Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Liam's therapy...

Today was a tough day. And long. We had two big meetings related to Liam's therapy.

Liam stayed home from preschool today because he had an appointment with a speech therapist who is a renowned expert in stuttering, of "dysfluency," as it's called clinically. His stuttering has been up and down of late. But he continues to be a trooper about all of it. Still, at times he grimaces, purses his lips, and really works to get a simple sound out. While many therapists say it's typical for kids to go through periods of developmental "dysfluency," the grimacing and such things are usually considered signs of a more serious problem.

We drove about 20 minutes out to Lexington. Liam was his usual, upbeat self, excited that someone wants to play with him. The therapist played with Liam for about 45 minutes while videotaping the session. She didn't offer any conclusions at the meeting, but instead will meet with Jen and I in a couple weeks to go over her evaluation and her therapy recommendations.

In the meantime, we had Liam's "IEP" meeting with the Cambridge schools officials. The Indvidualized Educational Program is a bureaucratic way of saying "therapy program." As many of you know, about two years ago, Liam was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder and oral apraxia. In a nutshell, while Liam is smart, he has trouble processing and regulating his sensory intake and output. The result is that he had a hard time learning to speak, he remains somewhat challenged when it comes to things like running and climbing, and finds it a struggle to fit in socially because it's hard to keep up with his peers.

We'd been pretty optimistic for the past year or so with his progress. But he seems to have regressed a bit since he's been out here. His preschool is a tough environment for him because his classroom is big and loud and most of the kids are a bit older than his previous preschool in Berkeley. He reacts by withdrawing. His teachers have been great, but still...

And so he's been getting speech and occupational therapy through the Cambridge public schools. Except about 6 weeks ago his speech therapist had to take a leave of absence and they've not found a replacement yet. But they proceeded with their annual evaluation, the IEP, anyway. And no matter how positive they try to be, or how optimistic, it's a difficult thing to sit through. In essence, they run through long lists of things that Liam has a hard time doing, in often great detail.

In many cases, parents go to these meetings and find themselves fighting to get services. In our case, they concluded that Liam's challenges were so great, they increased their recommendation for the amount of therapy he is eligible for. And along with speech and occupational therapists, they assigned a third person to work with him, essentially a socialization expert to help him learn how to interact with kids.

All these folks were very well meaning, and we think they will be a tremendous help to Liam over the next six months that we are here. Still, it's hard not be discouraged when confronted with such an extensive breakdown of his issues. And it's at times like this that I miss our community of friends in the Bay Area more than ever.

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