The days after our diagnosis were somewhat numbing. It was also a time of reflection. What did we need to do? What had we already done? Always listen to your intuition – nobody knows your child better than you! Here’s what the team recommended:
- Henry should continue to receive speech therapy. (Well duh… We started him when he was 3, when he began junior kindergarten. Of course, at the time, all of the speech therapists that were on the list for subsidized therapy had a 2-year waiting list. So, we had been going once a week, for an hour, at approximately $100/hour. Incidentally, we went until he finished grade 8 – you do the math…)
- We were told that he was well served at The Dunblaine School. There was a social worker at school who ran a Social Skills group, which he was encouraged to participate in. (Again, duh…. The school developed an individual curriculum, based on Henry’s needs. Of course, getting into the school initially was a bit of a challenge, but that’s another blog post…)
- Continue to use a Direct Instruction method. This approach emphasizes repetition and mastery, both of which were necessary for Henry to learn and consolidate new material. (Boy – they’re not kidding! We were beginning to despair that he might not learn to read, after 2 years at Dunblaine, but then it just started to kick in! We weren’t sure that he wasn’t learning to read by memorizing a whole vocabulary!)
- Get an appointment with a paediatric neurologist. Numerous people had mentioned Henry having staring spells. They wanted to make sure that he didn’t have a possible seizure disorder. (Whaaaat? Holy Cow… Decided to do a “Scarlet O’Hara” and not think about this today – I’ll think about that tomorrow…)
- Contact The Geneva Centre for Autism. (I did this the next day. They had great workshops for parents – to educate me – and social skills “classes” for Henry. I took many courses and Henry participated in his social skills building classes for at least 5 years.)
- There was a list of books that were suggested. (I’ll supply you with my favourites in another blog post.)
- This next recommendation I’ll quote verbatim; “Given Henry’s attentional concerns and his low average/borderline scores on our measures of visual and verbal attention, continued follow-up with Dr. “X” is recommended. In addition, those working with Henry may wish to modify his environment somewhat, to facilitate his attending capabilities. This may involve having him sit in a non-distracting part of the classroom (there is no such thing, by the way…), ensuring that eye contact is established prior to giving instructions or directions, periodically asking Henry (as well as other students, so that he doesn’t feel singled out) to repeat or paraphrase what is expected of him, and/or occasionally making eye contact with him so that he knows that the teacher is watching him.” (OK – this one is a biggie… Fortunately, because his school was for kids with learning differences, his teachers knew most of this. But for every other activity that I took him to, I needed a sit down with the instructor to make sure they understood what they were dealing with. This encompassed swimming lessons, karate, art classes, and summer camp – some of the instructors “got it”, and sadly, others did not. Many of you parents who are in the same boat are nodding your heads….)
- Henry was encouraged to break down tasks into smaller, more attainable goals. (Good advice for all of us – it’s like being told you have to lose 30 pounds. Worry about the first 5, and then go from there.)
- There was a suggestion that certain medications might be tried to help with Henry’s attentional difficulties. (This is another saga that I don’t have the strength to go into at the moment.)
- There is no 10 – but who ends a list at 9?
And so – we began. A lot of what we had already been doing was correct. But you must not question yourself constantly and worry about the end game. That’s far too daunting and scary – we plodded along and pushed the peanut – celebrated our small victories and continued to work on the challenges.