Sunday, February 22, 2015

Therapy Update

Anthony is going to be 19 months in a few days (5 months away from being 2 years old!!??) and I figured it was a good time to update you on how he is doing with his therapies! Currently, Anthony receives 3 therapy services (Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy) 4 times a week. Our awesome services are provided by Easter Seals, and we are fortunate enough to have the option of "in-home" service. That makes it so much easier for me! Each therapy session is an hour long. Both PT and OT come once each week, and ST is twice a week. Anthony has goals (set in place by his therapists and myself) in each therapy that we work on reaching during his sessions.

I was asked to speak at a financial meeting for Easter Seals this Tuesday. They were looking for individuals to give a speech on how Easter Seals has positively impacted their family. I will be speaking to people in charge of providing funding for Easter Seals to explain why I think they should continue funding. I am a little nervous (especially since the last I checked I was the only one who agreed to speak.. pressure on!), but I know that it will feel good to "give back" to a company that has given so much to our family. I feel so blessed that my son has such a great support team that believes in him just as much as we do!

Last month Anthony had an evaluation to see if he qualified for another service; ECE (Early Childhood Education). This service focuses on skills that Anthony would need when he goes to Preschool. He has already beginning to do some of these skills (matching, asking him to identify/find certain objects... etc). While the thought of another service sounded overwhelming, I would always be on board for anything that would benefit Anthony.

We were told Anthony was going to take the Bayley test and it would take around an hour. I knew Anthony had no idea what was going on, but I was completely stressed about his first test! The Bayley test would determine if he had enough of a delay (25%) to get qualified for the ECE services.

Of course I googled and snooped around the internet to see what this Bayley test was all about. Mostly, it was about observing what Anthony would do during different situations. Some of the parts I knew Anthony would excel in, and others I was nervous for.

To make a long story short, Anthony rocked it!! We couldn't have been more proud of that little smarty pants! Anthony did not show a delay socially/emotionally, or in the adaptive (environment) section. In the third section, cognitive, Anthony only showed a 20% delay, so he did not qualify for services. Wahoo, that's my boy! He is going to be tested again in another 6 months to see how he is doing.

The test was interesting to watch. There was a lady who came in with a suitcase full of toys and activities, and Anthony loved it. He had to do each task the way he was supposed to, and then he could move on to the next. The test stops when the child gets 5 tasks wrong in a row. Some of the things Anthony did not "pass" on I knew he would have trouble with (unscrewing the cap off of a small bottle, knowing the purpose for a comb/spoon/cup...)

When you're a teacher and you have that moment when a student's light bulb goes off and they understand a concept you've been teaching them, it makes it all worth it. When you're a mother, and you work so hard every day to teach your son certain skills and he finally gets it, it is the best feeling in the entire world. I love being a teacher, don't get me wrong, but I love being my son's teacher more. I have had so much fun being home with him this past year, putting my education/special education degree to good use. He is my best student! I know I have said it before, but this little boy is so determined to be successful, and he works hard to be the smarty pants he is! Every time I turn around I watch Anthony master something we've worked so hard on, like it's nothing! (Although, I must admit, the terrible-two year old attitude has kicked in lately, and things tend to run on "Anthony time". Makes teaching a tad more difficult when you have a pissed off toddler chucking puzzle pieces and stomping his feet.)

Anthony is all boy, that's for sure! Everything he does is very physical and he excels in gross motor activities. On Valentine's Day Anthony became the boss man of the Mango house, even more so than before. Prior to V-Day, Anthony was able to walk... but not able to stand up on his own to be able to walk. We would have to support him before he could walk around. Now, we have no control over when Anthony wants to walk (which is every second of the day). We were ecstatic when he accomplished that big milestone, but knew we were in for some trouble! His balance when walking is getting so good, but he has moments of looking like a little drunk man, so we have to constantly monitor him to avoid constant trips to the ER.

In PT we are working on climbing the stairs, and getting down safely. We are also working on building Anthony's core, climbing the couch, bending his knees (that's a big one because he hates HATES hates anything to do with his knees), and looking up to grab something while standing without wobbling.

He still wears ankle braces to support him when he walks. However, he has big feet and grew out of the old ones, so we are stuck in limbo without braces waiting on the new ones to come in.

Click the link below to watch the video of Anthony learning to stand without support for the first time!

YouTube Video

A recent skill Anthony has reached is pointing with his pointer finger! He favored his thumb for the longest time and would only point with it, but one day he woke up and decided .. eh, I guess I'll give my thumb a break.

In OT Anthony is still working on the pinching skill to grab small items, how to properly use tools (crayon, spoon, comb, toothbrush, paintbrush...etc), twisting and rotating his wrist to open things, and using two hands during an activity instead of relying on the right.

Anthony has been doing increasingly well in ST. His receptive language skills are fantastic (what he understands), but he is continuing to work on his expressive language (how he communicates). He loves reading, watching Signing Time DVD's, and is very interested in learning! Right now, he can verbally say: Dad, cat, all done, and there have been a few times he has said Mom. He can sign: more, all done, music, dog, "for me" (when he wants something), sleep, and he is starting to sign fish.

One of the things I love most about getting therapy services for Anthony is learning new ways to teach him that I might not have thought about myself. It is also pretty great collaborating with the therapists to come up with tools and ideas for teaching Anthony.

Some of my favorite that I have recently made for Anthony include:
*I included free downloads of these products at the end of this post, so keep reading!*

Song Board

Anthony loves music, so creating a way for him to ask for specific songs was right up his alley. All I did was search on Google for clip art icons to match some of his favorite song titles. I made the pictures big and not cluttered with other added images that would steal away his focus. I also added a single word at the bottom of each picture icon to best represent the song. The pictures were printed, laminated, and velcro was added to the back of each. The "board" itself is just a manila folder laminated, for durability, with 4 long velcro strips attached inside. 

This board can be used in a variety of ways. When it was first being introduced to Anthony, I made it simple by only providing him with two songs to choose from. I put the two songs I selected on the front velcro strip of the board and let him pick and take off the one he wanted me to sing. He held the icon while I sang the song, and then we placed it back on the strip. 

Now, Anthony likes to open up the board and select his own song from the multiple icons. He usually points to each one asking the name before making a choice. 

Play Binder

*This activity is not included for download, since it is photographs of objects and toys around our house. 

The play binder was created to help Anthony with his expressive language. He is now able to look through a mini binder of icons to pick what activity he wants to play next. This limits frustration, and is starting to help with transitions. I went around like a crazy person one day and took pictures of everything in our house that Anthony likes. I laminated the pictures and put them together in a small binder on pages with velcro strips. Anthony is still in the beginning stages of using this tool to help him, but he is making the connection and I can see that it is working. For example: if he looks through the binder and finds bubbles, he will start walking over to the tall shelf where the bubbles are to wait for help to get them down. 

-The following book is not something I made, it is just something that I think every child learning to speak and use one-to-one correspondence should have! I love, love, love this book for a few reasons:
1. It has one big, bright photograph on each page. There is not a lot of extra fluff to confuse the reader, just a picture of what they should focus on, brilliant!
2. It has the simple word below each picture, bold and big!
3. There are big sound buttons on the side, separated by a decent amount of space. Anthony loves books that make sound, but every book I find has buttons close together or hard to push. That makes it frustrating for a kiddo working on accuracy to feel successful! This book got it right!
4. Corresponding pictures and words on the sound buttons to pictures in the book.

Anthony pointing to the "car" button....

... and then pointing to the car picture in the book! 

Glove Icons

Since Anthony likes songs so much, I thought it would be a good idea to incorporate finger icons to make the songs even more fun. I used cheep gloves and attached a small velcro square to each fingertip. I then printed out small square icons that matched some of Anthony's favorite songs, and that would work with 5 fingers. I attached velcro to the backs of the icons so I could change them out when he wanted a new song. We have also been using the gloves for picture identification. He thinks it's fun to pick out which finger is the pig, or the cat. 

Some of the songs that we use the gloves for are:
-Old McDonald
-5 Little Ducks
-5 Little Monkeys
-5 Pumpkins

Dramatic Play

One of the things that Anthony needs to work on is identifying body parts, and using certain everyday items correctly. I created a "dramatic play" bin, that Anthony can use on his million stuffed animals or on his baby. Yep. Baby. Joe almost died when I first said I wanted Anthony to get a realistic looking boy baby doll. But, when I explained to him the benefits of this baby and how it could help Anthony he was on board. It also is an added bonus that Anthony might learn how to treat the baby now that our friends are all having babies!

So far, in my bin I collected (from my dollar store): toothbrush, brush, comb, cup, blanket, spoon, bowl, and fork. I also want to add a few more items, this is just the beginning.

Picture Cards

This is something that I literally put together last night. I came up with the idea when I found out Shutterfly was having a promotion to get 101 free 4x6 prints. I can't just let "free" go to waste! So, I got to work making over 160 picture cards to upload to Shutterfly. These cards remind me of the book I posted about, with big, bold pictures and a label. I can't wait to use them with Anthony when they come in! I plan on first introducing them to him slowly. Then, when he gets the hang of a few I want to create a matching game. I will place 2-4 cards on the floor and hand Anthony a card that matches one on the floor. His task would be to place the card in his hand on top of the matching one. 

The cards I made can be matched in two ways. Same picture to same picture, or similar picture to similar picture. For example, for most of the cards I found a realistic photograph and for another I found a clip art image. This will help me to see if Anthony is only recognizing the one picture, or if he gets the general feel for what the object looks like and can make the connection between the two pictures. 

I also created "family" cards to help him learn the names of family members. 

Below you can see a few examples of the cards:

You can download the following two products I made here, for free! Click the two links below and find the button that says download! I hope you find them useful!

Download SONG BOARD icons here

Download PICTURE CARDS here