Early Intervention Pays Off

We just finished up our parent teacher conferences. I survived and it turns out my children weren’t lying about behaving themselves at school. Win! As I left one of the conferences, I thought about how differently that particular conference could have gone if we hadn’t received some early intervention for my son’s issues. I thought about how hard it is to know what’s “normal” or typical and how intimidating it can be to seek help for your kid. So, I felt inclined to babble about the importance and value of early intervention for kiddos and give a few – hopefully helpful – tips. So here goes!

Five years ago I would have had dire, somewhat hilarious, predictions for my son’s school experience, focusing mostly on military school. Things didn’t look good. At one year old, he was already very physically aggressive and angry. A lot. No matter the emotion, it was an intense emotion. Once angry, he wasn’t able to calm himself. He had this crazy-high tolerance for pain. He broke his leg and walked on it for two days. We thought at first his shoes were too tight because he was just limping a little. We still aren’t positive when the break happened because he never cried. He was extreme, stubborn, and exhausting.

I wanted to seek help for him, but I didn’t know where to start or what exactly was going on with him. I had people telling me “He’s just a boy.” or “He’s just trying to assert himself because he’s the youngest.”  or “You should be more (fill in the blank).” I also got my share of nasty looks and unsolicited opinions on child-rearing as I carried a screaming, squirming, hitting child out of the grocery store, leaving half a cart of groceries behind me. And they didn’t even see the worst of it.

So which was it? Was he just a boy or was I failing at parenting him? (Those appeared to be the only two options based on unsolicited feedback.  I didn’t buy that this was just “boy” behavior. I had other boys who were not whirling tornados of anger. So was I parenting wrong? This one was tricky. Moms all know how sensitive we can be to other people’s opinions on our child rearing. When you’re at a loss on what to do, it’s easy to start believing the worst of yourself. But, eventually, I decided that the people blaming his behavior on my parenting incompetence were idiots. Nosy, non-helpful, critical, opinionated idiots. That helped. Honestly. It allowed me to let the idiots think what they want while I got to work on helping my kid. If someone is not encouraging or empathetic when they offer parenting “advice,” give yourself permission to deem them an idiot and ignore them.

Here are a few tips from my time navigating early intervention. I hope they’re helpful. Your child’s issue may be different, but I think the tips can still apply.

  1. Gather Information
  2. Ignore Idiots
  3. Speak with Professionals
  4. Be Persistent
  5. Find Support
  6. Invest the Time
  7. Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

I read every parenting book I could find. I read the theories and the step-by-step guides. I googled and asked around in mom-circles. I picked up a copy of The Out of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. I can’t remember where I heard about this book, but it was the start of me learning about Sensory Processing Disorder. Piece by piece, we were putting the puzzle together. I documented my son’s behaviors and looked for patterns. (Gather Information) I knew we needed to get evaluated by an Occupational Therapist (Speak with Professionals), but getting that evaluation turned out to be more difficult than I expected. I needed a doctor’s referral. I met with one of the pediatricians in our doctor’s practice with a list of concerns and all my documentation. He dismissed me. Flat-out dismissed me. This, obviously, was disheartening. I had asked for resources, but he treated me as if I were looking for a label or diagnosis. I’m sure they see a bit of that, but I wasn’t interested in labeling my kid at age 4. I was interested in helping him. So I left the practice we had been at for eleven years and sought out a new doctor. (Be Persistent and Ignore Idiots)

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Parent Teacher Conference Fun

Parent Teacher Conferences

Fall parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner. I’m not an expert on these, but I’ve been a teacher and I’m currently a parent…so I do have a few thoughts to help ease any anxiety you’re having. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts…

Do take deep breaths. If you’re a newbie to this, there are a few things you should remember. First, your child’s performance is not an evaluation of your success or effort as a parent. In fact, you should probably stop tying your success as a parent to your child’s performance in anything. Because, dude, they’re going to mess up. Sometimes they make crappy choices or struggle with a subject and it’s not because you failed them somehow. They’re gonna need your help, but you’re useless if you’re self-flagellating over every mistake you surely must have made as a parent.

If your kid doesn’t know his sight words yet, the teacher does not assume that you aren’t trying. (Yes, I know there’s exceptions to this rule.) Just try not to take it personally when they point out areas for growth. They have to talk about something for 20 minutes and your kid isn’t supposed to have everything mastered. That’s why they go to school.

Do be prepared. Some teachers send home questionnaires for you to fill out so they can get an idea of what your concerns are prior to the conference. If you don’t get something like this, just jot down two or three things you’d like to ask about. Write it down because you’re going to forget everything as soon as you sit down in those tiny people chairs.

Do be on time. Seriously. The conferences are like, 20-minute slots. I’m not going to be happy if I have to wait for your conference to finish because you were running late.

Do respect the time limits. Most teachers are masterful at keeping the discussion within the 20-minute time frame, but do your part to not extend your conference beyond its slot. Remember, I’m waiting in the hallway and already annoyed.

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Between Zero and One: An Infinite Number of Moments

I’m so happy to introduce fantastic guest blogger Kimberly Zook, here to discuss managing the dual identities of mother and creative within U.S. military culture. Kimberly is a military wife, mother of three daughters, a scientist, and a writer. She earned an MS in Biology and an MA in Secondary Education before returning to her childhood dream of being a full-time writer. She is the author of two award-winning short stories and writes young adult novels that delve into science and history. Check out her website at http://kimzook.com/.

 

Between Zero and One: An Infinite Number of Moments

By Kimberly Zook

 

Road trips aren’t long enough to count from zero to one. Yet by the time my daughters get to 0.00000399, I’m ready to yell ONE! And most likely, they will counter with “Are we there yet?” And I’m shouting “Look at those cows!” but their eyes are already hypnotized by their iPads. And so it goes on repeat.

All of us wish to get from Point A to Point B as soon as possible. Marriage to children. Toothfairy to braces. Swimming lessons to college scholarship. And along the way, it’s easy to let all those in-between moments vanish into forgotten memories. The ones that we later miss the most when we see a mother cuddling her newborn or hear a child giggling from a father’s tickles.

Sometimes it’s all we can do to remember the big points in our life.

The biggest zero to one moment in my life was going from being single to becoming a two—my husband and me, the first extension of my heart beating outside my body.

I’d been living in a tropical rainforest. Alone, in a hut with no indoor plumbing or electricity for a couple of years. I had roommates of a kind: scorpions, tarantulas, snakes, army ants, rats, and whatever else cared to crawl into my hut each night. It was, by far, the absolute best place I’ve ever lived. There I discovered what it’s like to live with a sixth sense while surrounded by nature. Such a brief moment in my life that has felt infinite ever since.

Then I met my husband, an officer in the U.S. Navy. In one big leap, I went from pursuing a doctorate in biology and living in the rainforest to waving good-bye to his ship and residing in a high-rise outside of Tokyo, Japan. I no longer had to step into the rainforest when ‘nature called.’ Our toilet seat in our Japanese apartment heated up! Before, I woke to the grunts of howler monkeys, milked cows, cooked on a wood-burning stove and spent the day searching for medicinal plants. Suddenly I was surrounded by a dazzle of lights and noises, cars parked on Ferris wheels inside buildings, and riding bullet trains to Buddhist temples. I was a Mrs., a military dependent, that person waving to the ship. An infinite amount of numbers between my zero and one.

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