Did I tell you that we got a new speech therapist and that I love her so much that if she wasn't married I'd ask her to move in with us? She is so positive and optimistic and has such a wonderful way with Oliver that I would give her RT's room in a heartbeat just so I could get my dose of good cheer and warm optimism every morning on my way downstairs for coffee. RT would probably put up a fight because that would me that he would have to bunk with the munchkins but Lara would just smile at him a few times and then, I feel confident, he wouldn't mind so much. Besides, she is very pretty.
How, you might ask, can we afford to send Oliver to a private speech therapist twice a week? Well, I'm glad you asked because I still can't believe my good fortune. For some reason I very happily came across the website for the United Healthcare Children's Foundation and decided to apply for a grant on Oliver's behalf. Within a month we were approved and busy rearranging our schedule so that I could take Oliver half-way across town twice a week for forty-five minutes. If you have a modest income and a medical need for your child that is only partially covered by insurance -- or in our case -- not covered at all, then I urge you to look at the website to determine if you might be able to apply for a grant. It was easy as pie. Honest.
Anyway, back to Lara. She is the very first adult (outside of family) that has successfully built a report with Oliver and it took her a relatively short amount of time. She fully embraces the total communication approach that we use with RDI and she somehow knows when to challenge Oliver and when to give him a bit of time and space. She is also really good at listening to my input and incorporating that into her work with with him.
Imagine how grateful I am that Oliver not only jumps out of the car but happily takes his communication book with him, swings open the door to the office and then rushes happily back to the therapy room without a second look back at me. I can hear small snippets of sound coming from behind the closed door -- mostly because Oliver can be quite loud -- but I rarely, rarely, hear sounds of distress.
There was a time, not long ago, when Oliver reacted with quite a bit of anxiety whenever I put him in any kind of therapeutic situation. It was hard for me to see any good coming from any activity that always resulted in such acute distress for my boy. Taking Oliver out of school, stopping speech therapy, these were not decisions that we came to easily. I don't worry about it everyday like I used to, but on occasion I am reminded that our path is pretty unconventional and, well, I worry about that now and then.
But twice a week when Oliver and Lara come out of the therapy room all full of smiles and bounces, I feel, in my heart that we did the right thing. The right thing for us was to wait, to not try and do everything right now, to build self-confidence, believing, knowing, that for Oliver this was the key to helping him accept greater challenges down the road. When Lara says to me with a little bit of genuine surprise in her voice: "We had another great day!" and then lists all of his accomplishments during their session we both trade little hopeful, surprised smiles because we are both thinking the same thing: this kid is really taking off!! He is interested, engaged, focused and. ... using real language to communicate.
Tonight at dinner, we slid into our booth at the Mediterranean restaurant and Oliver promptly began a little demanding mantra: "chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken!" Playfully I smiled and asked with a bit of surprise in my voice, "What?", to which he responded: "I want to have some chicken!" with a tone of voice that said I wasn't the brightest bulb in the pack! I craned my head to see if the waitress was nearby because you'd better believe I was suddently mighty motivated to get the boy some chicken! Luckily she was on her way so I didn't have to steal any from our neighbor's table! And later, when we went to the pet store to find a rabbit feeder he grabbed Nik's hand and said: "I need to use potty." We all came home a bit giddy.
I hesitate to say that we are on the road to becoming completely verbal. I suspect that speech will always be a struggle for my boy. We'll take it one step at a time, finding our way together. What I am most excited about is his new willingness to experience and participate in so many things. The scope of what is possible is growing wider and wider.