I put this moment here.
Olive has been making remarkable progress at what we have come to call Sweeney School. More and all done are a walk in the park, as is I want more to eat.
The first half hour is always spent in the Attention Room. This is a small room with a desk and a one-way window. There is a stool outside the room and if I were about two inches taller I would be able to see what was going on inside. I know it involves sorting and cards and sometimes hand-clapping games and I know Olive performs well in this room because there's always lots of cheering and praise.
You may be wondering why I don't tuck my legs under me so that I can see what's going on. If your child is in any way like Olive, you probably understand why I do not. This is the half hour where I learn who People magazine has deemed the sexiest men alive. Or I learn how much Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are asking for their house. This is when I do my own version of Askancers-Askancers, the half hour where I pace myself. Sometimes progress is terrifying to watch, because it is so often followed by lack of progress or back-sliding. This is is the one half hour I can safely bury my head in the sand. No new signs will be introduced during Attention time; it's warm up and review.
Olive knows how to sign Mommy and Daddy, though she usually needs a bit of hand-over-hand, probably because peeling off the Mommy and Daddy Velcro'ed photos is not nearly as exciting as jalapeno Cheetos and Doritos so hot that even Olive has to pace herself. Dr. Maureen is, however, an outside the box thinker. She texted me asking us to make short video clips of ourselves for her to show Olive as incentive to sign our names.
Many of you have seen these videos on Facebook. I'm of the mind that if you're going to embarrass yourself, you may as well see it through. If you break character and stop, it's like playing a game of Hearts and deciding two-thirds of the way through that you do not wish to shoot the moon after all. To that end, if you are not on Facebook and feel the desire, nay, the obligation to watch LB and I dance to Moves Like Jagger and Uptown Funk, respectively, email me. While I can't blog these video clips, I can email them.
The videos have been moderately successful. Olive did indeed sign Mommy and Daddy a few times, but she looked more concerned than anything else, as if she were thinking, "...And I let these people drive me places."
Over the past three days, as I have been working on this entry, Olive had become more clear and independent in signing yes and music. Music is almost as motivating as jalapeno Cheetos and Olive likes the music one might except a thirteen-year-old girl to like. Maroon 5. Megan Trainor. Katy Perry. And when Olive particularly enjoys a song, she closes her eyes:
Today they began teaching Olive the sign for help. I think this one will come easily: Olive is impatient and if she has momentary sign-block, she generally requests assistance by signing yes furiously with both hands.
We are nearing the end of the fourth week of a six week program. When this program is over, Olive will not be returning to Keshet. As my friend Miss Susan is fond of saying, "Many friendships last for a season. Some last for years and years. And some are just for Tuesday." Olive had several happy and fruitful years at Keshet, but 2014 wasn't one of them.
This puts me two weeks away from needing a new plan. Olive is eligible to sign up for another block at Sweeney School in late April (they do not allow back-to-back blocks, and I can understand why. It is intense, high energy and always novel). Thus, there are about two months where Olive has to be doing one-on-one therapy (we have found this is the only kind that works for her), somewhere. And I have two weeks to find this place, person or people.
It's a good thing I'm such a mellow, roll with the punches, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of person or this deadline might make me nervous.
During the first week of Sweeney School I spoke to Olive's psychiatrist about what Olive should do when the six weeks were up and he said, "Focus on now. Right now, Olive is where she's supposed to be."
In retrospect he was right: the search is exhausting and emotional and it was probably wise to take a few weeks off from that process. Also, at that time we had no idea what sort of progress Olive would make at Sweeney School. Dr. Maureen hoped for her to master one sign. My hope was for Olive to be happy Olive who went through her days without puking, threatening to puke, crying or having diarrhea. Both goals were achieved within the first three days. Every single day, she is jumping with happiness when we walk into the building. The second day of Sweeney School, when she recognized the building and realized she was actually going back to this magical place, she gasped audibly.
So let's review. We have signs down-pat for yes, all done, more, eat and we are almost-almost with music. Mommy and Daddy usually require a boost. Help is just starting. Olive started combining the signs on her own. More music. I want to eat.
And another thing: on two occasions, Olive made a mmmmm sound when asked to use her voice while signing more. This is the one thing Olive has never been able to do: coordinate wanting to make a sound with the making of that sound. To date, all of her vocalizations have been spontaneous and seemingly unconscious. When asked to use her voice a third time it was clear Olive was trying very hard, straining with the effort to get her lips together and make that mmmm. Her efforts were rewarded but they went back to signing. As with all of us, Olive's brain solves problems during off-hours. I expect that mmmm will come more naturally next week.
If this sounds very deadpan -- Olive achieving, even just twice, the necessary motor planning at the heart of speech -- it's because I'm looking at this accomplishment through a cereal box eclipse viewer. Looking directly at it feels dangerous, as if it could cause me lasting harm.