Handwriting

Handwriting. Yup, handwriting was one of the two key reasons that led us to occupational therapy (OT). Yes, believe it or not, it was handwriting (or the lack of) that convinced me.

We were recommended to send Hubby-jr for an OT assessment way back when we first looked into his speech/language development delay in 2007 (he was four then). But when we received the news he had mild/moderate hearing loss in his right ear – which helped explain most of his developmental delays – we didn’t pursue the OT assessment. We thought we had it figured out, more or less.

Perhaps my judgment was clouded at that point in time by the initial shock of his hearing loss and formal confirmation of his developmental delays (social and language). Looking back I think I was simply overwhelmed and I found all of it hard to digest. So much so I couldn’t bear the thought of one more assessment. Why go through it if it was not absolutely necessary?

Well that was then, I was wrong and in hindsight I regret not going through with the OT assessment.

So what was different this time round that made me take that step? Desperation? In part I guess. But honestly – his serious difficulty with handwriting tipped the scales. It gave me a tangible reason to seek OT. To me it was the only visible symptom.

Okay, some of you may be wondering how bad could his handwriting have been. Hmmm…let me count the ways. His letters were poorly aligned, for example his “r” was as tall as “h” and “t” was as short as “a”. There were no spaces where there should be (in between words) and random gaps between letters where there shouldn’t be. This despite me having taught and drilled him in K2. It was also either too dark (too much pressure on the pencil) or too light, there was no middle ground.

I also received feedback from his class teacher (and his previous kindergarten teacher) that he was very slow in his written work. At the beginning of the year (P1) he was always the last in copying from the board and he almost never could complete any written work in time. If the teacher gave him time to complete his work, she had to ask the rest of his classmates to do some colouring while waiting.

At home, I could see for myself how labourious it was for him. It took him tremendous amount of time and effort just to write neatly. A five sentence handwriting assignment could take him 30-45 minutes just to complete!

I began to seriously wonder why it was that difficult for him to do something that shouldn’t be all that difficult. I also knew I had to do something. How on earth could he survive school if he continued writing at this rate?

Hence when I was recommended to send him for an OT check (the second time), I was very open and we just went for it. Like I said, I was desperate. I was desperate for any explanation, more importantly for any solution.

Having said that, the results of the OT wasn’t what I expected. I kept thinking it had to be his fine motor skills. Well turns out, Hubby-jr’s difficulty with handwriting had little to do with his fine motor skills. It had more to do with poor core muscle tone which probably is a result of his vestibular and proprioceptive sensory issues.

Poor core muscle tone?! I must have gaped when the occupational therapist told me that. Hubby-jr is an active boy who has amazing stamina. He climbs, runs and slides down “fireman poles” at the playground which he visits almost every evening since he was almost 2?! As a friend of mine aptly exclaimed when I told her the diagnosis, “that is SO BIZARRE!” She has often seen him at play.

Well, I guess that’s why we pay the experts. They can pick up stuff that seemingly look normal to us. For more information on the basic skills needed for handwriting check out this link.

The occupational therapist was right (in case you were skeptical). Since we started OT in March, Hubby-jr’s handwriting has improved signficantly. His pencil control is much better, he can write neatly (when he wants to) and quickly now. In school, he can now complete his work in time! Amazing.

But he is not done with OT. He still needs it. Handwriting was only the tip of the iceberg.

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Writing again, at last

Has it only been more than 2 months since I last wrote? Somehow it seems like decades ago to me. Yes in part it is because I enjoy writing and have missed doing so but mainly because SO much has happened during that time. 

In early February 2010, I brought Hubby-jr to a speech therapist for an assessment. Why? Well, even though I was hoping – hoping so badly I almost convinced myself Hubby-jr was doing alright – my gut told me he wasn’t. I knew in my gut that he wasn’t socialising or expressing himself as well as his peers and in a sea of primary school students it became more obvious. So I brought him for a speech assessment just in case (I was still hoping my gut was wrong). 

As it turned out, he not only needed to start speech therapy again (weekly for at least a year) I was also advised to send him for an occupational therapy check. Which we (hubby and I) did and bingo, he needed weekly occupational therapy as well. Apparently my son has sensory issues as well, perhaps due to his hearing problem (hard of hearing in his right ear). He has… here goes… vestibular and proprioceptive sensory issues. If you’re going WHAT?! Yup, sensory integration was a whole new world to me too. I’ll try to elaborate more in my next post. Promise. But for now, you’re stuck with just the jargons as I’m writing an as brief as possible update. 

At the same time I also came across some blogs and articles about children with mild to moderate hearing loss. It made me question if Hubby-jr seriously needed a hearing aid. So I emailed his audiologist and asked for a review of his records and asked for a recommendation. Guess what? They called me and said… yes, with his hearing profile his right ear should be fitted with a hearing aid! So my son has been wearing a hearing aid since 30 March 2010. Thankfully he adjusted to it very well right from get go and he told me it helps him hear better in school. 

So there, that is all (well not ALL but the more significant events) that’s happened over here in my home since I last posted. 

I battled through a wide spectrum of emotions as each news came. It has not been easy or painless. I grappled with God and tears accompanied quite a number of my prayers. But through it all I could see His faithfulness and feel His love. I may elaborate in my future posts. 

These days, I am hopeful (in the Lord) and… plain exhausted at the end of most days. Besides bringing him for the therapy sessions, I have to do follow up exercises (speech AND occupational) at home with him as much as I can. On top of that I’ve to help him with school work (homework, spelling). Not forgetting I DO have another child who still needs a fair amount of my attention. Yes, there’s also laundry, dinners to prepare… 

But by the grace of God I am coping, some days rather well and some days, not. All in all a whole lot better than I expected. I am learning to let go and let God. He is the source of my strength. 

Isa 40:28-31

28 Do you not know?
       Have you not heard?
       The LORD is the everlasting God,
       the Creator of the ends of the earth.
       He will not grow tired or weary,
       and his understanding no one can fathom.

 29 He gives strength to the weary
       and increases the power of the weak.

 30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
       and young men stumble and fall;

 31 but those who hope in the LORD
       will renew their strength.
       They will soar on wings like eagles;
       they will run and not grow weary,
       they will walk and not be faint.

My Best Christmas Present

I received a wonderful, wonderful Christmas present yesterday.

It is official. Hubby-jr no longer has to go for speech therapy. His speech therapist “discharged” him after doing a formal review. (He has been attending fortnightly one-hour sessions since Nov last year.) Hallelujah!

His current language is now average for a kid his age. Yes, he has acquired age appropriate language skills. Hallelujah!

I will still have to work on a few concepts with him at home (just for reinforcement). Four concepts to be exact. But that’s it. Hallelujah!

He may or may not need a review in a year’s time, depending on his progress in the year ahead. That translate’s to me as NO speech therapy sessions for one whole year minimum! Hallelujah!

This is the best Christmas present.

Thank. You. Jesus.

(For those of you who are new to my blog, you can read about my journey with Hubby-jr’s speech delay/mild hearing loss by clicking on the Speech Delay category on the left hand column).

Music to My Ears

Finding out that my son has mild hearing loss in his right ear was difficult for me. And after some “grieving” I’ve come to terms with it. I no longer quietly wish somewhere in a corner of my heart that things would be different, that he would be “normal”. I’ve accepted that it is what it is. The hearing problem is not going away and that we’ll just manage it.

Having said that, I’m not above feeling pangs in my heart every now and then especially when I see (hear?) other boys his age rattling off stories to their moms. It’s worse when I observe younger boys with amazing speech ability. This “pain” (I think) is only something moms of “different” kids know of and struggle with. 

At such moments I tell myself to NOT compare but to focus instead on Hubby-jr’s progress.

And I am so thankful that he IS progressing.

“What are you doing mommy?” he asked me several times this week. It’s the first real question he’s ever asked me. Yeah sure he’s been asking me for stuff like water, food, tv, etc. for the longest time now. But this, this was a real wanting-to-know question. Not a request.

Today he even asked me, “What are you eating mommy?”

Let me tell you these questions are music to my ears.

A year ago, his language ability was so delayed he couldn’t even answer me when I asked him what he did in school. These days he can tell me a thing or two about what he did in school. And now he’s starting to ask me questions. For a speech delayed child this IS progress people!

To top it off, he told me sometime this week, “Mommy I enjoyed talking to friends on the school bus.”

Friends? Talking? Wow! A year ago he wasn’t even socializing well!

Hallelujah! Just keep the music coming. Sweet music to my ears.

Another wonderful site

At Hubby-jr’s last hearing test I found a brochure on this wonderful website I’m about to introduce to you.

It’s called the Listening Room at www.HearingJourney.com. It’s Fabulous! In their own words, it’s a web resource full of (re)habilitation activities and ideas to support the development of listening and language skills in children, adolescents and adults.

So far they’ve only stuff for kids but they’re working on activities for infants, toddlers and adults too.They’ve great game ideas for speech therapy that comes with DIY downloadable pdf files complete with instructions. They even have online video instructions. What’s fantastic is that they feature weekly activities. Yes! They introduce a new activity each week! And guess what? The resources are absolutely free!! Isn’t that just Fantabulous?!

Alrighty mommyfied, now get your act together and get them printed and do them! (Me pysching my “reluctant to add on more to my daily to-do list of things” self.)

Alas! Good News

It’s been busy, busy, busy since the long school holidays have started. Keeping my two little ones occupied is exhausting! That’s the reason for the infrequent posts but I will try my best to write whenever I can (it helps keep me sane!)

Anyway, I recently had two pieces of good news that I’m just dying to share and it’s all about Hubby-jr my four year old son.

First, Hubby-jr has progressed quite a fair bit in school – he’s playing with his peers! We had our last parent-teacher meeting just before the school break and it was so great to hear some good news for a change (as you can guess, the first meeting wasn’t too great). Apparently he initiated play with some of his classmates on several occasions! With some help from his class teacher in the communication process they end up playing. It’s great news considering one of the major concerns of his class teacher the last time we met was that he didn’t play much with his peers.

Second, Hubby-jr doesn’t need to wear a hearing aid (at least not for now)! Yup, that’s what the audiologist told us at our last hearing test a week ago (audiologist wanted monthly checks just to make sure hearing loss was not progressive). When she tested him on hearing using both ears he could pick up sounds on a normal range. So that means he is able to use his good ear to compensate. What’s more there were no deterioration in his right ear hearing loss, so now they’d only need to monitor his hearing every 6 months instead of every month! Needless to say I was estatic and relieved! I feel like we’ve reached the silver lining!

We still need to work on his speech. Almost the entire holiday is filled with weekly speech therapy sessions. And when school starts I won’t have the luxury of resting on my laurels. The audiologist advised me to get the daily lesson plans from his class teacher so that I can either prepare him for his school day beforehand or revise it with him when he gets home. The pressing matter for now is to aid him in acquiring his speech. So that when he reaches primary one, in a bigger classroom albeit noisier setting even if he can’t hear 100% he’d have enough cognitive ability to guess what is being said most of the time.

So it’s gonna be a lot of hardwork for both of us but at least I know what we can and should do and I know we’ll progress. It’s wonderfully hopeful and simply great. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the school year.

hearingtest.jpg

This is a photo of Hubby-jr at his first hearing test or as he knows it a “hearing game”. He gets to play a few different games at each session. At this one he has to put one of those red wooden buttons into the board each time he hears a sound.

More Speech Development Links

I had a little trouble falling asleep two nights ago. This time it was not due to the usual suspect… anxiety. This time it was because I was excited! I was surfing the net just before bed and like a kid stumbling into a free flow candy store, I discovered some wonderful speech development websites! Check them out.

General Speech Development Stuff 

  • First stop, Speech Delay.com – I like this site because it’s comprehensive and very easy to understand. There’s a page on the degree of hearing loss which gave me a clearer picture of Hubby-jr’s situation (the chart helped a lot). If you’re interested to know, Hubby-jr has about 40-50dB HL only in the low frequencies and only in his right ear.
  • Speech-Pathology.org – Okay the only reason I’m listing this site here is because I like their one particular page which charts normal speech sound development in kids. It’s a useful gauge.
  • Speech Language Pathology Websites – A very comprehensive list of sites. This is where I found (in the Children category) the other sites l’ve mentioned here but if you need other related information, this is a good place to start.

Websites with Ideas/Activites to Encourage Speech Development

That’s it for now. I hope you find them useful.

By the way I struggled through the next day due to my lack of sleep. Hmm… I think I better stop surfing the internet too near bedtime lest I stumble on something that’s gonna overstimulate my mind!

“Yes honey, I’m coming to bed soon… as soon as I’m done at the computer…”

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