What’s OT Have to Do With It???

What's Got To Do with it?-2

If you visit the  The Morris Center website you can read about their “Trans-disciplinary Team that uses evidence-based science; the science of how the brain learns and improves skills & abilities.”   The services provided include speech, occupational therapy, psychology and neuropsychology.  Great, that’s cool.  But, we really weren’t sure how OT would help our kids with reading.  I mean, neither of them had any occupational concerns that we were aware of upon arrival.  They certainly wouldn’t qualify for any kind of these services at school.  So we thought, “OT will be a bonus!  They’ll get to improve some fine motor skills they already have while in Florida getting help with dyslexia. It’ll be a win-win.”  What role could it possibly play?  We were about to find out….

Have you ever over-heard a conversation or even been part of a conversation that makes you feel a bit insecure or even defensive?  More specifically, has anyone ever said something like this to you: “I hate it when someone _____; did you see how he ______;   I don’t understand why she can/can’t_____.” Sound familiar?  Sure, we’ve all been there.  But what happens when the things being pointed out are things you yourself do/don’t do?  Umm….wait a minute…I do that!  Awkward!  I myself have been there many times and my first meeting with the Occupational Therapists at The Morris Center was no different.

Here’s what The Morris Center Website says about the Occupational Therapy component:

“OT provides specific instructive therapy that can assist clients in overcoming sensory processing difficulties, these occur in approximately 50% of the clients and may be one or a combination of the following:

  • Oral-motor and motor planning difficulty
  • Fine and gross motor delays
  • Visual perceptual delayskj
  • Somatosensory deficits (lack of body awareness)
  • Sensory hypersensitivity

OT works to improve overall strength, balance and coordination. Attention is also given to handwriting, oral control and ocular motor skills. This type of intervention helps build self-esteem and self-confidence.”

The word “sensory” makes most of us think about our 5 external senses, right? But wait!  Back up.  There’s actually 3 more internal senses.  They don’t get mentioned by name very often….probably because they don’t exactly roll off the tongue, but they’re kinda a BIG DEAL!  Here’s those big words I mentioned in a previous post:

VESTIBULAR                INTEROCEPTION                    PROCREOCEPTION

Now, I could make it easy on you and explain each of these in detail (thanks to the amazing OTs who are teaching me all about them).  But, this isn’t a medical blog and I couldn’t begin to talk like an expert on any of these subjects.  But I dare you….no, I challenge you, to look these words up and learn all you can about them!  It truly is fascinating stuff!

At that initial meeting, the OT, Dr. Diana Croom-Atkins, did an amazing job of breaking it all down in terms I could understand and how it pertains to my kids and the way they learn.  I should also mention she has specialized training beyond the basic occupational therapy credentials. In a nutshell….these three internal senses serve as a foundation that determines all the others.  Knowing force, writing hard with a pencil, recognizing hunger or headaches, slumped posture, head tilt, fidgety…. these are some of the things I heard mentioned. I’ll admit, with each new mention, I caught myself sitting up a little taller, consciously keeping my head from tilting, examining my grip for the first time.  In my head I was thinking, “oh, I do that; I know where he gets that; yep, me too; uh oh, she must be seeing where they get it all in real-time as she watches me.”   I even  jokingly said to her, “I bet you are diagnosing me as we speak.”  She just smiled.  But really….

As she went on to discuss specific things she’s observed my kids doing, she also explained how it may be preventing them from learning at their optimal potential.  When there are gaps or cracks in these senses, their ability to read/write/understand is deficient.  With OT, they can fill in some of those gaps and make these senses more efficient.  With efficiency, comes higher levels of learning potential. And for my kids, this means they can WORK LESS AND LEARN MORE.  Can you imagine?  How frustrated would you be if you had to work 5 times as hard as everyone else in the room to learn the same things? No wonder we are dealing with anxiety, anger and exhaustion on the daily.  But now we are at a place that is examining our kids to their cores, learning the WHY behind their struggles and then telling us THEY CAN HELP!

As people, one of our ultimate goals is to find joy in life.  It’s possible for us all, but for kids with dyslexia, the road can be longer and sometimes seem impossible.  Struggling to learn leads to struggles in life. As a parent who would do anything to make life a little easier for my kids, this treatment would be an answered prayer.  The more I learn about the occupational therapy component, the more I recognize just how critical it is for my kids.  Who knew?  I have a new-found respect for this important field.  And also….I’m pretty sure I would benefit from some OT myself.  I’m betting everyone else could too.  Maybe I can get a buy two, get one free coupon for the OT……just kidding.

Every day we are on this journey I find myself in awe of the human body and the complex way every part intercepts and intertwines.  How anyone could think there’s not a divine Creator is beyond me.  More than ever, I am amazed by the Greatness of our God.  One week closer to home……

 

Wait! Could You Say That Again?

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Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things that are brought together.”  Well I certainly hope he is right!

This week we finally had our comprehensive evaluations for all three kids.  If you’ve ever had a battery of testing done, then had to sit down with a physician to hear the results, then you’ll somewhat understand what this was like for us.  We spent almost 7 hours of our week just listening to the team break down every test, every observation…. what it all meant, how it affected our kids and how they could help.   There were three doctors from different fields of study in this meeting explaining basically every fiber of each of our kids.  We listened, took notes, asked questions and recorded the conversation (thank goodness!).  After the meeting, on the drive home, we couldn’t formulate the words to even talk about all of this information.  We needed to digest and process all that they said.  It’s been 3 days since and I’m still wrapping my head around it.  We have so many questions, so many concerns and so many doubts.  But at the same time…..it all makes sense!  All of it.  While we may not have understood the science behind it all or how the testing could pinpoint such intricate details, we do see how it all relates to our kids!  And each kids’ results were different but spot-on when you look at his/her behaviors/thinking/reactions/etc..  You know that thing you notice about your kid that’s a little different or unique?  You think it’s just something you notice, maybe a little quirk about him/her.  You keep it to yourself, but one day someone else notices it too.  When they mention it to you, you say, “YES!!!  I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME THAT NOTICED THAT!”  Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was thinking the entire time.  So much of the things we notice (or don’t notice) aren’t just quirks.  There’s actually a scientific reason for it.  These doctors not only pointed our these nuances, they explained the why behind them and then how they could make it better.

I’ll be honest, after hearing all the testing results and then analyzing what every sub-category means for your child, we left feeling a little sad.  So much of their struggles, beyond academics, have now been explained.  So much of what they do/don’t do that drives us crazy are things they can’t help.  Cue the mom-guilt.  I can think back to hundreds of times I’ve been irritated, aggravated, confused about things they have said or done, or things they haven’t been able to do.  It makes no sense!  Until now…. now it all makes sense.  Now I see that they weren’t being lazy, defiant, distracted, negative, slow.  They actually couldn’t help it.  Poor kids.  No wonder they did that……  it broke my heart a little.  However, to the credit of TMC staff, they were quick to discourage us from feeling any kind of guilt.  That’s not the point.  The point is to fully evaluate my child, find their deficits and find a way to help them.  The OT said something that resonated deeply with me regarding senses.  She said, “I would never tell a parent their child doesn’t have any vestibular, proprioceptive or interoceptive senses at all (more on those big words later).  It’s just not working efficiently.”  That’s encouraging and if we can keep our eyes focused on that, it will make all the difference.

Leaving the meeting wasn’t all sad.  We left with a better understanding of why we are here.  We’ve found the deficit, now let’s help them overcome it.  There is hope in knowing that a clinic that can identify such things can also make them better.  They are shooting us straight in all areas and giving us realistic expectations.  Some seem a bit reaching but we are hoping for the best. I now understand what each discipline (speech, language, Occupational therapy and psychology) is doing for my kids.  How this trans-disciplinary approach merges and intertwines together for the overall result???  I’m not really sure.  But like Van Gogh said,”Great things are done by a series of small things that are brought together.”  Let’s press on!

Do I even know you?

This whole experience has been similar to looking at your children from a different perspective.  I know my kids better than anyone else on this earth.  I know how they handle happiness, sadness, disappointment, triumph.  I know their struggles and their strengths.  I know them like the back of my hand.  Or do I? As parents our hope is that we can guide and teach our children to grow into kind, responsible, confident young people. We focus on teaching them “our ways” of doing things, encouraging them to overcome adversity, and modeling what we think is important.  Some of it seems to be getting through.  Other things are missing the mark.  When that happens, we are quick to try to “fix” the behavior/habit/struggle that they have.  But how often do we take a step back and ask “why are you acting/responding/melting down?”  Are they just being defiant, strong-willed, or even dramatic?  Maybe.  But it could be about something completely different.  It could be something at a deeper, physiological level.

The more we meet with the staff here at TMC, the more we are studying our kids from a different angle.  So much of what we see at home and don’t understand is starting to make sense.  Why they do certain things or find simple tasks more difficult may actually be related to inefficiencies in their development.  Who knew?  I have been blown away so far by what I’ve been learning.  It’s reminding me of the editing process of photography.  For example, you take a picture of a baseball field.  To everyone else it looks amazing.  But when you load the image into your photo editing software, you start to pick the image apart.  You zoom in on every part of the image and start noticing things you didn’t at first glance.  The exposure could have been brighter, the shadows could be lifted, the color more vibrant.  The original picture was good, but with a little tweaking, it could be even better.  Piece by piece, you are able to make small changes to the image to make it brighter, more defined, enhanced.  And once the editing is complete, you can step back and see how every little part molded together to make an even more beautiful photograph. People are like pictures.  From the outside, we can look great, but when you look closer, you see things that need improvement.  And this place is in the business of making small developmental changes in brains to make them work more efficiently.  How these changes correlate to reading?  I haven’t quite figured it out.  But my friends have assured me to just trust the process and watch the pieces all come together.

I came here confident I knew my kids, but I have a feeling when I leave, I’ll be able to not only know them, but to understand them better.  So go ahead TMC! Keep reminding me of all the ways my kids are amazing.  Then show me how you will make them FEEL just as amazing for themselves.

This Week has been the LONGEST Year Ever! (Week 1 @ The Morris Center)

Whew!  What a week!  For the kids and the adults.  So much testing for the kids, and lots of information for us.  On Monday, we arrived with three nervous, uncertain kids.  We were greeted by the smiling faces of some of the staff who quickly ushered them through the office to show them the routine…..where to put their lunches, how to read their daily schedule, etc.  They came back looking a bit timid still.  Just then, Dr. Conway walked in and said, “Kids, before you get started, come outside.  I want to show you something.”  After a minute I peeked out the door to see 3 smiling faces laughing and examining a souped up mountain bike.  He had their attention!  In that moment I saw their shoulders relax and their chins tilt up a little.  To make it even better, Dr. Conway sat on the couch and softly explained the day to them. (okay, maybe I was too harsh in my initial impression post about those couches…they are comfy…but still…) In that moment, I wanted to give Dr. Conway a big bear hug for easing their anxious hearts (and maybe mine too).

You know how the first week of school is fairly easy…..more about learning the routine than actual academics?  Well, this first week  was NOTHING like that.  They hit the ground running and never slowed down.  The comprehensive testing usually takes 1 week for a kid, but since there’s three of them, they’ve had to split it up over two weeks.  When they aren’t testing, they’re already starting the first language sessions for the program.  The clinic runs a tight schedule every day so that the kids can maximize each moment of learning.  According to Brady, the 10 minute breaks between sessions last only 2 minutes.  OT and scheduled outside play are a welcomed escape from the rigorous mental work required.  We’ve heard, “my brain hurts,” multiple times by all three of them. And you know what?  We believe them!  By the week’s end we had no trouble getting them to bed. They are exhausted.  Each has had his/her share of meltdowns and arguments so we’ve offered a large amount of grace since we understand how hard they are working.  This is some intense testing and we are only on week one. Bless it.

While the kids were busy testing, Mom and I spent about 8 hours at the center in meetings. The actual number of staff members at the clinic  is surprisingly small to me.  It almost feels like they are running on a skeleton crew.  Only certain staff are certified to administer testing, and their plates already appear overloaded.  By the end of the week I could see fatigue on both the kids and the staffs’ faces.  For good reason too!  Some of the staff members aren’t usually in the office 5 days a week but did so for us.  Administering, then scoring the testing results for three is no doubt time-consuming!  These people wrapped up a tough week of end-of-treatment testing for 2 of our friends from Arkansas, then  put in another strenuous week to get us started on our journey.  To their credit, they gave us their undivided attention at each meeting, never rushing us to wrap it up and never showing their fatigue.  They listened patiently, explained things thoroughly and took ample time discussing each kid. We left every meeting feeling better and better.  Why?  Because they love what they do, believe in the program and truly want to see our kids succeed.  The meetings included Clint, Davin & Jamie via FaceTime and left us feeling impressed….and surprised…..and intrigued…..curious and fascinated by what we’ve heard.  We had individual meetings for each child with the psychologist, occupational therapist, and neuropsychologist (i.e. brain scientist).The information we received at each meeting was more than we expected.  Within the first 2 days, they had already identified areas of concern that aligned with concerns we’ve had with each kid.  Even more so, they were pointing out areas of deficit we didn’t realize had anything to do with dyslexia.  It was like an “ah ha” moment for us.  So much of the things our kids struggle with outside of the academic realm are affected by this inefficiency in their brains.  Already we’ve learned so much, yet it’s only the beginning.  I can’t wait to get even more information in the weeks ahead.