It’s been awhile since I’ve written an update on Becca and SPD.
Well, she still has it! SPD is part and parcel of our fabulous middle kid, right along with her crazy curly blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and insatiable love for music, dinosaurs and Midnight, our painfully loyal black lab.
But let me tell you this: Becca is a different child today than she was just three months ago. Remember way back in July, when I first talked about engagement? Well I’m here to tell you it is magical. MAGICAL! When we first took on the job of engaging with Becca it was hard, and slow, and most of the time it made me really sad. It’s tough knowing that your kid is hanging out in a world without you, and that you have to work really hard to join her there because it is by invitation only and those invites are exclusive. Early on, when those times that we engaged were so fleeting, it seemed impossible to think there would come a time when connecting with her would come naturally. When you could really play together, almost effortlessly.
A few days ago, while Libby was napping, Becca and I really played together. We laughed, both of us, together. We had so much fun… together. And while I may have initiated our play time, she perpetuated it: she sought me out for another turn and another turn and then another; she responded to my tiny tweaks to change the game, not with her famous, nasal “noooo” but instead with the tiniest twinkle in her eye that said “ohhhhh… I get it, and this is fun, too!” If all of this has come naturally for your children then I know these may not seem like big things to you, but when you are working really hard and really intentionally to make it happen - well, I promise they are big things.
This has been our Fall Break week and oh boy, there hasn’t been a single break to be found. Everyday we’ve been out and about, going and going and going. I am so exhausted that the just thought of picking the girls’ books up off the floor brings on at least a 30 minute nap. But still, Rob and I made a pact that our week off would be put to valuable use by spending time with our kids: The Newport Aquarium, the Haunted House at the Children’s Museum, a trip to the pumpkin patch, a morning at the zoo.
Our last trip to the zoo was exactly one month before our trip to STAR. At every exhibit Becca, in her typical fashion, sought out only the finest horizontal surface so she could lay down for a few minutes. Hard and cold were her preferences, but hard and and bumpy would make do. Benches, deep concrete window casings… she honed in on them like a pro. But if you took your eyes off of her for even a second? It wasn’t a big deal at all because she would still be laying in the same spot ten minutes later, if you let her.
This week’s trip to the zoo was a whole new ball game. Becca never stopped. Not once. We chased her - four adults and her two sisters - the entire time. As soon as we found the macaws she was ready to move on to the tiger. Found the tiger? CHECK! Bring on the brown bear. GOT IT! NEXT! It was a complete about-face from our last trip. And in case you are wondering, I’m not suggesting this is ideal, either. One thing we learned about kids with SPD is that the pendulum swings broadly and that zone where they work the best - the place where the rest of us who don’t constantly wrestle with sensory dysregulation spend most of our time - is very narrow. So while our zoo trip in June was at the one extreme, our trip this week was at the other. But you know what I’ll take it, because at least now the pendulum is swinging.
For better or for worse, and despite everything I’ve learned about SPD and engagement, this speech therapist mama still can’t help but mark Becca’s progress by language development. And here, without question, Becca still struggles - but also, she shines. Sitting at the kitchen table in Colorado I was floored when Becca strung together two words to express a novel idea. Now, we routinely get three or four, sometimes even five or more words. Nouns and verbs. Adjectives and locatives, even! (Pronouns, articles and helping verbs? Not so much.)
She answers questions and follows directions. She comments on things. She not only tells us when she’s hungry, she tells us what she wants (current faves include cheese and candy corn). She tells us when she’s tired while simultaneously insisting that she doesn’t need a nap. She laughs when things are funny. She talks about dinosaurs and Midnight, initiates many a rousing sing-a-long, and refuses her parents like any other three year old worth their salt. I have been known, once or twice, to wish she would just be quiet for a second. (True story.)
So are we there yet? Nope. We are not. And we still don’t know where “there” is, exactly. But we are no longer parked on the sidelines, waiting for Becca to get up from her comfortable cold stoop to take a few more disinterested steps forward. We are chasing her now, marching forward toward whatever comes next. She has invited us along for the journey and all of us, together, are amazed by the adventures we are having along the way.
It’s a long trek but now we are making it together. And together I know we will keep on going as far as this journey may take us.