcracker and also because I think Hannah will love it. While we were on our cruise in September Hannah was enthralled by the Vegas style shows they had each night. She loved the singing and dancing and would get up and dance along. I think she'll really like the music, costumes, and dancing at the ballet. I just hope she'll be able to sit through the whole thing. I'm not sure how long it is.

The new play room is proving to be a resounding success. We spend TONS of time in there, mostly on the hammock. It's been quite helpful in calming her when she's out of sorts and an awesome way to do a little sensory pick me up as needed throughout the day. She loves to climb in and out of the hammock and to throw herself to one side so that she tips over and falls out onto the bed. She thinks it's hilarious and we get that glorious "coo" of happiness we used to hear when she was a baby when she was in her swing or when Kyle would do the "Demon Drop" with her (hold her in a prone position over his head and pretend to drop her to the floor, slowing the speed just as he reached the floor to lie her gently on her back). We hadn't heard that lovely sound for quite some time. It really is the ultimate sound of happiness and contentment. I wish I could recreate it for you. Maybe I'll try to get some video of it.
PS. The pictures are from Grandkids' weekend at Mamaw and Papaw's house in November.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Blog Readers

I recently installed a widget on my blog that shows where people are from that are visiting my blog. I am now insanely curious to know who you all are. I recognize only a handful of the 2 dozen towns that are listed on the Live Traffic Feed. So, if you don't mind identifying yourself (at least anonymously!) I'd love to get a shout out from all of you that read my blog at least occasionally. I rarely get comments (probably because I'm committing some form of blogging faux pas that I know nothing about) so I have no clue who actually reads my blog at all. I don't even know if the people I send an email to when I post updates actually read it! So, if you read my blog, feel free to leave me a comment on this post and let me know who you are. All you lurkers show yourself! :)

Here are some of the towns that are listed on the tracker from the past two days:
Santa Clara, California,
Huntington Beach, California,
Asheboro, North Carolina,
Fenton, Michigan,
Perrysburg, Ohio (Baba is this you?),
Springdale, Arkansas,
Brockton, Massachusetts,
Aurora, Colorado (Myrna is this you?),
Bloomington, Indiana (Lora I assume this is you),
Macon, Georgia,
Lafayette, Indiana,
Wichita, Kansas,
Indianapolis, Indiana,
Plainville, Massachusetts,
Ambler, Pennsylvania,
East Lansing, Michigan (Christine is this you?),
San Diego, California,
Vero Beach, Florida,
San Francisco, California,
Laramie, Wyoming

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dinosaur Dreams

Today Hannah woke up from her nap muttering. I went into her room to find her stretched across her rocking chair covered up with a blanket. She turned her head when she heard the door open and whispered, "I don't like the dinosaurs." After some questioning and several serious insistences that she indeed DID NOT like the dinosaurs I have come to the conclusion that she had a dream about dinosaurs being at McCalisters (the restaurant where we eat at after church most Sundays). She's never expressed any fear of dinosaurs before. We have several books that portray them in humorous roles and have never discussed them being scary at all, BUT last week at preschool the theme was dinosaurs. I can only surmise that it was mentioned that dinosaurs were terrifying beasts (probably by one of the little boys in the class) and that overpowered all previous experiences she's had with dinosaurs. It's interesting to me that this fear manifested itself as a dream instead of her mentioning it after preschool one day. Other than recounting her dream, she has made no mention of dinosaurs after school or any other time pretty much ever. I wonder if she's been having other dreams that are scary that she hasn't told me about and this is why she has all of a sudden started insisting that she sleep with the light on. Something for me to think about I guess.

We finally got Hannah's appointment with the developmental clinic set up. It's not until February! I knew it would be a long time, but I guess I kinda hoped that somehow we'd get in sooner. We also have a meeting set up for December to begin the transition from the early intervention agency to the local school system's special education department. Tonight was Hannah's six month review with the early intervention agency and she blew her case coordinator away by reading dozens of words to her off of flash cards. Hannah's therapist just smiled one of those "I told you so" smiles and gave me a knowing look. No one ever believes us when we say that Hannah is reading. It's made even more unbelievable when they know that she's receiving special services for sensory problems. Unfortunately, this will probably continue and make our fight to get Hannah access to the services she needs and deserves difficult. Because her challenges and gifts tend to cancel each other out, it often appears that she's just average and that she has no problems and also isn't exceptional at all academically. This fact could keep her out of gifted programs AND out of special education services to ensure that her sensory needs don't prevent her from meeting her potential academically. I often worry that when she enters school she's going to be bored out of her mind, socially frustrated and anxious, and not have anyone who is willing to help her succeed. I suppose we'll cross that bridge when we get there (although it could be sooner than we think!), but at least this meeting will be a good start.

Hannah's been learning more and more words lately and now has 20+ sight words. Tonight she read me another book. I'm always so proud when I see her stop at a word she doesn't know and attempt to use the context, pictures, and what she can decode to figure it out.

Last week while Kyle was in Puerto Rico, Heather came to stay with Hannah and I to keep us both from going insane. I'm so thankful that she did. Things went so much more quickly than they would have otherwise and Kyle was back before we both knew it. Heather brought her two dogs (Heinz and Maverick) with her so we had 4 dogs, two cats, two adults, and a toddler in the house! It was really quite a full house. Hannah really enjoyed having Aunt Heather stay here. Most of the time she didn't want me to do things with her. She wanted Heather instead! She even tried to convince my non kid person sister to give her a bath! That would have been a sight to see! It was pretty funny to watch Hannah pushing around and ordering around Heather's dogs too. We have little dogs, but Heinz and Maverick are dobermans (103 and 60 lbs respectively) and lately Hannah's been a bit leery of big dogs. However, after a few hours you would never know it. She'd just go up and push them right out of her way.

The other day I was eating M & M s and Hannah wanted some. I gave her my standard answer about not being able to have them until she was older. She then told me very matter of factly, "I can have them at Mamaw and Papaw's though." I guess the old saying, "What happens at Grandma's stays at Grandma's" doesn't apply with Hannah. This isn't the first time she's told us that she's done something at another person's house that she knows that she's not supposed to do or eaten something she knows she's not allowed at home. She's also started "arguing" when we tell her she can't have or do something by telling us that the other parent allows her to do it. This is usually her telling me that daddy allows her to do it. For example, she always wants to jump up the stairs or go up the stairs in some other unorthodox fashion like backwards or sideways. I don't let her because our stairs are steep, there is concrete at the bottom, and I don't have good enough balance to stop her from falling and keep myself from falling should she lose her balance and take a tumble. One day when she wanted to jump up the stairs and I told her no, she replied, "With Daddy I can do it!" and gave me a very defiant look. We're in for a real treat I'm sure once she's a little bit older and learns how to manipulate the system and pit us against each other!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sensory Play Room

As Hannah's sensory needs are changing and as we are learning what things work best to keep her regulated, I began to get worried about how on earth I was going to survive the winter inside with her without our swing set. We spend a significant portion of our day swinging. This more than anything else is calming and regulating for Hannah. I hate the cold and was not looking forward to being forced outside for large chunks of time as the days got colder and colder. Eventually I whined enough to Kyle about it that he got the great idea to turn our guest bedroom into a sensory playroom for Hannah. We removed all the furniture except for the mattress from the guest bed and took the closet door off. We hung a doorway chin up bar in the doorway of the closet for Hannah to swing on and do flips on. We put her bean bag in there. We surrounded the guest bed mattress (minus the box spring to make it closer to the ground) with pillows, a comforter, and all of Hannah's stuffed animals to make it suitable for jumping on and crashing into and safe in case she were to get too wild (a good possibility!) and fall off. BUT the two biggest additions to the room that make me the happiest are a disc swing hung from the ceiling and the installation of our portable hammock on removable hooks above the guest bed mattress. Now Hannah has 3 options for swinging, two options for jumping, and 2 options for crashing and they are ALL indoors! :) Though I was most excited about the disc swing, the hammock has turned out to be the biggest lifesaver. It can be both calming and stimulating depending on how we choose to use it and Hannah can operate it herself which is a huge plus. We also got her some two pound medicine balls that we've been throwing into the bean bag and holding while we jump on the trampoline or bed so that we can add some heavy work into her indoor sensory diet. Hopefully as the winter goes on you will hear more great stories about how amazing this room is for Hannah instead of stories of me going crazy because of her meltdowns!

Here are a few videos of Hannah on her hammock. To see the video just click on the link and enjoy!


Hannah has always been one to love routines. I love them too so I can totally understand where she comes from, but sometimes her love of routines can cause her undue stress. For example, one of her current most endearing routines is the final segment of her bedtime routine. After being tucked in and kissed good night Hannah MUST say and the adult putting her to bed MUST repeat (or hysterics are involved) the following sequence as sort of a call and response as we are walking out the door.

H: I love you

M or D: I love you
H: Sweet dreams
M or D: Sweet dreams
H: Bye
M or D: Bye
H: Goodnight
M or D: Goodnight

This sequence used to be repeated over and over again multiple times until it was timed just perfectly to slip out the door and lock it before she could start it again. There were times I must have said it 10 times through or more. If we stopped in the middle or tried to tell her we weren't going to say it anymore OR if we didn't hear her start the sequence again as we were shutting the door then she would scream hysterically something to the order of "I need sweet dreams Mommy." or whatever portion we failed to repeat. Ignoring the hysterics were no use and one just had to suck it up and go back in there and finish up the sequence. At first I thought she was using it as a stalling technique since she is a MASTER at stalling, especially before bedtime, but as time went on I realized that it was a comfort routine for her that helped her settle down to sleep. Still there came a point where comfort or not, eventually I could take it no longer. I sat her down about an hour prior to nap time one day and told her we were only going to say I love you, sweet dreams, bye, goodnight one time and then we were going to leave. I reminded her of this fact as we were getting ready for her nap and then again just as the sequence was about to start. After the end of the sequence that nap she asked, "One time?" and I replied, "Just one time." and that was the end of that. She lay down and went to sleep. I congratulated myself for my brilliance and wondered why I hadn't done this sooner, after all Hannah is a smart girl and can often be reasoned with if she's not already on the path towards a meltdown. At bedtime that same night I reminded Hannah about the new one time rule and then went on about her bedtime routine. When we got to the final goodnight she again questioned, "One time?" Again I answered, "Just one time." Just as I was about to shut the door she said, "All done?" and I replied, "All done," and quickly shut the door. From that day on, "one time?" and "all done" became added to the nightly goodnight sequence, but so far the cycle has stopped there. Hopefully I have not replaced one monster with another that will cause this sequence to grow in length continually instead of merely repeating itself, but right now we are holding steady. So, I choose to continue to think my one time rule was brilliant and can fully enjoy a sweet goodnight exchange with my daughter.

Speaking of comfort, Hannah has been having a lot of anxiety lately and has been really leaning heavily on any sort of comfort she can find and has developed some new "techniques" I'll call them to bring herself comfort. The first one is sleeping with the light on. Every night or nap time we turn out her light after her story. She then lays down for us to sing her a song. After the song she says, "I can turn the light on if I want to?" She waits until we are done with her routine and we are out of the room and then she gets out of bed and turns her light back on. I don't think she's scared of the dark. She could be, but she hasn't verbalized any fear about the darkness or monsters or anything. So, I just think it's a comfort thing. She likes her light on and it's comforting for her to have control over turning it on. Another comfort thing she's developed is constantly asking questions she already knows the answer to to get reassurance. For example, lately she's been a bit shy about big dogs. I'm not sure what sparked this hesitation, but it's there. Whenever we are going somewhere where she knows there will be a dog she says where she wants the dog to be in the form of a question. Here's an example, "Finn will be in the barn?" or "Sidney will be outside?" She knows that most likely those dogs WON'T be where she says they will be and seems to just be looking for reassurance that she needs to prepare herself for the dog and that she'll be ok.

I don't think I posted earlier on Hannah's Halloween experience. This year we were invited to go trick or treating with some friends of ours. Last year we didn't take Hannah trick or treating. She just dressed up in her costume and helped pass out candy. We also went this year to the Halloween open house that the gym where Hannah has gymnastics at had. They had several obstacle courses set up for the kids and the gym was all decorated for Halloween. It was a blast and Hannah didn't want to leave to go trick or treating when it was time to go! I was worried about how she would do trick or treating. I thought the other kids in costume might scare her or going up and talking to all those strangers would freak her out, but she did great! She was a little shy, but by the end of the night she was boldly walking up to houses alone and saying trick or treat and even remembering to say thank you! I was so proud of my little girl!

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Terrible Twos

OH MY GOSH! Where are the aliens that snatched my daughter?!?! The past few weeks have been especially rough in our house. Hannah is fully ensconced in the terrible twos and I'm about ready for a nervous breakdown. To make matters worse, Kyle leaves for a week long business trip on Monday. Pray for me that the aliens will return my daughter quickly!

Toddlers are defiant. They are independent. They push the limits. They have tantrums. Hannah apparently knows what is expected of her because she has been displaying all of these behaviors in massive quantities the past few weeks. Yesterday and today were the worst. I have basically spent 48 hours of continuous tantrum/sensory meltdown. It has been absolutely insane. Hannah will be defiant and get in trouble. Then she'll have a tantrum because she is in trouble. Then the tantrum escalates and gets so out of hand that she basically throws herself into sensory overload. At this point the discipline has ceased to be effective AND it is no longer possible to reason with her or even bring her out of the meltdown. This morning, what started as basic toddler defiance-refusing to get dressed because she wanted to play instead- ended up in a 45 minute meltdown that seriously altered the fun outing we had planned for the day and eventually spawned several more tantrums turned meltdowns as the morning drew on.

Not only am I having a rough time of all of this, but Hannah is suffering too. She's so anxiety stricken that she's gnawed her thumbs and sides of her hands raw. I had just got the bad spots on her thumbs cleared up and now in the space of only 2 days one of them is bleeding again and she has teeth marks all over the other hand. I've been redirecting her as much as possible, but they are her hands and I'm not with her every single minute. Usually this chewing is reserved for socially stressful situations, but lately we've been seeing it at home too. This worries me.

I took Hannah to the doctor on Wednesday for a check on how she's doing with therapy and to take a look at her feet. His response to her feet was, "Holy Cow! She over pronates like crazy." He agreed with us that she runs funny-that's a technical term by the way :) He said it's possible that she "could" grow out of it since she's still developing, but that it's unlikely. He said he recommended that we take her to a pediatric orthopedic specialist to determine if it's severe enough to need treatment with orthotics or braces at her age to prevent future problems as she grows and matures or if we can just wait and see what happens. He didn't feel he was qualified to make that call. He was also concerned about some of her anxiety and her lack of progress in dealing with others emotions. He's referring us to a developmental pediatrician at the Riley Developmental Clinic (for those of you out of state, it's the state's premier children's hospital) for a consultation and some testing. Apparently it takes FOREVER to get an appointment. We don't have our date yet, but I'm sure it will be at least several months before we get in. If they can help then it'll be worth the wait though.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

She's Reading!

My little girl read her first book the other day. I was so proud! She's been sounding out words a bit for quite awhile now, but not really putting it together that she was actually reading and didn't have any sight words other than her name. BUT now she has several sight words and is actively trying to decode lots of words she sees in text. Her current sight words are: we, me, be, see, is, you, and, cat, dog, Hannah, mom, dad, I, a, us. Since she wanted so badly to read, but was having a hard time remembering to make the sound of each letter of a word when she was sounding it out on her own (she could get all the sounds and blend them if she had us there to keep her focused), I decided to teach her using a reading method I used to use for my special ed students back before Hannah was born. It's called Tucker Sign and is basically a sign for all the various sounds of the English language. It's not the same as ASL. All the signs for the letters/sounds resemble the letter in some way or have some connection to how it sounds. This method allows the learner to bring in lots of different input into the reading process (they see the letters, make the sounds, hear the sounds, sign the sounds, and see the signs) and shifts the responsibility for decoding an unfamiliar word from the teacher to the student. Since I've started introducing the signs for the letter sounds that Hannah already knows (not covering vowel combinations and stuff yet for obvious reasons!) she's started really paying attention to every letter in a word and can decode much more quickly now. It's also increased her spelling ability since she's aware of the actual letters that make up the words she sees now. One thing that has been interesting is that she will often sign out a word and then once she goes to do the final blending of all of the sounds together to make the word she will completely leave off the first letter. This is something I've never run into before as a teacher. I've had special needs students and other beginning readers leave off the ending sounds or even miss the middle sound, but never the first sound. For example, she will read the word name like this "nuh-ay-mmmm, ame" It's very weird.

Here are some funny Hannah stories for you that I've been collecting for awhile, but just haven't had the time to post. Hannah really wanted a donut hole that I was eating one morning for breakfast. We don't allow her extra sugar except on special occasions because she just can't regulate herself well when she gets extra hyper jacked up on sugar. Anyway, my usual answer to her when she asks for something to eat that she is not allowed to have is that she can't have it until she is older. Normally she accepts this easily and will often answer herself before she even asks me about something she can't have by saying to herself, "when I'm older." Well, this time she waited a bit after I said, "when you are older," and then she turned to me and said, "I'm old now!" and she had this big grin on her face. I totally should have just given her the silly donut hole for being so clever, but I figured it was a bad precedent to start given that I've already been outwitted more times than I can count by my two year old and who knows how much more frequently it'll happen as she really does get older! My second story really helped show me just how I sound to my daughter on a day to day basis. We've been having an extremely challenging time lately with obedience, tantrums, and respect and Hannah has been spending a lot of time in time out and getting a lot of reminders (AKA spanks). So, the other day I caught her playing with one of her baby dolls. This is unusual in and of itself because she doesn't care a whole lot for dolls. Anyway, she had the baby wrapped up in a blanket and was walking around the house comforting it and acting like she was trying to put it to sleep. Then she walked into the living room and put the baby on the coffee table. Then she looked at the baby sternly, shook her finger at it, and said, "Stay there!" Then she turned her back to the doll. A few seconds later she said, "I mean it." Then she quickly picked the baby up and said, "TIME OUT!" and marched the baby over to her time out mat. I heard her from the other room say, "If you get up you will get a reminder." She came back into the living room looking serious and turned to me and said, "She disobeyed." It was all I could do not to burst out laughing at her complete and utter gravity. I asked her what the baby did to disobey and she told me that the baby got off her blanket! All of a sudden she got this surprised look on her face, jumped up and ran into the other room. I heard her say, "REMINDER!" Then I heard her rummaging around in what sounded like her toy kitchen. The next thing I know she is walking back into the living room carrying the baby and is spanking the baby with one of her spoons! I must be a really mean mommy if I sound the way she portrayed the mommy to sound :(

PS. If I ever needed proof that Hannah's therapy is working, all I have to do is look at these last few pictures of her playing with Addie. Not only is she playing with her, but they are in tight quarters and Hannah is not the least bit phased. This really is a true miracle. Social interaction, physical contact, affection for her peers, and no meltdowns. Oh happy day!