by Alysia Butler of Try Defying Gravity
I have seen the promised land of therapy rooms.
I have visited these amazing basements equipped with swings, trampolines, a trapeze and quiet tent spaces. Rooms filled with sensory balls and body socks and noise canceling headphones. I have stood in the doorways of these spaces but have never crossed in.
Because it's not my house. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's therapy room.
I'll admit it. I'm envious of what they have.
I want that. How different our lives could be if we only had...all that.
This popped into my head at our most recent IEP meeting for my 4 year old son Howie. Every morning when he gets to preschool, his amazing aide takes him immediately to the school's OT room. Each day they assess what he needs at that moment. Maybe it's time in the swing. Maybe it's the trampoline. Or maybe it's just quiet time doing a puzzle. After 10 or 15 minutes in the room, he has built up his sensory inputs enough to be able to make it through the morning routine. And if needed, he takes more sensory breaks during the day.
While this works for him now, the time that he's in the OT room takes away from his time in his preschool inclusion classroom, and he misses some of the daily routine. The conversation around the IEP meeting table turned to kindergarten, where this type of "before school OT time" might not be as possible.
My husband spoke up. "What if we did some of the sensory input work at home before he goes to school? Would that get him ready for the day?" The teachers were all in agreement that this was a wonderful idea.
It sent me into a panic. How on earth could we do any of that at home? With my two other sons around? And with what equipment? And where?
As I spiraled into "No, we can't" land, my husband decided "Yes, we can."
Can you say role reversal? I think you can.
My husband took it upon himself to spend a morning with my son and his aide to watch their routine in the OT room. He observed the teacher as she walked Howie across a balance beam. He took notes while Howie lifted coffee cans filled with beans over his head 10 times before he jumped on the trampoline.
And he came home with a plan.
On the mornings when my husband is home, he takes fifteen minutes to do "exercises" with my son after my older son gets on the bus. First, they lift three pound weights together over their heads. Next, they do "X-Jumps" together: My son jumps in the air and makes his body into an "X" while my husband holds him up there.
Then, they do "Heavy Howie". My son stands on a bathroom scale as my husband gently pushes down on his shoulders, giving him deep pressure input. My son giggles in delight as my husband shouts out the numbers on the scale as they get higher and higher.
Finally, my husband holds the scale up against the wall, and Howie pushes as hard, working his muscles and getting him ready for the day.
And then he drives him to preschool.
The results so far have been pretty good. On most of the days when he does his exercises at home, he doesn't need all the heavy work and sensory inputs at school to start his day.
Here I was thinking we had nothing in the house that could help him. My husband took the things that we already had, and turned them into our own personal therapy equipment.
Sigh. Can I share something with you?
While I am so grateful that we've found something , the problem is my son will only do these exercises with my husband. While he goes to me for everything else, this is theirs alone. On the days when my husband can't be home in the morning, Howie gets nothing before school. Nothing. I know I help my son in so many other ways. And I know I am so lucky to have a partner who understands what his kid needs and wants to help.
But now I stand in the doorway in my own house, looking in as my son and husband have their time together. I am envious of this new relationship they have. They took the "Yes, I can!" attitude and turned it into a special activity that gets immediate results. And I...I still flounder in the "No, we can't".
Envy. No wonder it's one of the seven deadly sins. I want what they have.
I'm sure in time my son will let me participate too. But until then, I'll have to remember that he's getting what he needs from his dad - the other most important person in his life. And that is the most important goal of all.
"You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need" - You Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones