The last few weeks has seen our family sneezing and coughing into our green tea and apple sauce. Like so many things in life, Jake’s sensory problems didn’t take a sick day. My creative energy, however, wanted to be left alone to watch movies and sleep, so I haven’t written about our therapy in a while. So, here are a few weeks in one post. I’m sure you don’t mind. 🙂
One of the problems that Jake has had since he was born is his revulsion to sticking anything in his mouth. For you moms of children who stick everything, including slugs, in their mouths, this may not seem like that big of a curse. There are days when I see Jake holding something really gross and I’m thankful that I only have to wash his hands and that I don’t have Poison Control on speed dial. However, the drawback to this particular blessing is that Jake won’t willingly put anything in his mouth. Which has caused the muscles that get developed on things like boogers, slugs, and peanut butter cookie dough licked off the wooden spoon to not develop at all. So, he doesn’t eat or talk well, all because those tiny little muscles haven’t had the right practice.
Therapy for the last few weeks has been focusing on fixing those muscles. Lisa and I have been encouraging him to get cocoa butter on his hands and suck it off, to lick his plate, and to try to eat things straight off his tray. Most kids would love being told to do all of this, but Jake resists it to no end. We have worked so hard at getting Jake to be okay with food on his fingers, telling him that he can put it in his washing machine (his mouth) and clean his fingers off. After I don’t know how many months of trying, he FINALLY did it last week! Lisa and I looked at each other out of the corner of our eyes and whispered, “Did he just do what I think he did?! Let’s see if he’ll do it again.” And, he did it two more times! We acted casual, as if this happens every day, and asked Jake to put some peanut butter in his washing machine. He did it again!
If my life was an after-school special, this is where the screen would get fuzzy, I would shed tears of joy, and the music would swell over a creepy narrator voice informing the audience that Jake would now live a normal life. Since my life is more of a point and laugh at the tragedy kind of movie, this is the part of the movie where Jake got stressed out, threw himself backwards, hit his head on his chair so hard that I had to get him down and hug him for a minute, went to wash my hands, and Jake ran down the hall and got not one, but three splinters in his foot from our deteriorating wood floor.
Since the screaming from the stuck foot blended into the screams from the bonked head, I didn’t catch that there was a fresh tragedy. When Jake didn’t calm down, I did the quick inventory and our therapy session ended really quickly. Lisa helped me get Jake wrapped up as tight as possible and it took me about three minutes of poking at his foot, while Lisa pinned Jake down, to get all the splinters out. I was so thankful that she was there to hold him down. There was no way I could have done that one on my own.
Our formal therapy sessions and snack therapy seem to be the only times Jake will really lick things off his fingers reliably. Even though I reinforce what we learn between times, my conversations with Jake still seem to go a bit like this:
Jake: (holding up a dirty hand) AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Me: It’s okay, sweetie. Wipe it on your pants.
Me: Do you want to wipe it on Mama? (lots of my pants have weird stains knee-level)
Me: Mama will help. You can do it, baby. (holds out towel)
Jake: OKnononononAAAAAA (wipes hands on the towel)
Me: See? You CAN do it! I’m so proud of you.
Jake: (sniffle, sniffle, whimper) Ok, Mama.
Even though he does more screaming than putting things in his washing machine, I’m so thankful that he will do it sometimes. That means that he has the ability to do it, that the desire to function appropriately is in there somewhere, and that we are on the right track. Sometimes, after a long day, I have to sit down and forcibly remind myself that he IS getting better and that he WILL be fine someday.
Whenever I get too discouraged, I only have to reflect for a moment on where we were ten months ago when therapy started to realize just how far we’ve come. Jake is eating mostly solid foods, he loves playing in the sand, one of his favorite things is to put dirt in his hair, I had to tell him yesterday to not chew on a stick, and his speech is improving so dramatically that I’m starting to get the hang of his little language.
His little washing machine does a fair amount of screaming, but it also kisses me and says his version of “I love you”, and has just about the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen.
I can live with that.