Adoption Interview

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rhode Island Early Intervention

We finally managed to get the ball rolling here in Rhode Island to get Hannah hooked up with Early Intervention services. In Indiana, Hannah only qualified for developmental therapy through the early intervention agency. Here in Rhode Island they don't even HAVE developmental therapists. So, they did some modifications to her IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) and what she ended up getting instead will be even better than what she had in Indiana (although it would be hard to beat Kimberly, Hannah's former DT). Here in Rhode Island she qualifies for OT (occupational therapy), speech, a once a month autism specialist, family training, custom made social stories and picture schedules, and a whole host of group therapies that we can pick and choose from at will. Some of the groups we have to choose from are music therapy, social skills playgroup, sensory playgroup, swim therapy, and a speech friendship group. ALL of these services are available to us free of charge which is amazing to me. In Indiana Hannah's DT was covered through a governmental cost share program based on income level. We had a copay, but it was pretty minimal and since Hannah only had DT we never had to pay more than $24 a month out of pocket. In Rhode Island we don't pay a dime. When Hannah's service coordinator said that she was scheduling Hannah for speech I initially thought she was crazy and wondered if she had been paying any attention at all to Hannah's vocabulary and pronunciation the two visits she had made to our house. I later learned that Hannah's SLP (speech language pathologist) is a specialist in autism and on addressing the social use of communication that causes problems in many people with Asperger's. The good news is that Hannah really hit it off with her and I liked her quite a bit too. She seemed to really love kids which is always good! We haven't met her OT yet, but we should be able to start up with her sometime late next week. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised about the services Hannah will be receiving. Hopefully it will end up being as good as it sounds. Speaking of therapy, Hannah's former DT, Kimberly, has been helping us out this week long distance (and also free of charge) to try to get Hannah through this transition as easily as possible. We already miss Kimberly dearly. She has done so much for Hannah that all the money in the world would not be enough to thank her for how much better she has made Hannah's life. We are hoping to see her again at the end of April though. She has a conference in Rhode Island (how convenient huh?) and said she'd love to hook up while she's here! YEAH!

Lately Hannah has renewed her interest in numbers. This time her fascination lies in addition, subtraction, money, and weights. She loves for me to pose simple story problems for her to figure out and she's pretty good at solving them too. The other day she sat for almost an hour studying coins and asking me to quiz her on the names and values of each coin. By the end of an hour she pretty much had them all memorized with the exception of the dime which she consistently called a diamond! I'm not convinced that she has the concept of coins mastered yet, but then I wouldn't be surprised as she's managed crazier things before. The Children's Museum here in Providence has an area with various period style rooms depicting life at various times in Rhode Island's history. One of Hannah's favorite rooms is a general store/diner that has pretend produce that you can buy. The store has a working produce scale and old fashioned cash register. Hannah loves to weigh the produce she's buying and report the weight back to me, then run around to the cash register and punch the number of pounds of produce she is buying and then watch the cash drawer pop out.

Today was a rough day for Hannah. Every little thing sent her into a crazy meltdown. By the time we made it to lunch time, both Kyle and I were about spent. We decided (who knows what possessed us?) to take her to McDonald's to eat and play in the play place. Typically a social situation like a play place wouldn't be a good idea on a day when she was already having meltdowns, but I don't think either of us wanted to take her back to the apartment and muddle through several more hours of insanity. The meal was difficult, as was expected, and we almost aborted the mission before ever letting her play, but somehow we made it through and we turned her loose on the play place. Thankfully it wasn't too crowded, but there were enough kids in there to give her some social opportunities. Hannah hung back for awhile and then latched onto some older girls (probably around 10 years old) who must have thought she was cute and were willing to talk to her and listen to her talk. Eventually the girls tired of Hannah and wanted to play with each other, but Hannah didn't know how to let them be. I felt bad for her following them around talking and them just ignoring her. I really can't blame the girls. I mean what 10 year old wants to play at a two year old's level? Still, it was heartbreaking to see the confusion on Hannah's face because she just didn't get it. A little bit later there was a little girl who we thought was younger than Hannah that was having trouble climbing up the tower platforms. She was a couple of inches shorter than Hannah and she couldn't quite reach. Kyle encouraged Hannah to help her and after some initial hesitancy Hannah really took to the task. She tried picking the girl up, pushing her bottom, hoisting her knees, pulling her hands, anything she could think of to get the little girl up. Eventually the girl figured it out on her own and the two of them climbed up to the top together. While they were still in the climbing process Hannah did a very good job explaining verbally and visually demonstrating to the girl just how to climb up and down the structure. I was VERY proud of her. Once up, Hannah, who had had her tongue loosed during the climbing demonstration, chatted happily to the little girl. They played and climbed together for probably close to a half hour. Eventually, though, the little girl tired of playing with Hannah and tried to leave. Hannah, bless her little heart, didn't want her new friend to leave. She grabbed the little girl around the waist and said, "You can't leave without me!" The little girl firmly replied, "I can go down by myself," and proceeded to go down the slide. Poor Hannah just seemed confused again. I think it was inconceivable to her that someone might be done playing with her before she was done playing with them. Though not perfect, the play place experience was one of the most successful we've ever had. Hannah got some really good social practice, exercise, and had fun in the process. YEAH! We learned later that the little girl was actually 3 1/2, a full year older than Hannah, even though she was considerably shorter and much less sophisticated and clear verbally. The funny thing is that Hannah also thought she was younger because she referred to her as the little baby! That just makes me smile when I think back about it. :)

Last week we tried out the church that we think we will make our church home (at least initially anyway). We'll be heading back there again tomorrow and with the rough day that Hannah had today I'm more than mildly concerned. First, this church does not have any Sunday School on Sunday mornings. The entire congregation, including children, meet together in the sanctuary for announcements, prayer, and worship. This lasted 30-45 minutes last week. Hannah initially enjoyed being included and liked the singing and special music (she spent quite a bit of time attempting to dance in the aisle), but got really antsy as the first section of the service progressed. I'm worried about her having a meltdown tomorrow as I try to keep her quiet and contained until they release the children for Children's Church. I'm also worried that if she does have a meltdown, besides how hard it will be to deal with in the middle of people who know nothing about us or Hannah's challenges, it will make her less likely to cope effectively on her own during Children's Church since she'll already be on edge. Last week she did just fine during Children's Church, but had a HUGE meltdown as soon as we got back to the car after picking her up after service. Please pray for us that she'll have a good experience during both services and enjoy herself so much that she'll look forward to it each week.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


It seems we have a little Houdini on our hands. Hannah has finally managed to thwart the child locks on the door knobs. In our old house we had a dutch door on Hannah's room. Kyle turned the bottom door knob around so that the lock was on the outside. This way we were able to keep Hannah in her room during naps and safe at night when she might otherwise be up roaming the house and getting hurt unsupervised. At the apartment none of the bedrooms have locks and even if they did, we did not have the luxury of turning the knob around since it's not our door. So, we put a door knob cover on the inside of Hannah's bedroom door to keep her in her room. She hadn't figured out how to use one yet so we figured this would do the trick of keeping her safe. I was especially concerned about her getting out of her room and then opening the apartment door and going who knows where without us knowing in the middle of the night. This worked for about a week. Then Hannah decided to start playing with the cover and accidentally got one of them off. We found her in our bedroom one morning as a friendly wake up call. We replaced the cover and considered it a fluke. Well, it wasn't a fluke. She became increasingly skilled at removing the door knob cover from the door and getting out. It got to the point that we could not keep her in her room at all. Bedtimes became an even bigger battle than they normally are. We were at our wits end. Then I decided to go down to the Lobby and ask the concierge for some help. I explained the situation and our fears and asked if it would be ok for Kyle to remove the bathroom door knob and switch it with the bedroom door knob in Hannah's room and turn it around the wrong way. I promised we would return them to their correct places once we moved out and would pay for any damage that occurred because of the switching. He said we didn't have to do it. They would have maintenance fix us right up that afternoon! They really do treat their residents nice at this place! Maintenance was at our apartment in less than an hour to do the job. When I opened the apartment door the maintenance man said, "I'm here to lock a kid in their bedroom." I about died I was so embarrassed. What if people really do think we are horrible child abusing parents who lock our child in her room for days at a time?!? Then he cracked a smile and started laughing. I let out a huge sigh of relief. Then Hannah came out from behind my leg and the guy looked mortified. He said, "I didn't know she was there. She's probably going to be scared out of her mind now." I said, "Nah, she's used to being locked in at night!" It ended up not being possible to switch the door knobs because they weren't the same type of knob so he ended up putting a chain lock on the outside of Hannah's door. Now it really does look like we are abusers! It does the trick though. Hannah can only open her door about an inch now. There have been no further escapes and I have been able to rest much easier now knowing that she's not up devising a way to beat the night lock and get out of the apartment.

Though Hannah seems to be sleeping more peacefully when she is actually asleep. There's no more snoring which is awesome. She is still having a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I'm sure some of this is due to the transition to the new apartment, but I'm not sure if that is the whole reason or not. She's been taking Melatonin for awhile now and I was hoping that would do the trick. I think I'd like to increase her dose to see what that does, but I don't want to do that until I'm sure she's settled into a routine here. The problem is that as soon as we get settled here we'll be moving again to our house and the transition will start all over again. So, I'm hesitant to make any changes to the Melatonin until we are settled into the house. An interesting side note about the Melatonin, when I went to purchase it after the developmental pediatrician recommended it I discovered that it only came in pill form. The bottle stated that it needed to be swallowed and not chewed. Up until that point Hannah had only ever taken liquid medicine. I had no idea how we were going to get a pill down her. The first several times it was a big fiasco. It reminded me of trying to give a cat a pill-prying open their mouth, holding down their tongue, dropping it straight down the throat, and then clamping their mouth shut so that they can't spit it out! There was much gagging, tongue thrusting, and digging out of soggy half dissolved pills. However, it didn't take long for Hannah to get the hang of it. Within two weeks she was a pro. After a month she was even able to take the pill independently although she still prefers for me to drop it in her mouth for her to swallow. This just blows my mind. Are 2 1/2 year olds supposed to be able to take pills? Isn't that why they make chewable children's Tylenol? Hannah's always been a good medicine taker. I'm sure some of this has to do with the fact that medicine is just a routine part of our house. She sees me take many different pills each day so I guess for her taking a pill is just what people do. She's always wanted to do anything that is considered a "big girl" thing-hence her early transition to a twin bed, ditching the high chair early, and beginning potty training on her own at 18 months so maybe that's why she worked so hard to learn how to take pills. She just wanted to be like Mommy. I sure hope I'm not raising a little addict by her already having the ability to pop a pill like it's no big deal.

Hannah has finally learned how to have some independence in the new bathrooms here. She devised a way to reach the toilet paper and has perfected her balance on the large hole in the seat while tearing it off. She still can't wash her hands independently because the counter tops are just so darn high, but being able to wipe by herself is a plus anyway. Yesterday she was taking a long time in the bathroom and I went to see why she hadn't called for me to come help her wash her hands. When I got to the bathroom the door was shut. This was unusual in itself, but when I went to open the door I discovered that she had locked herself in the bathroom! I went into full blown panic mode in about 5 seconds flat. My mind was racing wondering what she might get into and how she could hurt herself and what if she wouldn't unlock the door and let me in. Might I have to leave her alone in the apartment and go down to the lobby and ask the maintenance people for help (I don't know the lobby phone number, but I'm planning on finding out today!)? Would they have to remove the door from it's hinges? Then finally I got ahold of myself and I just calmly asked Hannah to unlock the door so I could come in like it was no big deal and amazingly she did as I asked. I've never been happier in my life that she obeyed! We had a big conversation after that about how she should never lock the bathroom door because it's unsafe and while she's at it why don't' we just leave the bathroom door open or at least cracked from now on. She agreed so let's hope we don't have any further incidences of her locking me out of the bathroom.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Hannah has officially entered the "why" phase. She asks why after almost everything I say, questions, commands, and statements. It's about to drive me crazy. I was so close to saying, "Because I'm the mommy, that's why!" today. Today at lunch I ate my pasta in a bowl instead of on a plate and she asked me why I was using a bowl. I said because I just felt like a bowl today and she answered why. This cycle went on for several minutes. I thought I was going to scream by the time she finally gave it up.

Another thing that she's been doing lately is asking permission to do things that she doesn't need permission at all to do-multiple times in a row and from both Kyle and I. For example, here's a conversation that happened the other day, "Mommy, can I go get my baby doll?" "Yes, Hannah. You don't have to ask when you want to play with your doll. Just go get her." "Daddy, can I play with my baby doll?" "Yes, Hannah. Mommy already told you that you could." "Mommy, can I play with my baby." "YES!" "Okay." and then she trotted off down the hall to get her baby. I have no idea why this started. Usually she doesn't ask permission for anything and she still doesn't ask permission for the things that she really SHOULD be asking permission to do. Toddlers can be so weird sometimes. I say toddler, but she's two and a half. Is that still a toddler? When does a kid move into the "preschooler" category?

Today I took Hannah back to the children's museum and we had a great time. We stayed for 3 hours. She wanted to stay for longer, but we needed to go home for lunch and I knew she needed a nap too. She didn't really interact with any kids at all, but at least she began to get more comfortable with the museum. There were a few times when we had to go off into one of their book corners and read a book to regroup because she was starting to get overwhelmed, but I thought it was understandable since there were two different school groups there and the kids were big, rowdy, loud, and very pushy. I needed a break from them and I don't have a problem with crowds!

Poor Hannah is really missing her toys and other things from our house that are in storage right now. I think she's going into withdraw from not having her kitchen set and play food, her tools, and her barn and horses. She keeps asking me where they are. Today when I told her they were in storage she said, "Let's go get them!" She wasn't very happy when I said that we couldn't get them until we moved into our new house. She's also been asking a lot to go back to her old house. Earlier in the week she said, "I don't want to stay in the apartment anymore. I want to go back to my old house." It about broke my heart. It's hard to explain to a 2 year old about job security and why we can't just go back to our old house. She's a smart girl, but she's not THAT smart.

Hannah finally noticed the train station outside our apartment and started hearing the trains blow their whistles as they come into and leave the station. Every time she hears one she drops whatever she is doing, shouts TRAIN! and runs over to the window to watch. Yesterday we walked over to the train station to check it out. I thought we might actually be able to see the trains inside the station, but unfortunately you have to have a ticket to go downstairs to where the trains board and unboard. Hannah did get a kick out of the pigeons that were walking around inside the building, however. She really wanted to pet them, but since I'm afraid of birds I wouldn't let her get close to them.

PS. The first picture is the view out of our other apartment window!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Public Toilets, Hand Dryers, and Garbage Disposals OH MY!

Public toilets, hand dryers, and garbage disposals. Sounds like a motley crew doesn't it? They are on Hannah's current list of deathly fears. She's had an on and off fear of automatic flushing toilets flushing on her bottom and super sonic hand dryers for quite awhile, but I thought those had pretty much passed. The garbage disposal, however, is a new one. With all three evil appliances it seems to be the sound that bothers her at the moment. That's another thing that seems weird to me because although they are quite loud, she's never had a problem with loud noises before and right now it seems to only be those 3 particular loud noises that bother her. She's to the point that she about won't even go in a public restroom for fear of a loud toilet flushing or a chance meeting with a hand dryer. When the toilet flushes she runs across the stall as far from the toilet as she can get and either buries her head in my legs or squishes herself into the corner. You'd think I was chopping her hand off if I try to dry her hands with a hand dryer instead of paper towels. AND if Kyle turns on the garbage disposal in the apartment (which is REALLY loud, much louder than the one at our old house) she will run and hide and bury her face in her hands. Since all loud sounds don't bother her and two of her current fears appear to be reincarnations of old ones, I am inclined to believe that these are normal everyday toddler fears instead of a new manifestation of her SPD, but I don't really know. They are quite intense fears and the public bathroom ones are really starting to interfere with her life since she has quite a small bladder and it's almost impossible for her to successfully hold it until we get home if she happens to have to go pee when we are out somewhere. Those of you fellow SPD moms out there, what do you think? How should I handle this? We've got to get past the public bathroom phobia somehow, but I'm out of ideas. Do I be supportive or is that just enabling her fears? I don't want to be a psuedo anti-NERD (see Mama Mara's post here).
I just really want her to not be so freaked out about things she's bound to continue to come across in normally everyday life.

We are continuing to struggle with Hannah's behavior. She is so defiant it amazes me. She's always been stubborn, but she's taken it to a whole new level recently. It appears as if she almost WANTS to get in trouble or lose privileges sometimes. Her disobedience is so willful that I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that she's only 2 1/2. I've only seen this kind of attitude in teenagers before. I know defiance and disobedience are par for the course in terms of normal toddler behavior, but Hannah's current behavior seems a bit extreme to me. It always seems that everything about Hannah is just a little bit "more" than the typical kid, that she's just a lot more intense about everything-both the highs and lows if that makes any sense. She's hyper focused, while at the same time extremely distractable, extra curious, extra hard to get to sleep, more intense emotions and reactions to others' emotions, perfectionistic, obsessive about all things academic, extra set in routines, very inflexible to change, etc. The list could go on and on. For every typical toddler trait it seems that Hannah is just a little bit more of it than all the other kids. In some instances this is awesome, for example in the case of her already being able to read and do basic addition and subtraction. In other instances it's absolutely awful like when she bangs her head repeatedly off the coffee table when she accidentally writes a third "N" in her name instead of writing an "A" and she's used a crayon so she can't erase it. I repeatedly pray for patience with her every single day, but it seems as if my patience is always so thin. I know she's struggling too and that makes me feel even worse when I loose my patience or when I don't know how to handle a situation. It seems like lately there are more situations that I don't know how to handle than ones that I feel confident that I handled appropriately. The current thing that pushes me to the limit faster than anything else is this screech Hannah does when she's upset or being asked to do something that she doesn't want to do for any reason at all. She'll make it when I ask her to do something, when I touch her to guide her towards an undesirable activity, or when I ignore whining or a tantrum. That sound cuts straight to my bones because it is almost always a result of intentional disobedience and she will even make the sound again if I react to it at all. She KNOWS that it bothers me and it's almost like she enjoys pushing my buttons with it. It seems ridiculous to me to place her in time out simply for a sound she makes after she gets a warning about something, but it's basically sassing in my opinion and I don't know how else to handle it other than to use the sole weapon I have against unwanted behavior-the time out. If anyone at all has any ideas for how I could handle this another way since the time outs seem to be having no effect, I'd welcome the suggestions. I'm pretty much at a loss and could really use some help.

On a positive note, we took Hannah to the Providence Children's Museum yesterday and she had a blast. At first she was pretty overwhelmed by all the activity and kids running everywhere, but by the end of the morning she was splashing in the water, playing with the science toys, and playing house in the different "time period" houses. It was hilarious watching her cooking food in a kettle in a fire place while in the 1860's kitchen replica. She put the kettle in the fire place and then reached up to the mantle and pretended to push several buttons while saying, "beep, beep, beep!" I just about peed my pants laughing. I think we will end up getting a membership to the museum because it's super close to the apartment and only like 15 or 20 minutes from our new house once we move there. I can totally see us going there at least once a week. I could see it really being good for Hannah to be in an environment that can stimulate her academically while also challenging her socially. Maybe just maybe I could meet some new mommy friends there too.
PS. The last picture is the view out one of our apartment windows. I'll try to post the view out the other window in my next post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We Made It

Well, we finally made it here to Rhode Island. It was a long hard trip with its fair share of tantrums and meltdowns, but we made it none-the-less. Physically Hannah seems to be doing great and got the all clear from her ENT to resume her normal activities. Today we went swimming and she had a blast. It was really good for her to get some heavy work in, especially after 3 straight days in the car! We've been in behavior boot camp the last two days which hasn't been fun for any of us, but it's needed. She got so much leeway after her surgery and while we were packing and moving, that a huge rein in was really needed to get things back under control. I'm sure it's going to take some time. I just hope I can stay patient.

I think it's going to take some time for us all to adjust to apartment life. As far as apartments go, this is a nice one, but we are right downtown so it's loud. Hannah is constantly asking, "What's that sound?" Our view is amazing for being in the city though. Out one window we can see the whole city and out the other we have a huge view of the capitol building. There is a train station across the street that Hannah hasn't really noticed yet. Once she does, I'm sure this will be a big hit for her since she loves trains. We are totally going to have to ride on one at least once while we are here. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of the apartment. Our bedrooms are HUGE. I've never had such a large room in all my life. Hannah's bedroom here is bigger than our master bedroom was in Indiana. We also have two bathrooms which we weren't expecting. The bad thing about the bathroom is that Hannah can't reach the toilet paper while on the toilet and also can't reach the sink even while standing on a stool. I've become used to her having some independence in the toileting department so having to help her much more than I'm used to is a pain, but I'm sure we'll come up with something. An interesting side note regarding potty training, Hannah was dry all night and during her naps for 4 days/nights in a row. This morning she was wet when she woke up, but I still think 4 dry nights is a good start. I really expected a pretty big regression in potty training because of this move and all the transitions she's dealing with. I definitely did not expect the 4 dry nights in a row, especially since she's only been dry through the night once or twice before this.

Besides getting Hannah's behavior in check and her sensory diet back on track, the next big goal on this move is to get Hannah set up in the Rhode Island Early Intervention program. Hopefully we can get OT started soon and maybe find a social skills group. We also have to start the process of finding new doctors for her (and for us for that matter). That is something I am not looking forward to. We've been so fortunate thus far to have had great doctors. I'm worried we aren't going to get that lucky again.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Rough Weekend

It's been a tough weekend in the Spontak house. Since Hannah is still at risk for bleeding after her surgery and because of her pneumonia she's not allowed to do much activity. This poses a BIG problem since most of her sensory diet revolves around proprioceptive input-jumping on the trampoline, swinging on her bar or us swinging her around, spinning, running, carrying or pushing heavy stuff, etc. These are not only on her sensory diet, but they are her favorite activities. She's such a sensory seeker that it's almost torture for her to be banned from them (for both her and us). Since her sensory needs are not being met she's been in rare form as far as behavior is concerned. We've been dealing with LOTS AND LOTS of hitting. Usually it's not hitting for any reason in particular, just a way to meet a sensory need that is normally met elsewhere. Tonight she was crawling and lunging all over me on the couch and just being wild. I felt so bad for her. It's hard to know where to place the limit. Hitting is not allowed. She knows that. We enforce that. BUT when she can't meet her needs any other way because we aren't allowing it. It's so difficult to see her struggle. It's like she simply can't control herself. After each and every time out she can easily tell us why she got the time out, but it doesn't do anything to deter future incidents. Top everything off with the fact that she feels crummy and her entire world is disrupted right now as we prepare to move and you've got a recipe for disaster. I've found myself with less patience than I should have because I'm also stressed about the move and how it is/will affect Hannah and that lack of patience is the exact opposite of what is needed right now. Please pray that after Hannah's follow-up appointment with the ENT on Wednesday she will get the go ahead to resume normal activities so that we all don't go crazy!