Elena is having a great summer. She is SO stinking busy, but she is loving it. As tough as it is to be running around all the time, it's even tougher to be stuck at home with two kids! Elena is spending two full days a week at the Jackson Center. She has a preschool/education class in the morning and spends the afternoon in therapy. She's done really well enduring a full day with lots of hard work, which shows me how big she's getting! They've enjoyed two field trips already, one riding their adaptive bikes on the canal downtown and last week they went swimming in Carmel at the Monon Center. It would be great to see her in action on the field trips with her friends, but love that she gets that independent time away from Cal and me.
In addition to those two days, she's spending an hour a week with her teacher and speech therapist from school and an hour in the pool with her PT and OT. It's been great for everyone because without all the chaos and distraction from her peers at school, they have all been able to really see Elena's personality and abilities shine through. Not to mention, she LOVES her teachers and her teacher's daughter, who is Elena's age, that comes to play with her during her school sessions. It's all worked out really well this summer.
Lastly, she still works with Miss Lisa, her longtime OT, once a week and now we just added another speech session a week so she can learn how to work with a communication device. I mentioned this a few posts back that this was something we were going to pursue this summer. Elena really needs a way to effectively communicate with us, with her therapists and at school. For about the last year and a half, we have really started seeing how much Elena understands and comprehends. Quite honestly, I think we still underestimate her cognitive function. We are confirming this by seeing how quickly she is catching on to using a device.
I'll try to explain in the most basic terms possible. Essentially, we give Elena a series of choices for example, listen to music, play with bubbles or something different. We say them aloud while showing her a picture card of the activity (the visual piece is a non-factor right now, because of her vision impairment but we still show it to her) and ask her to activate a switch by turning her head to the left. Elena's dominant side is to the right, so she only turns left purposefully. She's pretty much made choices from the very first time we asked her to do so. Which shows us she totally understands what we are asking her. Right now, it's pretty basic but eventually an electronic device will scroll through all the options/choices for her and she will again use the switch to make her choices. As she progresses, the more choices and options will be available to her. The magic of technology!
It's pretty exciting for us to have to potential to understand what Elena is thinking and what she wants. I can only imagine how it feels for her to be able to finally communicate a simple choice to us. Up to this point, we all just guess based on her emotions. I hate the thought of Elena feeling trapped in her body so we hope this will be the bridge she needs to really shine.
Here is a video I took last week in her therapy. We were playing a game in which we would say "Ready, Set", prompting her to say "Go!" using her head switch, then we would blow up a balloon. She then had to say "Go!" again and we would release the balloon. As you'll see, she activates the switch by turning her head left and then pretty much loves it :)