Friday, May 31, 2013

two years

fear busting
anxiety soothing
sowing in tears
reaping in joy
celebrating small successes, and big ones, too
acknowledging deep disappointment and cavernous negative emotions
tantrum management
refining by fire
building trust
intentionally thinking on what is lovely
food anxiety
control issues, and letting go of control
uncovering the child beneath the trauma
teaching him that he CAN 
learning to love and enjoy each other
strategizing and re-strategizing, and then scrapping that and starting over
unexpected moments of delight and triumph
clinging to hope
God's relentless faithfulness and grace  

Two years ago today he both became our son and began his journey toward becoming our son.  We too began our journey of becoming the parents he needs us to be.  In my early blog posts I clearly thought there was some magical "corner" to be turned.  Any day now, I thought...any week now...maybe when he's been home with us as long as he wasn't.  That allegedly significant day came and went with zero recognition; I wasn't even aware it had passed until many months later.

I now know there is no corner, only a barely perceptible curve.  I laugh a bit at adoption stories which reference those "rough early days"--and they mean weeks or a few months, at most.  Our "rough early days" lasted well over 18 months, and there are still painfully reminiscent moments.  We are very much in process.  I wish we had a love-at-first-sight story.  I don't believe I dishonor my son by saying that is not and will never be our story.

Rather, ours has been a tale of binding up wounds (and realizing that God is responsible for 95% of that work), of slow, slow, agonizingly slow progress, of love as a verb, the kind that refuses to give up, of great endurance and patience, of mistakes and forgiveness, of the high cost of redemption.

This has actually been the hardest two years of my life, mine and likely our son's, too.  Despite that...because of we celebrate and give thanks for our brave, handsome boy and all that we are becoming together.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

apraxia awareness day

It's today, apparently.  I saw some posts about it and felt an urge to briefly recap our story, especially since its adoption twist is unique.  It's good to look back and see how far we've come.

We adopted Shu from China in May 2011.  He was 13 months old.

At 17 months old, he said something resembling "peekaboo"...and then never said it again.  We had been trying, almost from the beginning, to teach him some sign language, starting with "more."  It took six months.  (Later we realized this was evidence of a motor plan problem, which affected other fine and gross motor skills, not just speech.)  We never bothered with any other signs.  Shu had been receiving physical therapy, and at this point it became clear he also needed help with speech.  Our wonderful SLP suggested he might have apraxia.  He was very young, but had all the classic earmarks of apraxia.

At 21 months old he made these sounds:
Uh for up
Duh for up (yes, I know that makes no sense)
Oh (distorted vowel) for open
Dow (distorted vowel) for down
Mmmm for more or milk.  He could not add any vowel to this M consonant.
B, occasionally, but more often came out as V or Duh.

No mama, dada, hi, bye...or almost any other typical word you'd expect from a 21 month old.

He was in twice-weekly speech therapy by this point.

At 25 months we had these kinds of struggles, also very "classic apraxia":
Water (if I tried to get him to say both syllables, instead of Wah) came out Doh-Wah.
Trying to get him to put the N on "down" resulted in weeks of him saying Dah-Doh, and then Dope-Duh.  He said Dope-Duh for the next two weeks.
Could  not make OO, EE, or AY sounds at all.

By 27 months, he had made great progress.  The SLP assessed his expressive language in the 15-18 month range.

Shu turned three recently, and still has speech therapy once a week.  The school district assessed his speech at the bottom end of "normal," (wow!) so although he will be attending their preschool in the fall with an IEP, he will not be receiving speech services.  Some of the apraxia descriptors listed on the website fit Shu perfectly, particularly the anxiety and trouble with word order and recall:
  • Makes inconsistent sound errors that are not the result of immaturity
  • Can understand language much better than he or she can talk
  • Imitated speech is more clear than spontaneous speech
  • May appear to be groping when attempting to produce sounds or to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw for purposeful movement
  • Has more difficulty saying longer words or phrases clearly than shorter ones
  • Appears to have more difficulty when he or she is anxious
  • Is hard to understand, especially for an unfamiliar listener
  • Sounds choppy, monotonous, or stresses the wrong syllable or word
  • Other expressive language problems like word order confusions and word recall
I'll be interested to see how he progresses in a daily school setting with his peers.

That's our apraxia journey, to date, in a nutshell.  What would be difficult no matter what has been infinitely more challenging because of adoption and attachment.  The catch-22 is that helping Shu to communicate has both hindered and bolstered our relationship.  Having a conversation with him is now one of my favorite things, maybe because we've had to fight so hard to be able to do so.  

I'm proud of the way he hasn't given up, even though I know he wanted to.  I'm proud of myself for the same reason.