Monday, December 21, 2015

The next great adventure

As 2015 comes to an end, so too does our Early Intervention services for Emelyn. And with the end of Early Intervention comes Emelyn’s next great adventure. On January 5, 2016, we send our 26 lb. two-year old off to East Salem Elementary School. Two days a week, she’ll be picked up by a bus in front of our house and taken off to Salem’s preschool special education program. While I wasn’t terribly sentimental about the change, another member of our family couldn’t seem to contain her emotions. Yes, Aubrey! When we casually mentioned Emelyn’s new adventure to Aubrey and she instantly became very sappy. At one point, in a high-pitched, shaky voice she declared, “I may actually cry tears of joy.” (She’s also quite concerned that Emelyn doesn’t have a book bag and school supplies. Emotional and practical, that girl.)
Emelyn and Aubrey visiting Santa in New Castle to
kick-off the Christmas season.
To Aubrey, going to school means Emelyn will learn to talk and walk. And to some extent, she’s right. While I don’t think Emelyn will be delivering messages to Aubrey’s East Salem friends, like Aubrey would like her to, I do have great hopes Emelyn will find her voice in preschool in 2016. It may not be spoken language, but maybe she’ll be able to find ways to “speak” to us using an alternative communications method. And between Emelyn’s curiosity about walking and the goals we put in her IEP (Individualized Education Program), walking independently in a gait trainer is a reasonable expectation this coming year for Emelyn.

For me, I’m also excited to have Emelyn around other children. Being at home this past year has given her the much needed one-on-one attention necessary to gain many new gross motor skills, not to mention some much needed weight. But now it’s time to work on her socialization skills too. While she always scores fairly high on the social/emotional developmental scales, she could definitely benefit from being around other children her age. 

2015 brought many exciting achievements for Emelyn. In the motor skill area, sitting independently without the fear she may topple over, manipulating objects with her hands in a much more meaningful way, transitioning from her belly to a sitting position, crawling on hands and knees/shins, pulling to stand, and even a little cruising on furniture were new for 2015. She’s also increased her receptive language skills, as well as, added a couple of inches of height and about six extra pounds of weight.  What will 2016 bring? While it’s hard to say exactly, we are very optimistic Emelyn’s next great adventure will bring more achievements for our curious little peanut in 2016. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Our family musician

We’re not much of a musical family. Ask me the artist or name of a song and nine times out of ten, I’m going to get it wrong. My ability to carry a tune is equally as impressive. It’s looking like our most musical member of the family is going to be Emelyn. At a very early age we noticed her love of musical toys – you know the ones you banned from your house because they were loud and obnoxious – she loves those! And yes, after depriving Aubrey of them as a toddler, we basically have a full orchestra now – Fisher Price, VTech, LeapFrog – our inventory is vast. 
Emelyn with one of her favorite singing, light up toys
just before her 2nd birthday.
Where my ability to “name that tune” dramatically improves is in the genre of children’s songs. It’s sad, I know, but when Emelyn is downright inconsolable, all I have to do is start singing one of her favorites: Bingo, the Sesame Street theme song, Old McDonald, Itsy Bitsy Spider (bet you don’t know the second verse to Itsy Bitsy Spider), and so on. Yes, the little gal loves to be sung to and she doesn’t even care that my voice is far from in-tune.
When we discovered music therapy last year, we couldn’t help but give it a try. Offered through Easter Seals, the service coordinator for Emelyn’s Early Intervention services, it’s a small group therapy session with Emelyn’s peers. Some have developmental delays, but some do not. It’s very fast paced and surprisingly not chaotic. In the course of 45 minutes, they sing and play instruments to about ten songs. There are big drums and little drums, scarves and parachutes, tambourines and bells, wood blocks and triangles, and all the other fun, kid-friendly instruments you remember from elementary school. 
Emelyn drumming with her music buddies
at music therapy.
At first, Emelyn didn’t have the stamina to stay engaged through the entire class. A year ago, just sitting up for an hour at a time was exhausting, but adding singing, instruments, and other kids was more than she could handle. Recently, I had the chance to attend one of Emelyn’s music therapy sessions. It was exciting to see how far she’s come. She still does a lot of watching – she’s mesmerized by music therapist Hope’s guitar and she doesn’t quite know what to make of the other kids. But, she’s also occasionally using a mallet to hit the drum, shaking the bells during a song, or choosing between instruments when given the choice. She’s also going strong after the 45 minute class, which is impressive.
While it may not look all that impressive,
holding two objects, one in each hand, is a
relatively new skill for Emelyn.
Music therapy has lots of great benefits for kids like Emelyn. It can stimulate cognitive, behavioral, physical, emotional, and social skills. It can also help facilitate the development of communication skills, which is a top priority for Emelyn. Beyond the benefits, it’s been fun to give Emelyn an outlet for her love of music. Who knows, maybe she’ll be a musician someday…or at least be better at “name that tune” than her dear old mom.  
Emelyn has loved music therapist Hope's guitar from day one.