Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Final Countdown

Last night I commented to Dave about how crazy the past few weeks have been.  The bus drama at school, some sick family members, and the impending birth of the baby have all come together to create a bit of chaos over here.  Dave said "The past few weeks were crazy?  What about the summer?" I thought back to the genetics results, the app lawsuit and removal from iTunes, the hospital trip for my breathing issues right before I flew out for the ISAAC conference . . . the list continues on.  It's been a busy season, for sure.
In the past 24 hours (literally) things have started to come together a little bit.  The bus situation is resolved, finally.  Maya rode the bus both ways today, with the same pick-up and drop-off times as last year. She was a bit wiped out, but happy. 
And really, the resolution has arrived just in time . . . because her brother is going to arrive on Friday.
This next two paragraphs includes the words "placenta" and "dilation."  If these are too detailed for you, skip ahead.
When I was pregnant with Maya, I never went into labor.  They suspected that she might be small (she turned out to be totally average) and so I was having weekly ultrasounds from 36 weeks on.  They decided that I could go 1 week overdue if I wanted to (which I did) and then they would have to induce (which they did).  When Maya was born, we could see that the placenta (while still being functional) was showing aging along one side, and we were glad that we induced when we did instead of waiting longer.
Because of the aging placenta thing (and the fact that I'm not having those weekly scans this time to assess the function of the placenta), and the fact that this baby seems to be trending on the larger side, my doctor decided that I shouldn't go past my due date.  He offered me two possible induction dates if I didn't go into labor spontaneously, and we decided on this Friday.  I'm hoping that this induction will be a bit faster, since my body seems to be inching it's way naturally a bit (some contractions, some dilation--- neither of which happened with Maya until I was a few hours into the induction).
So, here's to Friday :)
And now, belly progress pictures.  I took a bunch of belly pictures but never really got around to posting them.  It's funny, I remember thinking so early on that I looked really pregnant right away.  Now I look back at the 11 week picture and think about how I can't wait to shrink back down to only looking 1 trimester pregnant.  So, from the start to the end(ish):
January 23, 2012

11 weeks, 4 days

13 weeks, 4 days

16 weeks

18 weeks, 4 days
21 weeks, 5 days

26 weeks
 31 weeks
34 weeks

36 weeks

38 weeks (one week ago)

Friday, September 14, 2012

How do you know that she's funny?

Between the Speak for Yourself case, the genetics stuff, and AAC/assistive technology stuff, I've spoken with a bizarre number of reporters in the past few months.  Talking with press people is not something that I enjoy, because I'm actually a pretty private person.  I know, that might not make much sense, considering that I blog and share my thoughts and pictures and whatever---but here, I control the information.  If there's something that I'm not ready to talk about, I wait a few months.  I get to paint experiences the way that I see them, rather than just answering questions and hoping that someone else sees our reality the same way that I do.  They also ask some weird questions.

Recently I was speaking to a reporter (and I honestly can't remember who it was or where they were from) who asked me to tell her a bit about Maya.  I gave my standard Maya adjectives: she is stubborn, sneaky, and really funny.  As a follow-up question she asked, "If she can't talk, how can you tell that she's funny?"

Slightly abrasive phrasing aside, I understood what she meant.  It must be hard for people with talking kids to understand how we are able to know so much about her, and understand her fairly well, with almost no spoken words.  Being able to talk offers a kind of laziness, I think.  It's so easy to communicate that you drop off on the other nonverbal observations that you would otherwise be hyper-in-tune to.  I can see the exact second that Maya's eyes start to glint mischieviously, and I know that something funny (or naughty, or both) is coming.

One of her favorite jokes right now is about brushing her teeth.  Each night Dave gets her dressed for bed, gives her medicine, etc., and then I come to brush her teeth.  She used to call me when they were ready . . . Mama!  One night she said Daddy instead of Mama and started to laugh and laugh. Dave and I acted very offended and tickled her and she thought it was the best joke ever.  Now every night he says "Call Mommy to brush your teeth" and she yells, through hysterical laugher, Daddy!  This kid cracks me up.

Two days ago she was eating breakfast and babbling on the talker (she turns all of the words on and just moves through the screens exploring, so what she's "saying" doesn't really make sense, but she learns where new words are).  I was doing some dishes and packing her lunch, when suddenly I heard "Fuzzy Navel" . . . which, of course, caused me to burst out laughing.  You don't expect to hear a cocktail order from your 4 yr old before school on a random Wednesday.  When she saw me laugh and realized that she had done something funny, she laughed, and then said: Fuzzy Navel. Funny. Fuzzy Navel. Fuzzy Navel."

So then I had to write a note to the new teacher explaining why my child might come to school saying "fuzzy navel" all day.

(We didn't program that in, by the way.  It's one of the 11,000 words that's pre-programmed.)

Here she was last night after dinner.  She's clearly a bit tired, but has turned all of her words on and is exploring.  Dave and I were both in the kitchen, when she decided to try to make us laugh. (Don't turn your volume up too loud, I get a little supersonic and don't want to blast your ears out)

I don't know, it seems pretty easy to me to tell that she's funny, regardless of whether she can talk or not . . . don't you think?


Monday, September 10, 2012

The start of the school and a busload of problems

Maya is back at school and loving it!

Well, mostly.

School started last Thursday.  On Tuesday I called the new bus company and found out that her pick-up time was 2 hours before school started.  Yikes.  They seemed confident that the route would change.  I called the bus company back on Wednesday, realizing that they hadn't told me Maya's route number . . . and this time they told me that we had been deleted from the system and had no bussing.  So then I called the school, who told me that we definitely had bussing.  Ty also were confident that major changes were going to be made, as many of the routes seemed to criss cross around the city.  I learned that rather than letting the bus companies handling the routing, the DOE had taken over the process.  Of course . . . that makes total sense. 

We decided to drive Maya on Thursday & Friday, after hearing that the buses would likely be re-routed over the weekend.    Here are a few first day pics:

Double-checking her backpack while we waited in the lobby

As soon as she hit her new classroom she ran right to the garage toy, pulled out the buses, and started driving them around.  Poor kid is having some bus withdrawal.

Thursday and Friday afternoon brought some major meltdowns as Maya was desperate to get on the bus rather than having to go in the car with me.  She didn't care that I was trying to rescue her from the 2.5 hour trip home (yep, seriously) . . . she wanted the BUS.  We heard that the buses were being re-routed over the weekend and the trips on Monday should be more smooth, so we psyched her up, saying "Your bus isn't ready yet, but it will come on Monday!"

All weekend, we talked about the bus. This morning we marched outside and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  The waiting didn't bother me much, because I kept thinking good--this means our new pick-up time is later-that's great news!  But after 90 minutes we gave up and headed into the school in the car (Maya was bribed with chocolate milk and a movie . . . by that point she was tired of waiting, too).  I dropped her off at school only to learn that the buses weren't there, the routes still seemed to be a mess, and maybe I should come back for her this afternoon? 

And so . . .instead of working or nesting or doing much of anything productive, I'm getting ready to drive back into the city and pick up a very angry 4 yr old who will rage against getting in my car.  I'm so bummed that we told her she would be on the bus today and have to break our word. I'm thinking it will be an ice cream afternoon. 

(This is a big, bad city-wide issue right now, with several stories appearing in the paper and on the radio about the obscenely long routes for these preschoolers.  I can only hope that hopefully that means it will be dealt with more quickly.)

There's a silver lining, though.

Bus aside, the school year is off to a great start.  Maya loves her new class, which is a bit larger and has less adult helpers . . . I was a little bit nervous about the transition, but she's doing great.  I thought that she might try to run away to her old class, but she hasn't---an aide even took her there to visit and say hi, and she left without a peep when it was time to go.

The new teacher and new speech therapist seem great, interested, caring, and open to learning all about her talker and how to incorporate it.  (Whew!)   When the important stuff is going so well, it's hard to lose (too much) sleep over something like the bus.  I sure hope that they get this squared away soon, though.  You know, like before this baby is arriving.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

AAC homeschooling: Princesses teach -ing verbs

First, let me say that the title is both accurate and tongue-in-cheek.  Maya learns most (as in over 99%) of her AAC use with me at home . . . but that's where our "homeschooling" ends, as she is in full time preschool.  Second, let me preface this by saying I am not an SLP or AAC therapist, so I'm likely making some mistakes here.  (I do consult via email, Twitter, and phone with AAC folks and read everything I can get my hands on, so the stuff that I try out isn't random, but it's not perfect, either.)  If you are an SLP/ATP please feel free to comment with tips & tricks.

Since ISAAC, I've been thinking a lot about Maya and the talker. I would like her to become more independent with it, able to form different types of sentences (besides the "I want xyz please " that she has mastered), to comment on life, to ask questions, etc.  Perhaps the most important thing to do with a kid who uses AAC is to model, model, model speaking with their device (like I say "I like waffles" and tap it on the talker at the same time) . . . but I've been realizing that this isn't enough.  If I want to have a shot at closing the gap between Maya's receptive language (what she understands---seemingly everything) and her expressive language (what she can say, via words or device or whatever), I'm going to need to really target some skills and teach them, through little activities and lessons.

So I've spent about a week reading about typical language development, and then about language development in AAC users.  Then I read about core words and sight words and the most commonly used words in conversation by preschoolers and school aged children.  I had a list of possible things to target (which was way too long) and a list of questions (which was way, way too long).  Some slight harassing of therapists via email and Twitter, combined with a long phone call from one of my favorite AAC specialists, and I felt like I had narrowed things down.

Where to start?  For today, I went with -ing verbs. 

Maya has only had infinitive verbs open on her talker so far (eat, make, help, listen).  I learned that the next verb form that kids typically incorporate in their speech is the -ing (eating, making, helping, listening).  I thought of ways that we could easily use this in conversation and apply it to life (some listed at the bottom of the post), so it seemed to make sense to target. 

And I knew just who could help me---the princesses.  Because Maya *loves* the princesses.

So last night I made flashcards with the princesses doing different things.  (Thanks, Google images.)  I wrote the verbs on the back, but if I were going to re-do this I would probably write them smaller or leave them off, because I've also been thinking about how these cards could be used for a lot of different things.  (Shout-out to my awesome husband for teaching me how to print pictures on index cards, saving me cutting & gluing time.)

Today Maya & I sat together to make a princess book using these cards.  Here's what we did:
1. We selected a princess card, looked at it together, and talked about what the princess is doing on each page.  (The next time that we do this I will likely model "What is she doing" for each page, but I didn't want to overwhelm her this time around)
2. I would write the sentence "Princess is xxx-ing" and model it with the talker. 
3. Maya would "read" the sentence with the talker.  This required various degrees of prompting, which I expected because these words were new to her.  The hope is that over time I can fade the degree of support that she needs.
4. We tape down the card and move on.
She had a great time and was really excited about the cards :)  The book making was fun and easy, and since the book will likely be destroyed by bedtime we can start over anew next time!  Here are some pictures:
At the end, checking out her book and extra cards

I wanted to take a picture of the book but she wouldn't hand it over.

This was the best I could do.
Here's a video.  A few things: ignore the chaos in the apartment, as I've mentioned we're painting and re-arranging and stuff is everywhere. Also, sorry for the weird angles---it's difficult to figure out how to tape an activity when I need to be in it as well.  This video gives you the start of the activity, the making of two pages (from across the table and also showing Maya on the device) and the ending as well.  It's on the longer side (but still less than 5:00), but I thought that seeing more is better than seeing less if you're trying to replicate things at home. 

 If you can't see the video above, here's a direct link: http://youtu.be/TCUUzbLi26w
Ways that we can incoporate & reinforce -ing verbs:
  • ask Maya what she is doing so that she can answer "I am xxx-ing"
  • model by describing what we are doing "I am cooking" "Daddy is writing" "Parker is sleeping"
  • describe what other people/animals are doing on tv shows (if you have DVR and can pause it, that would work really well) "Elmo is dancing"
  • describe what other people/animals are doing in books "Maisy is walking"
I'm also hoping to make the leap to pronouns in the near future, and I'm thinking about how he & she will be helpful for this.  I could make cards with some boys on them (princes? pictures of daddy/grandpas/her cousins) and shuffle them into the princesses and then she could pick between "he" and "she."  But we're not there yet.

Would these princess cards be helpful to you?  If you send me an email (uncommonfeedback@gmail.com)  I'd be happy to email back the word document with these images, which is formatted to print onto 3x5 index cards.