Category Archives: Therapy Thursday

Therapy Thursday

It’s adjustment disorder.

She has sensory processing disorder.

She is autistic.

She suffers from anxiety.

She has the emotional capability of an 18 month old.

This just tops the list of things we’ve been told about Molly. She has “failed” pretty much every standardized tests for diagnosing any of these conditions.

She can’t control herself when routines change. She’s rigid. She doesn’t communicate well. She can’t keep eye contact. She’s delayed developmentally.

She doesn’t like loud noises, clothes, food, has balance difficulty. She has sensory processing disorder.

She’s afraid of the dark. She’s afraid of public toilets. She carries on frantically when she doesn’t like something. She gets too nervous about being wrong. It’s anxiety.

The problem is that all of these symptoms overlap in the Venn diagram from hell. They are each part of sensory processing, autism, adjustment disorders and anxiety. So each profession we talk to grabs hold of the symptoms they specialize in and diagnose and suggest treatment for that. Each have compelling arguments why they are right and how their diagnosis would cause the other symptoms and then each are left with a bunch of ??? when Molly doesn’t quite fit their mold. And we are left trying to figure out what to do next.

We’ve had success with therapeutic riding, but not in some main areas.

We had success with behavioral therapy, but as soon as Molly figured out the ropes it was downhill from there.

Sticker charts are useless. She can’t be motivated. Some days to do anything.

Since this summer, we have been heading into the anxiety difficulty. It’s the last piece of the puzzle we really haven’t tackled. We tried once. We did the big name hospital, we weren’t happy. Honestly, it scared me off. It’s a lot of time, energy and resources to go to these appointments. We’ve been blessed with plenty of family and friends who are more than willing to help, but it’s still tiring and at some point leads me to a nervous breakdown after balancing schedules, appointments, work and babysitters. After the first failure we’ve been putting it off, but a recommendation from the school psychologist has me staring at a list of names again. Plain old names. All backgrounds fit what we need, no one seemingly better or worse than another. It’s another shot in the dark to find out what we need and who we need. I sat and stared at these names this morning, trying to pick up the phone to call them and find out if they take our insurance and if they have availability that matches our limited free time, but I didn’t call anyone. Instead I sat and cried. Feeling like I needed a therapist myself, or a personal assistant to make the call so I don’t have to deal with it. I considered hooking my box of wine up to an IV but it was 9 AM and I had a feeling that social workers or counselors don’t appreciate drunk phone calls that early in the morning.

Then Molly came home from school and I realized that I do have to deal with it. I have to deal with it because I have a daughter that has difficulty dealing with life.

At least my boxed wine is still on sale at the local liquor store.

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What I don’t like to talk about

Monday afternoon the kids and I had a pretty good day and an even better bedtime. I wasn’t stressed when Stampy came home from work, in fact I was calmly making salad dressing for our lunches this week. It was a pretty good day. After our usual “how was your day?” conversation he said to me “did you hear about Robin Williams?”. I hadn’t, being in productive kid mode means little outside news enters my brain. 

“He died today. Committed suicide, it looks like”. It was 8:15 PM.

I had a moment that felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I stopped dicing cilantro and just stood there. At first I wasn’t sure why it hit me so hard. I never knew the man. I couldn’t tell you one personal detail of his life, other than I was pretty sure he had a drug problem at some point. I could tell you this. He was an actor that had been in a ton of movies that I loved growing up. He was a comedian that always made me laugh. He was a speaker I admired. Sometimes if I caught an interview I would think “he would be interesting to have dinner with”.

But it was more than that. It was that he lost a battle that many of us fight everyday, including myself. I don’t like to talk about my depression. I’m not ashamed of it, but it’s a topic that makes people uncomfortable. No one knows how to behave or respond when you pour your heart out. Depression has a stigma, it has controversy, it has a loneliness.  

I’d like to think I understand what Robin was thinking about on Monday morning, but I don’t. Even though I have sat on that ledge next to him, I know the despair of being alone surrounded by love ones. I know the hopelessness of feeling like you don’t matter. I know the sadness of self loathing. I know the feeling of being awake weeks at a time. I know how to hide my emotions in alcohol and food. I know the lies depression will tell you. I know. I have been on the ledge. 

I’m writing this for understanding. Over the past couple of days I have seen blog posts and Facebook posts both supporting depression and condemning it. As simple as some answers seem, “happiness” isn’t always a choice. Some days the heaviness is just there. I can’t force my brain to correct the imbalance, I’ve tried, it doesn’t work. It’s a disease, it’s a fight, it’s consuming, it’s hard. It’s also not a disease that has one answer. Some people find help in therapy, some with prescriptions, some with the Lord, some with family, and some with exercise. Unfortunately, some just can’t find what helps heal them and makes them feel whole.

So please understand that spewing out uneducated opinions on the topic of suicide and depression doesn’t solve the problem, it just widens the gap between you and the person trying to grasp your hand to help pull them out of the dark hole. 

When therapy goes wrong

I would like to think I have good instincts. I read people well. I listen to instincts. Occasionally, I try to ignore these instincts. That’s never a good idea. I went into our last therapy session with the trained professionals ignoring my gut. I told Stampy on the way there that I believed this would a good thing, I wanted to go in with a positive attitude, I wanted the psychologist to surprise us, I wanted him to be someone he wasn’t. This is our story of an unsuccessful therapy venture.
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Going to therapy is a sacrifice. It takes work, it takes effort, it takes maneuvering schedules and having flexible child care for Charlie and flexible bosses that allow us to change our schedules quickly. Our latest bout was probably one of the stressful schedule maneuvers and commutes we’ve had to handle. The therapist was only there while we were at work, our appointments always seemed to be at meal times, we had a 45 minute commute one way. After three weeks, the schedule was noticeably wearing on both Stampy and I and my inner instincts were screaming “RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN!”. 

We went into our third and final session hoping for the best. That this guy was going to have a plan that we could get on board with. What we were given was a sticker chart. You read that right. I said “sticker chart”. After 40 minutes of this guy explaining and over explaining everything we had learned in previous therapies, he had decided that he would send us home with a sticker chart for drinking water and going to the bathroom. 

*sigh*

I’m not against sticker charts, but I certainly didn’t need to drive 45 minutes to get one. Plus, this wasn’t our first rodeo. We’ve done sticker charts. We’ve done schedules. We’ve done rewards. We’ve done it all. That’s why we were there. We wanted the one thing that no other therapist could offer us, because we’ve tried the conventional. 

In the first visit, he did no interacting with Molly. Sure she was there but she played in the room while we talked. The second visit, he observed her interacting with us, under scripted circumstances. In which our child, who we say has temper tantrums and defiance problems, was a perfect compliant angel and he would ask “is this a typical behavior?”. I understand he wanted feedback, but I got the impression that he really didn’t know the answer to that. I wanted to be like “yup, aren’t the tantrums awful???” but I did my best to keep my sarcasm to myself. So, at the third visit I brought up again the fact that I would like further diagnostic testing for ASD and he seemed shocked saying what he saw didn’t indicate the need and the fact that the school psychologist didn’t recommend it. However, the school psychologist actually had in the report that she had strong suspicions of ASD and further evaluations would be needed as Molly aged. Obviously reading is not one of his strong points.

During the 45 minute drive home, we had a good laugh. When the laughing was over, we came up with a plan. Next up to meet with back with our social worker for a refresher and to call one of the local names that she gave us. This was my original instinct. I went against it to go to the hospital with the reputation. After all, on paper, it was the best option with the best resources. Today, I called the local name. She talked to me for 20 minutes and gave me a clear plan of what our next steps would be, will be giving us names of developmental pediatricians, explained why a diagnosis should be our first step before therapy and even though she doesn’t accept our insurance, she would be happy to offer advice where she could and direct us on this new path. I felt less stressed when I got off the phone with her. I should listen to my instincts more often.

Therapy Thursday: Expect the Unexpected

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Wow… today was a bit of a doozy. For starters we had a field trip to the pumpkin patch where Molly decided that she was terrified of picnic tables and had me hold her for the next twenty minutes. So, after being exhausted from tending to her all morning I decided for a nice quiet time activity. I’m tired and think I’ve hit the jack pot with a pumpkin painting activity so naturally there were tears (mine) and screaming (hers) and a time out (mine).

Anyone else have their 4 year old send them to a “calm down spot”? No? Oh, well, mine does. Honestly, I don’t mind the couple of minutes of quiet where no one bothers you.

I was super psyched that our social worker was coming today. I was having the internal struggle of meeting Molly’s needs and wants and feeling like I was failing big time at everything. Should I have carried her at the pumpkin patch? Did she really need fresh paints when hers mixed? Should I just have ended craft time before losing my temper??? I needed our counselor to talk me through it and keep me out of the wine. She listened then she questioned “what if this isn’t what a 4 year old should be doing?”.

Crickets chirp.

Oh. Even though I was having some concerns with some behavioral shifts, especially toileting and becoming more and more helpless, and the fact that her teacher had made more than one report home about some difficulty I was still telling myself that Molly was 4 years old. I also knew that in a lot of cases she is on par with Charlie emotionally, but it’s something else when it is put out in the universe. That looming question that I don’t have an answer for because I tend to dance around it on a daily basis. Honestly, I still don’t have an answer for it but I do know that what I have always suspected is right on. So I got over my punch in the stomach (which I asked for) and said “what do we do?”. For now we were given 3 options: do nothing and ride out this school year; have her retested through Child Find; or see the psychiatrist through our youth services bureau. I picked option 4: have our counselor talk with the teacher and observe Molly in class so we could make a more informed decision. Mostly because I don’t want to go through Child Find again and have her not qualify. The testing is long and exhausting for everyone and I can’t put us through that again and have the same outcome. It’s ridiculous.

So, that’s where we stand. Waiting. Waiting for an answer of where to go next. I have a feeling we will often be in this limbo with Molly so I should get used to it.

Therapy Thursday

Therapy Thursday is by far my favorite day. I get an hour of therapy. Plus, she helped us with the whole dozen-temper-tantrums-a-day thing. That was good too.

But seriously, I don’t know why more parents don’t go to therapy. It’s awesome. Or maybe our social worker/family therapist is awesome, but whatever the reason it has been what our family needed.

Then the worst and best thing happened today. We realized that we probably don’t need therapy anymore. We sat around talking about the past month (scheduling had kept us from meeting before this point) and realized that we had nothing to report other than good things.

  • Molly has started saying “I love you”
  • Molly has become more verbal about telling us when she’s uncomfortable
  • Molly has transitioned back to school without difficulty
  • Molly has started to play with other children
  • Molly is getting her face wet without screaming

The list could go on and on and we realized we are only left with one basic problem: dealing with Molly in places that make her uncomfortable with her sensory system. Molly’s biggest sensory hurdle are noisy areas. That seems to be the last thing that still causes her behavior changing, life stopping anxiety. Luckily our therapist has just come back from a conference learning about dealing with anxiety in children. She warns us that therapy is still in the research stage, but I’m okay with being a guinea pig if it gets results. At least this lands us another session!

I’m scared to leave therapy. We have come so far with our hand held, I feel letting go is like jumping into the deep end without my swimmies. I know we can do it (I’m pretty sure I know how to swim), but I’m terrified. Our therapist has done so much for us over the past year. She is the one that took notice and said we weren’t crazy when we said that Molly wasn’t developing normally. She was the one that got us into Early Intervention. She was the one that kept me from ending up in a full straight jacket. She’s the one that taught us how to be a functioning family. I’m really not ready to go at this on my own. No matter how good things are.

What if I forget what I’ve learned?

What if Molly has a backslide when she starts kindergarten?

What if I just need an occasional pat on the back?

Last October when we started, Molly had the emotional development of an 18 month old. She was 3 1/2. That doesn’t mix well. Today in discussing how Molly seems to still lack empathy we found out it was normal. Normal? Molly?? Those words don’t go together.

But, they were said together.

And it felt kind of good.

Maybe I can do this.

I Love Therapy!

Today is a Therapy Thursday and that always makes me smile. Before it would make me smile because I really saw the benefits of our behavioral therapy in our day to day lives. We had minimal tantrums and the ones Molly did have were only 10 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes (and who doesn’t love less crying??). Now I love Therapy Thursdays because I get an hour to discuss my parenting/toddler problems to a professional and be told that I’m doing a great job (and who doesn’t love that boost of confidence??).

We are in the minority that does not find out the gender of our children before they are born. Throughout the pregnancy I made the mistake of saying 3 things:

  1. I don’t want the baby born on my birthday
  2. I don’t want a red head
  3. I would prefer a boy

It’s not that I didn’t want a girl, it’s just that I had an older brother and to me it just seemed natural to have a boy and girl in that order. I didn’t want a red head because I didn’t want my child bursting into flames the second she went outside (which red heads tend to do) and I didn’t mind sharing my birthday, I just didn’t want to spend my birthday in labor. In a hospital. In labor. I wanted to put my feet up and have some cake. So on my birthday at 11:11pm, after 26 hours of labor (I guess technically I did put my feet up), came a bright red haired baby girl. Yup. I really should have known from day 1 what we were in store for.
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Bringing her home from the hospital we knew we were completely under prepared to take care of a child so when the struggles came, I just assumed it was because I had little idea about what I was doing. I’ve always been more of a “I’ll just wing it person” and I took the same approach to parenting. Naturally when she was colicky, sleep deprived and suffering from acid reflux I handled it like a pro. And when she turned into a tantrum-y 2 year old, I handled it a little less like a pro and when she turned 3, I had a nervous break down. I seriously thought I was a failure at parenting. I couldn’t remain calm during the 7th tantrum of the day like the “professionals” recommended, my child was unhappy, my marriage was suffering, I learned that people that were supposed to love me were calling me “irrational” behind my back, and my nerves were fried. Then, in walked Marie. Our Social Worker from Heaven. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t a failure. In fact I was doing quite well since I was still a functioning human being raising a child that was emotionally delayed like Molly. I liked Marie from day 1. Turns out we were raising a 3 1/2 year old that had the executive functioning of an 18 month old and the intelligence of a 5 year old. Apparently that makes for a lot of red flags to go up in the child development world.

Almost a year later we are happy. The stress is still there because, let’s face it, we can’t change who Molly is. We can change how we see her and what our expectations are for her. We are learning to balance what she really needs vs. what she thinks she needs and is trying to manipulate us for. Most importantly, I’ve learned that help is a good thing and that it’s ok if it takes a village to raise your child.

Therapy Thursday: The Whistle Game

I’m squeaking in on Thursday after a long day of dental work. Thanks to a Percocet and a pain free induced state, I napped for 2 hours today… now I’m wide awake at 11pm. This won’t make for a happy Friday. I will take it since for the first time in 9 days my tooth hasn’t been in excruciating pain.

Anyways… Therapy Thursday. We have been lucky enough to get Molly into both behavioral and occupational therapy for her Sensory problems. I can’t even thank the woman who got this ball rolling enough. She was our lifesaver. These therapy sessions have given us a lot of knowledge and activities to try and experiment with so today I thought I would share one of our favorite OT games. (Disclaimer: I invented this game, not our pediatric OT. It was invented by my orthopedic PTA brain once we were told to work on weight bearing through large joints). The kids call it The Whistle Game. Basically it’s this: I use a Tabata Timer app on my phone and force the kids to exercise. 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 4 minutes, come on kids… burn those calories! We pretend we are animals for 20 seconds at a time. This also helps for turn taking and quick thinking. At each whistle one of the kids picks an animal and everyone acts like it until the whistle blows again, then the next kid picks an animal. This is really good for weight bearing through the extremities as they crawl and slither around the floor and it gives Molly the proper input and help her calm down and keep her from full body slamming Charlie. I strongly recommend playing this game before making dinner. This helps change things up as the kids are getting bored and need something to do and it also helps give them the attention they crave before you need to disappear. It’s amazing how much can get accomplished if you give the kids your undivided attention. This game only backfires when someone chooses “horsey” and then everyone wants a horsey ride. Then you are the only one working on all 4s. What’s great is that this game allows for a lot of variety, not feeling animals today?? That’s ok, we sometimes do actual exercises: jumping jacks, squats, push ups. or running laps. You can really do any activity you want for this, the possibilities are endless.

There are a ton of free tabata apps on the phone, I use the HIIT app for Android. It’s Free and it’s easy enough to use that Molly has figured out how to use it so they can do it while I cook.