Doing something about it.

Part 1 of this story is here, and part 2 is here.

You’ll want to read them first.

Sophie wrote her name for the first time on December 14, 2010, about 2 months after we started working together. Of course I took a picture!

Despite my terrible fear about the scope of Sophie’s delays, I started working with her at home immediately.  I really had no idea what I was doing, but at least I was doing something.  I googled and started out very basically with speech ideas from Sophie’s SLP and basic cutting, coloring, play-doh, and those type of activities for her hand strength.

About a month after that  fateful Tuesday, Sophie was able to start occupational therapy.  I had been doing my best with her at home and she had already made progress.  But once she got in OT, she made lightning-fast progress in the fine motor skills department.  Her speech sessions continued to go well at therapy and at home.

Around the time she started private OT, I was working with her at home one weekend when she actually cut, for the first time by herself (with special scissors), a line about 3 inches long.  She cut up a line on construction paper.  I burst into tears. LOUD tears.  Sophie looked at me like, “What is WRONG with you?”  Bobby came into the room.  “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“She cut! She cut!”  I held up the paper and sobbed.  She had done it.  She had shown me, that she could learn.  That she could learn from me.  It was a real turning point for me, an encouragement to keep on working, that she and I could do this together.

The paperwork to get her into the new school – a classroom made up of 1/2 kids with delays and 1/2 “typically developing” – was overwhelming.  At one point I lost a medical form and I FLIPPED OUT.  I tore the house apart looking for it and I broke down WAILING and sobbing over the form.   I scared Sophie to death with that  breakdown. Did I mention I was eight months pregnant at the time?

I found the form UNDER my laptop.  Then, I cried some more.  Tears of relief this time.

The evaluation process to get her qualified for the “special” class was a nightmare.  Sophie cried the whole time and would not perform at all.  Fortunately, they qualified her based on our testimony and her scores from her speech language pathologist, as well as what observations they were able to make.  Sophie and I vistited three schools and picked the one we liked the best.  I ended up feeling really good about the teacher.

(And here I must insert proof of God’s faithfulness to my daughter: of those three schools I visited, the other two – the ones I did not choose for Sophie – were closed by the district the next year.  Had I chosen one of them, she would have had to switch schools this year.  Despite the fact that one of the ill-fated schools was recommended to me over the one I chose, I went with my gut – a gift from God, I believe.)

At the meeting to write her IEP before she started her new school, the supervisor asked us what our goals were for Sophie.  I had one primary goal. “I want her to catch up so she can go to a regular kindergarten.”  I said.  At that time is was November 2010.  She would have the rest of that school year, and the whole of the following one, to meet that goal.  In my heart, I knew she would.

About seven weeks after that first talk with her original preschool teacher, and two weeks after her fourth birthday, Sophie started preschool at a new school, where her teacher was an intervention specialist and she would receive speech and occupational therapy.  So now we had her in private speech and OT, school speech and OT, and “Mommy-Sophie time” work at home 5-7 times a week.  Her teacher, for sure, was a definite answer to my prayer that God would put the right people in Sophie’s life to help her through this.

Her progress and response was immediate.  She began, as her private occupational therapist put it, “blazing through her goals.”

But still we worked.  We worked HARD at home.  I was kind of a nazi about working, but I also made it as fun as possible.  Books, puzzles, markers, crayons, white boards, putty, cutting books, scissors, board games, took over our dining room. We worked.

And then I had a baby.

And then we worked some more, writing and cutting and playing games while I nursed. I won’t lie, sometimes these work sessions ended with us both in tears. But for the most part, they were fun, and they served to tighten our bond.  We were doing something very big, very important, and we were doing it together.

We went to therapy, speech and OT, once a week each. Baby in tow.  I tried not to lose my mind.  And Sophie started catching up.

It was very, very hard.  Having a newborn and helping Sophie with her delays -the constant maintenance of both of those situations nearly killed me.  But I had my eyes on the prize.  It wasn’t easy. It’s not a time I look back on with really warm memories.  I definitely don’t want to do it again.  But it was very, very worth it.

In January, Sophie’s therapy clinic abruptly closed (as in, with no notice whatsoever.) This meant we would lose her therapists, Tanya and Paula, who she loved.  I was completely devastated.  But God was faithful.  He brought us a new speech language pathologist, Kristen, who was such an amazing blessing.  And Sophie was able to start with her within just two weeks or so.  She had to wait much longer to get into OT, but with our work at home and her OT at school, that turned out all right.  Once she did get in, her new OT, Christy, was also just wonderful.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know the rest of the story.  If you aren’t, let me shout it from the rooftops with JOY: My beautiful, funny, smart, talented daughter completely caught up – and then some – in only 18 months of therapy rather than 3-4 years.  She has been dismissed from special ed, no longer requires an IEP, reads at a 1st-grade level, and recognizes sight words on a 4th-grade level.  Today is her last day of preschool.  She will start a “regular” kindergarten in the fall. On her kindergarten-readiness evaluation, her teacher wrote, “Sophie is a leader in the classroom, she loves helping out everyone and enjoys above grade-level challenging work.”

Sophie & her preschool teacher on her next-to-last day, May 23, 2012

So we have a happy ending, and I am beyond thankful.   I cannot truly express how thankful I am.  And I am SO PROUD of my hard-working girl!  I hope our story can be an encouragement to others.  Though it is hard to think back to that fall of 2010, I do so with a grateful heart.  As hard as it was, it has been made equally good.

But seriously.  Did I already say this? I DO NOT want to do that again.  And I hope you never have to.  But if you do, let’s talk.  You are not alone, and you can help your child.

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More Activities & Apps for developmental delays


I was cleaning out our “fun room” this week, sorting through things Sophie and I had used when working on overcoming her developmental delays.  I wanted to put some things away for Jonah, set some things aside to loan out, and get rid of what we just don’t need any more.  While I was sorting through everything, I found some things I’d forgotten about that I wanted to share with you. First, for working on your child’s hand strength, try one of these guys:

A classic wind-up toy is GREAT for hand and finger strength!  The one pictured above has the winding knob on the top, which makes it a little easier to twist than the traditional wind-up toys with the knob at the back. If your kiddo’s hand strength is really poor, try one of these with the knob on top first.  You can find these just about anywhere, especially at Easter time, I got several Easter-egg wind-ups at Kroger last year.  These are great because they are fun so your child will be highly motivated to make it work.  Sophie wanted to make these toys work soooo badly, she worked really hard at it until she could really turn that little knob.  It was tough and sometimes frustrating, but it was AWESOME for her little hands and fingers, and had a great payoff when those toys did all their fun tricks!

My next tip is on teaching your child to button.  When I was cleaning out our learning stuff I came across many different buttoning activities, some of which I’d purchased.  But the ones that worked the absolute best was using ACTUAL clothing.  To start out, I clipped the collar and buttons off an old polo shirt that Joshua had outgrown.  This was great because Sophie didn’t have to deal with a lot of extra fabric and could concentrate on the buttons.  After she got that down, I took an old shirt of hers that had a little more difficult button shape and cut the top part of it off.  Finally, I had her do a full button-down shirt while she was wearing it.  I would recommend this for zippers also, using a real jacket instead of a “learn to button and zip toy”.  Hanging a jacket over the back of a chair and having the child learn that way first is a technique that worked for us.  After they get that down, they can practice zipping while actually wearing the jacket.

Now, on to some great apps!  First, I would recommend for speech and language (particularly the “language” part), a couple by Super Duper Publications that have really helped Sophie learn to express herself.  The first is simply called, “HOW?”

One of Sophie’s challenges was answering “WH” questions, but in addition to that, explaining HOW things are done.  I remember one of the questions she bombed on an evaluation was “How do you make a sandwich?”  – she simply had no idea what to say.  This app is very simple, but has a great variety of “how” questions so you can start exploring different topics, finding out what your child or student does or doesn’t understand, and teach them how to explain different processes and activities.  Since I am just a parent and not a pro, one of my main challenges was coming up with what to ask her, and how to figure out what she needed to work on.  An app like this, with soooo many topics (you can select only ones you want, deselect those you don’t need) is a lifesaver for a parent like me!  It also make it very easy to track how many questions your child or student got right, and which ones they missed so you can keep working on those.


Another app from Super Duper that I love is “All About Me, All About You“.  This is an excellent app for any kiddo whose speech delay has also contributed to a delay in social skills.  It helps your child learn how to tell others about themselves – not only the basic facts like name, and age, but also likes and dislikes, favorites, and all the things you tell someone about yourself when you are getting to know someone.  This one was really fun for Sophie and me to do together.  Like the other Super Duper apps, you can pick and choose what questions and topics you want to use, and easily track results.

I love these apps from Super Duper because they are such simple tools for a parent that wants to work at home with their child.  And, I like that they are available for Apple AND Android devices, so that more people can get ’em!

Super Duper has a grammar app available for FREE right now, “Using I and Me” – I think Emily should get this one since the mix-up of these two pronouns is one of her pet peeves and she judges me HARSHLY whenever I mess it up. 🙂  Give it a try for free, it’s a great example of how simple and easy-to-use Super Duper apps are! (Em you will be happy to know Sophie and I did a few questions on this app and she got 100% correct!)

Hope these tips and reviews have been helpful to you!  I love to hear from you when you have questions or need suggestions on these issues, so let ’em fly!

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Speech: Teaching Spatial Vocabulary at home

Stella Squeak & friends

The little girls & guy pictured above are some of Sophie’s favorite toys, from the “Stella Squeak” Fisher-Price line.   But in addition to being her toys, they were also valuable tools I used at home to supplement her speech therapy.  I used these to teach her spatial vocabulary – concepts such as behind, in front of, between, next to, under, on top of, etc.  Here are a couple of ways to teach these words and concepts to your kiddo using toys.

The first exercise Sophie and I used for learning spatial concepts included a prop – in our case, an old Halloween trick-or-treat bucket -we called it “the Bucket game” (creative right!?).  Using her favorite toy mouse, Stella Squeak, I’d place Stella in various positions around, on top of, under, next to the bucket, explaining as I did, “Stella is on top of the bucket. Now, Stella is under the bucket.”  After I went through all the spatial positions, I’d give the toy to Sophie and ask her, “Can you put Stella next to the bucket?  Can you put Stella in front of the bucket?”  Right answers were praised and incorrect answers were merely corrected with a cheerful, “No, that’s _________.  Here’s _________ the bucket.”

The other exercise we used her toys for involved all the little mice pictured above.  Sophie knew all the names of  her mice, (Candice, Stella, Barry, Priscilla, and Juliet, FYI), and so I’d put three of them in a line and say, “Sophie, who is between?”  or put one in front of the group and say, “Sophie, who is in front?”  After a few turns of me asking her to show me the correct answer, I’d give her one of the mice and say, “Sophie, put Stella between Priscilla and Candice.”  or “Sophie, put Stella next to Juliet.”

Show me which one is in front, behind, etc.

 Another really fun activity which Sophie and I did NOT do at home, but you can, is to hunt for items.  Sophie’s SLP did this with her often at therapy so we didn’t repeat the activity at home, but it is a great one.  Simply hide objects where they can be easily found – toys, whatever you want to use. (Sophie’s SLP used plastic eggs.)  Then sing “a-hunting we will go” while the child looks for the objects.  When he or she finds one, have them tell you WHERE they found it using spatial terms.  “Where did you find the egg?”  “I found it behind the pillow!’  or “I found it next to the lamp.”  Sophie’s SLP put little treats in the eggs which made them extra-fun to hunt for.  When she had found them all she got to open them up.

Those are just a couple of ideas on how to teach your kiddo spatial vocabulary at home!  Even if your child is not speech-delayed, it can be a fun way to play and learn!

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