Thursday, April 30, 2009

The News from Binerville

A few weeks ago during Early Intervention, Emerson's OT was making him do one of his least favorite activities: play in the sand. Just like the paint and playdough in the past, she was slowly getting him to touch it using equal parts creativity and trickery. After limited success on this particular day, we tried an equally frustrating session of painting (the paint was fine - it was the rolled sleeves that drove him nuts), followed by a struggle to get him to wash his hands in the sink. When the OT asked me if he had any other tactile sensitivities, I responded, "Brushing his teeth, washing his hair, putting on sunscreen, (recently) swimming in pools, and touching stuffed animals."

She sighed and handed me a paper booklet, "Fill out this sensory profile for me and we'll create a plan from there."

I calmly said OK and took the paper, but inside I let loose a string of curses. "Oh bloody hell. Here we go again."

Luckily, the results did not create a new diagnosis as I feared, and we have gotten some helpful tips from the OT. He has made steady progress, which is encouraging except that the therapist implied none-too-subtly that a parent's over-emphasis on cleanliness could be a major contributor to the problem. She is right of course, but I have to say I was quite happy with the overly clean little man I had created. I had great hopes for his future spouse - but alas I'm being forced to give that all up so that he can one day create masterpieces out of sand and playdough. Nuts.

On a similar note, I got some interesting news from the school when I finally pushed the issue of getting Fionn's Early Intervention started. I know other parents of children with albinism are probably aghast that I waited six months to get things moving, but honestly, he's on target for all his developments and gets plenty of visual stimulation from an older brother, so I haven't been in a rush. I was dreading this conversation because technically siblings aren't allowed at therapy appointments, so I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to pay for childcare for whoever wasn't getting therapy on that particular day.

When I mentioned this concern during the conversation, the therapist said, "Oh, that won't be an issue. Emerson will be starting preschool half days for four days a week in the Fall, so Fionn can have his weekly appointment during one of those times."

Say what?!

For sixteen hours a week the school is going to watch and teach my child for free? My mind swooned in the glory of so much free time while my heart lurched at the idea of Emerson being so old and independent. I knew that when he was 2 1/2 he would transition to a new program, but I've been dreading the resulting paperwork and special ed lingo so much that I hadn't researched what this would really mean.

Now when I think of it, I do a little happy dance

In other news, Emerson has added some new signs and a couple of words, has decided that following older kids around may be the coolest activity ever, and - thanks to some practice with large groups in Texas - we took him to the insanity that is the mall playground and he didn't shed a tear.

I still get frustrated when I see my friends' 2-year-olds counting to ten, repeating entire songs and books by memory, potty training, etc. because Emerson is nowhere near any of those things. But it is what it is.

The other day we were talking with some friends about breaking all the parenting "rules" and Robbie said (completely joking of course) "Yeah, I mean they say breastfeeding makes kids super smart and Emerson was breastfed for a full year, but look at him." We all turned to look at Emerson, who coincidentally was standing in the corner with his face pressed against the wall. The group of us erupted into laughter at this humorous if unfortunate timing and Emerson was blissfully unaware of what happened except that he made us all laugh.

(By the way, he was doing this because he's spent a lot of time in the "time-out" corner lately and to show me how little effect it has on him, he frequently puts himself in time-out while laughing hysterically. But that's another post.)

Fionn is the complete opposite of his brother in almost every way. While Emerson was very shy and stoic around strangers as a baby, Fionn is all slobbery smiles and reaching out for people to hold him. While Emerson could have cared less about solid foods for months, Fionn watches every bite that goes into our mouths like a starving Oliver Twist and he devours everything we give him (see video to come). Fionn is ready to touch everything and anything - jump into any activity with enthusiasm while Emerson never does anything without forethought and hesitation.

Emerson has proven to be one of the sweetest and most interesting children I've ever seen, but Fionn's ability to be an "ordinary" baby is equally exciting in its own way.

On a final and yet unrelated note....after my last post, my mother questioned whether Zen masters were a good comparison for my children. "I thought Zen masters led by example, by being calm and Zen-like all the time, in which case I'm not sure that applies to the kids."

"Well, I once learned about a group of Buddhist monks who beat their students with sticks to keep them alert and focused," I said.

"My children are those kind of Zen masters."

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