Good day, fun day, happy day at school…

September 7th, 2017

Last week, Verity hit a few speed minor bumps at school while learning what was expected of her, but she likes school, is cooperative, and learned the ropes very fast.  This week, no issues at all!

 

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She talks about school in the morning right after waking up, before I mention that it’s a school day.  I sing her the little “Today, I’m going to school,” ditty I sing to Katie every school morning, and she just beams.

She already has her entire school morning routine down pat, including grabbing her backpack off the hook and putting it on before heading out the door.

 

 

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Today, I’m going to school,
Today, I’m going to school!
Good day, fun day, happy day at school!

 

So far, so good!

 

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First week of first grade

August 31st, 2017

These follow-up photos of Verity, with a couple extras thrown in, appear here in response to a request from a faithful blog reader.  <smile>

 

Verity solemnly examining a fairy garden at the Penn State Arboretum, which we visited while staying at our friends’ cabin in the mountains for a week recently.  Thank you to another blog reader for this suggestion!

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And here’s Verity at her locker on the first day of school.  I drove her to school the first two days while a seat belt was being installed in her bus.

 

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This was at the end of the second day.  So far, she seems positive about the whole idea and hasn’t shown any resistance to going back.  There have been some kinks to work out, as one would expect from the first week of sending three somewhat complicated girls to three schools in two school districts with three different bus schedules!  But overall, a good beginning to this next phase of life.

 

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And here’s the photo Laura captured that I forgot to include in my last post!

Sweet girl.

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Not autism

August 24th, 2017

I sat in on her testing at the psychologist’s request.  He explained what he was testing for, and why.

She aced every part of the test at the first or second opportunity.

What we have been battling since her earliest days are simply extra delays related to her Down syndrome.

Not autism.

She’s taking a lot longer than the average child with Down syndrome to master some skills.

She has a hard time maintaining eye contact, and she looks down nearly constantly, even when having her picture taken or riding in a vehicle.  I often remind her, “Verity, look up!  What do you see?”

Laura took these photos and told me later, “Mom, it is SO hard to get her to look at the camera!”

 

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I’ve been fighting her tendency to “space out” since she was a couple of months old.  When I learned that not all children with Down syndrome have this tendency, that’s when I began to suspect autism.

Now that she’s older, she has a strong tendency to withdraw, isolate herself in her room, turn on her CD player, and stim by dancing back and forth, rocking (which she knows she’s not allowed to do), squinting at a light, and often dangling a toy back and forth.  If she disappears from the scene, that’s invariably where we’ll find her.

She rarely engages in imaginative play independently of us or follows through on any independent age-appropriate activity other than getting a stack of books out and looking through them.

Here I had just encouraged her to “read” the book to Nathaniel.

 

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Her conversational skills are significantly more delayed than those of the average seven-year-old child with Down syndrome.

But…two and a half years ago, before beginning the neurodevelopmental program, her speech skills had regressed to one hundred percent echolalia.  She’s now able to communicate sufficiently on some basic levels.

If she thinks the bath water is too warm, rather than simultaneously melting down and attempting to climb out of the bathtub, she’ll say, “Whoa!  It’s too hot!”

She will tell us, “I need a drink.”  Today, when she was finished eating her lunch, she surprised me by asking, “May I please have birthday treats?”

A few months ago, she began asking for help for the first time and now does it regularly if another person is nearby.  “I need help?” she says.  Prior to gaining this skill, she would attempt a task but quickly give up when she’d run into an obstacle.  She still doesn’t seek out help if people are out of her line of vision.

And she now gets my attention to show me something for the first time in her life.  “Mom!  Look!  See it?”  This evening, she said to me, “Look.  I do it this way.”

Toileting came together for her about eight months ago.  She’s self-initiating, and accidents are rare.

She’s showing much more self-awareness over the past six months and along with that a little unprompted interest in what she’s wearing.  That’s something new for her.

 

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Her behavior has improved significantly from where it was two years ago.  She’s less likely to melt down at having to wait for a desired item or activity or at loud noises.  If she melts down, she regains her composure within a minute or two rather than staying inconsolable for forty-five minutes or an hour.

Her sensory issues are perhaps ninety percent resolved.  Formerly, they were life-altering; now, they’re a minor part of life.  She occasionally still has trouble with loud mechanical noises nearby.  She can cope with them calmly if they’re at a distance and we explain them to her.  She still hates loud emotional outbursts in close proximity to herself.  Not exactly compatible with toddler and preschooler brothers!  But tonight, she was in the same room with a little boy with special needs who randomly shouted in a very loud voice, and while it registered with her, she continued to play quietly.

She’s much more cooperative with unpleasant experiences than she used to be, experiences such as having dental x-rays taken or her teeth cleaned and checked!  It helps that her dentist has a cousin with Down syndrome back in India whom he loves; he is completely smitten with Verity’s sweetness and showers her with affirmation and praise for her perfect dental patient behavior.

 

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And tonight, when I took her to the two-hour school open house where she’ll be beginning first grade on Monday, she was unflappable throughout the experiences of walking crowded hallways with a loud voice speaking over the intercom, visiting her new classroom, meeting her gentle and soft-spoken new teacher and a few other students, waiting in line for food and eating in the noisy cafeteria, riding the school bus (yes, the regular bus), and of course, exploring the playground.  It’s hard to remember when she would scream panicked screams and struggle and fight to get away from noisy crowds of strangers.  In so many ways, she’s shown us that she’s ready for school, and we believe the experiences and routine are going to be good for her.

“I’m taller than you,” she said while climbing this rock wall.

That was a new one.  I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly.

“What did you say, Verity?”

“I’m taller than you.”

You’re certainly taller than I’d given you credit for, sweet Doodle.  And getting taller all the time.

 

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