Thursday, December 03, 2009

Show, Don't Tell...

Being the post in which I brag. Some.

If the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, then I can identify at least 15 people over the past year who are riding that hand basket.

I mentioned last year that Livvie didn't really start speaking until she was 27 months old. Given that her grandfather didn't speak at all until age 3, I wasn't especially worried... at first. I figured it would come in time. Once she got frustrated enough about her lack of ability to communicate her needs she'd give in and speak. However, once enough people, with "your best interests at heart," begin pestering you about anything, a person will start to worry. So I took the advice of everyone and their pet duck, and I called the state in for an evaluation. I was concerned with nothing but her speech at that point, because she was quite good at many things. My kid is an absolute genius in some areas and not all that bright in others. It's called being human.

When the state came out to see her she wasn't willing to perform like a ball balancing sea lion, so they scored her low, VERY low, in several areas. According to the woman who became her developmental therapist, they essentially indicated that she was autistic. I had had a gut feeling that this would happen. I really despise labeling, and I abhor trying to pigeonhole children into little boxes based on brief interactions. The state began to push me, and push me, to get her services to deal with her perceived needs. They flat out told me that she had Sensory Processing Disorder, even though they were not qualified to make such a diagnosis. The reason they gave me was that back then she preferred to eat Cool Ranch Doritos and garlic dill pickles, and she wasn't a cry baby when she hurt herself (oh for those days). Also, she liked to rough-house. So for a brief period of time I considered their point of view, and then after doing heavy reading on my own determined that their heads were up their asses and she was again, simply human. I am not a person who will live in denial when it comes to her kids. Livvie was, and is, behind in many areas. Here's where the title of this entry comes in.

Kids aren't going to learn anything they aren't taught.

When the state evaluated Livvie they seemed to place great stock in the fact that she couldn't kick a ball. Well, it hadn't occurred to us to even show her how to do that yet. She wouldn't stick coins in a bank. Again, it never dawned on us that this was something she needed to know how to do right then. Anything that I told them she could do, like the fact that I had caught her under the kitchen table unscrewing all of the legs, was taken with a grain of salt. According to them, she had the fine motor skills of someone about a year old. After they left I showed her how to kick a ball. I only had to show her twice.

Maybe I'm wrong, I've certainly been wrong before in my actions, but I follow her lead and her interests. Last winter she discovered the alphabet and colors and shapes thanks to a website that has games for toddlers. She became an addict. She's very much like me in that if she develops an interest in something she will consume as much of it as possible. So last winter I spent about 3 months writing the alphabet for her. Over. And over. I wanted to jump off a bridge. She watched carefully. Again and again she directed me as to which letter I should write next, which color marker to use, how many to do.

This meant that by the age of 33 months she began spelling a few words on her own, could identify some words spelled to her aloud, and by 36 months started writing her name. Roughly, but it was her name.

I have had so many people, attempting to be "helpful," try to gently nudge me into getting her even more services than we ended up using. I'm sorry, but I was looking over age based developmental milestones today, and she's meeting or exceeding most of those for her age. The milestones she has not met are things she has not been taught and some speech issues. How is that a problem?

Why is there a race here?

And it is a race. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently. When I was a child parents let babies be babies, and they let us develop naturally and simply taught us things as they came along. Now, suddenly, being a strong, healthy baby isn't good enough. Now everyone is required to be exceptional. My mother had never even heard of many of the milestones that doctors are now expecting their patients to meet on time or early. She laughed out loud at many of them. She said, "Gosh, babies were boring back in the day. It was kind of nice." In looking over the list today I found milestones Livvie has been doing for ages that I didn't even KNOW were milestones. Shit is getting out of hand. Totally.

I recently left a forum for mommies that I had been on for years due not only to some drama that pushed me over the edge, but also to the fact that everything had become either a brag or a panic. Sitting up at night wondering why Livvie isn't doing such and such when so and so already has does NO ONE any favors. Explaining to someone that she is doing certain things when their kid is not simply because she was taught repeatedly, and it was something she took an interest in, no your kid is not mentally retarded, oh hey, I'm talking to a wall here... that shit gets old.

We learn what we are taught. We learn what we are given the opportunity to practice. We learn what we enjoy.

As parents we do best to step back and see how our child learns best. We've discovered that since Livvie is still obsessed with the alphabet her pronunciation improves dramatically if we say, for instance, "No, use your B. Use your P," when she mispronounces something. More often than not she immediately gets it right on her second try.

I see a whole lot of laziness going on around me. I see a lot of expectations that haven't been met with no effort made to see that they are. I also see children, even babies, pushed ridiculously hard by their parents to become tiny Einsteins instead of letting them really enjoy each day of babyhood.

They seem to forget that Einstein didn't speak until he was four, and his father referred to him as, "the retard."

So tomorrow Livvie and I will once again work on developing her hand strength by squeezing tubes of glitter glue so that the next time we try scissors she won't get upset because she didn't do it perfectly on the first try.

Because it's not that big of a deal. I'm fairly certain she'll be able to use scissors by the time she gets to college.


ada said...

ah hell Jules, I STILL have trouble with scissors..totally overrated :) I joke but you are a smart cookie with gobs of common sense.

Julie said...

Pinking shears are my downfall. I end up pinking everything in sight.

squirrelgirl said...

Amen, sistah! We resisted *all sorts* of pressure to get Katherine tested because she wasn't speaking by age 2. I firmly believe that kids do things in their own time, and if I felt that she was lagging I would be the first to find a remedy. However, she seemed like a normal kid - no behavioral issues to speak of; she used her sign language and seemed to be concentrating on other areas of development. Lo and behold, once she mastered the potty, the words came. Without "intervention". Like she just wanted to finish one thing before starting another. Who can argue with that? I think society is so caught up in the "race" as you call it - in FL we now have "voluntary pre-K" for kids at 3 years old. Why do they need to start school that early? Why can't they just be kids 'til they're 5 or so, like we were? They have the rest of their lives to sit in class but only a few short years to explore the world freestyle. Argh. Sorry for the soapbox, but this post really touched a nerve!

Julie said...

Ok, that's ridiculous. I can see making use of it as childcare when working, but honestly, otherwise it's off the chain.

Livvie refuses to potty train. We might have made strides today though, as she totally neglected to tell me she had messed her diaper and gave herself a raging diaper rash. Which hurt. Badly.

HeatherGroves said...

My son Isaac was squished by his twin in utero and as a result was born with torticollis, which weakened one side of his body. We worked with a therapist on that based on my reading in a book about it, the pediatrician had no clue, said she thought "he was staring out the window" and I replied, "no, his head doesn't like to turn right". Anyway, we got evaluated by the state for PT and OT because he was missing some phsyical milestones and not walking. I was cool with the PT and OT since he did need to strengthen his left side, but towards the end the OT told me that Isaac also had Sensory Processing Disorder and might be autistic because he didn't like the texture of a scrunchy rubber ball. If he has it, then I have it too and haven't pursued that any further. SPD is very interesting in that it was "discovered" by OTs, and is not recognized by the medical profession.

Isaac also gets speech therapy, but I pushed for that when he had ear infections for almost 4 months nonstop just when language development would come in. We gave him tubes, had him evaluated and now he is in speech therapy at our ENT (he has mild apraxia).

I guess I am posting this because in some ways my experiences were so different from yours in that I had to work to get him evaluated for OT, PT and hearing. However my experience was like yours in that they really wanted to slap the SPD "diagnosis" on him, based on a few issues with textures that I don't like either.

I agree about the mommy bragging wars and I try to avoid those women as much as possible in the neighborhood since it doesn't mean anything, my sons are advanced in some areas and average in others and need help in speech. Potty training was a huge landmine, how long did it take,what are you doing about it, aren't they trained yet, etc. I remember being jealous that my neighbor had her son potty trained at 2. My kids were done by 3 and 1/2, so average, but I was embarrased that the kids were in pull ups. Crazy crazy thing are mommy drive bys. Breastfeeding was another issue for comparison. Gah.

Julie said...

Heather, Livvie got happy in front of her speech therapist out on the deck and went up on her toes and the woman wigged and told me she HAD to have SPD due to that. I fired her.

I have seen some kids who obviously do have sensory issues, bad ones, but this business of painting all of these kids with that brush is ridiculous. I also noticed that many of the women I was dealing with were not parents themselves, and since they were paid to find problems they looked for them everywhere.

The only one with a lick of sense, Livvie's DT, has a daughter a little younger than Livvie. She KNOWS what kids are supposed to do and be.

At preschool over the summer one of her teachers said to me, "how long has she been jumping and galloping like that?" and i told her it had been quite some time. She was surprised. Again, my kid isn't a performing monkey, and her behavior at home with us was quite different than it was with "strangers" until very recently.

In fact, I tried to get her to perform over the phone today and she choked. At dinner tonight with us she did what I had asked earlier.

She drank from a bottle until right around when Jonas was born because she refused to use sippy cups or straws. It didn't really bug me, but it bugged a lot of people. Then one day she asked to try decaf sweet tea and I told her if she wanted it she had to use a regular open cup. Boom. Bottles gone. Find what motivates them.

Woodrow said...

I concur. Let them, and they will grow up.

Kelly said...

Great post Julie, you know I agree!

mamajenn said...

Excellent post!! I find myself watching Viv and wondering if its ok that shes not doing this or that yet. And then I slap myself in the face and remind myself she is 7 months old for crying out loud! When K and H were babies I didnt worry about this crap. (until of course after Kaelei's tumor resection - but that was a whle different ballgame) Why would I be worried now? Let babies be babies!! I went for Viv's 4 month shots and they asked if she was using a sippy cup yet. WHAT? I didnt even know I was "supposed" to try a sippy anytime even remotely soon. Now we have tried one in the last moth because we had a free one that was sent to us. She figured out how to drink from it but she hated it. Maybe because she's a BABY and she wants her bottle like most babies do! Ugh. I figured out that Viv doesnt WANT to roll from her tummy to her back because she is a content baby and is perfectly happy to lay on her back and play with her toes if she cant reach the toy. Whats wrong with that. Nothing I say.
Anyway- I could go on and on- but the comparisons lasted about a second with me, and then I came back to my senses.
Having a child with REAL special needs and delays it burns my butt to see people pushing too hard or trying to label kids who are just doing things when they're darn well ready.
Enough outta me.
My point was - Good Post! And thanks for writing it!

mamajenn said...

I meant from her back to her tummy- and man that was a rant. Sorry. :)

Julie said...

Jenn, Jonas sends his PERFECT future wife hugs and kisses.

And she is perfect.

And beautiful.

kathleenvilleneuve said...

Great post Jules - I couldn't agree more.

*sigh* I feel like this all the time. I have a rant in me about kids toys too - like everyone is pushing them to be older and play with the next new thing - whatever happened to letting them play with what is age appropriate for them? Maybe its ok to let them wait til they are the right age for things? To me it feels like this same thing - pushing them to be "better, older, smarter." Why can't they just be little while they actually ARE little?

And the whole sippy cup is beyond ridiculous. Pip will get a sippy cup when she is around a year old, and not before. Right now why bother??? Max will also NOT potty train and thats fine. He will when he's ready too and I've accepted that.

Anyway, I think you are dead on Jules. Dead ON. Kids do things when they are ready to do them, and not before.

Julie said...

Yesterday the handout from the doctor's office for 6 month olds told me I could now introduce the cup.

Which might work if he would actually hold his bottle. He knows how. He's too lazy. Why bother when Mommy can do it?

I just keep getting more irritated.

sara said...

well you know so much of my kids' histories already. but 2 kids, same parents and they couldn't be different and let me tell you, the perfectionist deal is no fun. zoe is a perfectionist, and it's tough to watch her so not enjoy THE PROCESS. schools will pigeon-hole them no matter what we do, best thing is to relax, let your kids be who they will be and keep telling them they are awesome. sometimes you have to play by the school rules to get decent treatment, though- we learned that the hard way with ozzie... don't sweat the potty training - remember zoe and her aversion to pooping on the potty- she was almost 4 y/o when she finally did it, by herself at a friend's house....