The past month has gone by so quickly that it's hard for me to believe that Emma is wrapping up her first month in her preschool. Emma attends school from 8:30am - 11:15am Monday through Friday and this is new for both of us. We are not accustomed to being apart and I'm happy to say that we are both mostly adjusted to the change in our routine. It requires an early rise time and neither of us are morning gals so I'm happy that Chris is around in the morning to make sure that we are up and about at the proper time. Our routine is pretty streamlined at this point with: time spent on the potty, drinking a breakfast smoothie, getting dressed and AFOs on, double checking to make sure her backpack is all set, and packing a snack and drink. School is at the other end of our county so I drive Emma in and have the bus drop her home.
Emma settled into preschool the first week without any issues and that could be because I stayed with her most days. She started to cry at drop-off during the second and part of the third week. It was the screaming sobbing cry that makes me want to run back and take her home with me. She knows when to pull out that cry and that it rips my heart to shreds. And, no, she wasn't laughing and smiling a few minutes later. I even had a couple of calls from her therapists letting me know how unhappy she was and hoping it wasn't them. Sigh. I - umm, I mean we - toughed out the 6 days of sobbing at drop off and they were replaced by smiles on day 7. Oh Happy Day!!!!
Emma has a communication notebook that we send back and forth to school. Each day the teacher adds a sheet of paper with the following sections: play time, circle time, small groups, snack time, therapy, other, notes/comments. In each section there is a set of PECS symbols and she circles the items they worked with in each section. This is really nice because I can look at the symbols and go over Emma's day with her. There is also a sheet that has the equipment along with an entry for the time spent in the equipment. One day I requested information on what equipment she used and how long she was in it so I know how to plan the equipment we use the rest of the day. The very next day this sheet was added to the communication notebook. Fantastic! I also asked about the potty and her snack and they added another sheet that updates me on them daily. Additionally, on the days that Emma has therapy the therapist includes an update in the notebook so I know what they did in therapy that day. I feel very well informed of what is happening at school and this makes it easier to part with my girl every day.
Emma has a lot of goals on her IEP. They are not easy goals and I'm happy that the team set the bar pretty high. I'm even happier to report that after only a month of school Emma is rising to the challenge. My focus for Emma is communication. Yes, we have goals for PT and OT, but I'm not as focused on them at this moment as I am on getting a reliable, usable mode of communication for Emma. The team is spending a lot of time reinforcing communication in every interaction with Emma and this is working great. Central to her communication is having her CIs fully operational so first thing each morning the hearing teacher checks her implants. Emma is starting to say some sounds during the hearing check - this is a huge accomplishment because Emma usually reserves this for special occasions only. There is no doubt in any of our minds that Emma is hearing well and using her hearing quite effectively and that her real challenge is expressive (not receptive) communication.
The speech language therapist (SLP) is working with Emma individually, in the classroom setting, and then with the team to instruct them on how to carry-over communication. Historically, Emma is non-participatory in many of her speech sessions. It's just very hard for her to communicate vocally or physically and there has to be a big payoff for her to participate. This SLP gets it and is having success with Emma participating. She wants to move towards a scanning communication system initially and then test out some eye gaze systems.
Many scanning systems only have a 2 second delay before they move to the next item. We think this might not be long enough for Emma to hear it, process the information through her implants, and then get her motor plan together enough to hit the switch. Two seconds really isn't that long when you take Emma's hearing and physical challenges into account. So, her SLP tested out a head switch with Emma and she was able to use it quickly without much training. Her idea is that Emma could use two switches for a scanning communication method - the head switch to go from item to item and a hand switch to select the item. This would give Emma as much or little time as she needs to say what she wants. I was skeptical at first because it is already hard to keep Emma's CIs on her head without adding a head switch but it seems to be working well and isn't knocking off her CIs.
This week the SLP entered the following information in her communication notebook:
- Tuesday (her pull out for speech day): Emma had a good day today! We started working with 2 switches (on the computer) and she did great :-) Each switch has a different function - example: one switch adds one more block to the tower and the second switch knocks down the tower.
- Thursday (SLP pushes into the classroom day): We used 2 switches again today in the classroom - much more distracted than when in my therapy room, but she still did well :-) Lots of choice making with 2 pictures also.
I'm filled with hope for Emma and for us! Our decision to move was good for so many reasons and I'm so happy that Emma is in a program that is not only meeting her needs but also providing academic challenges that Emma is meeting head on. I'm looking forward to see what happens as the year unfolds.