Friday, June 28, 2013

Tears in My Eyes

At times, I have tears in my eyes from pulling my hair out because Blake is on his 50th question, within 30 minutes, about the same topic!  But on this day, I had tears in my eyes because I am so happy for my guy:
Blake taking a walk in the neighborhood on
his new prosthetic leg - being helped by
his cousins, Conner and Avery

Monday, June 24, 2013

Education Update

As most of you know, Blake and Emery had very little education while in the orphanage.  They attended kindergarten from September 2011 until we brought them home in April 2012.  Kindergarten in Bulgaria is similar to 2-day preschool in America.  Basically, it is more about socialization than education.  When the twins arrived home, they could not color and did not even hold a crayon correctly.  Blake did not know the Bulgarian alphabet or have any idea what an alphabet was, much less a letter or a word.  He knew no numbers or shapes or colors.

Based on the level of his social skills and opinion of our teaching staff at our school, we started Blake in the 1st grade in the Fall of last year.  Since we did not get very far working with him over the Summer, I was a little worried about how far he would get after one school year.  Thanks to a wonderful 1st grade teacher and phenomenal skills support staff at St. Anthony, Blake did better than I imagined. He can write all of his letters, his first name and a few words.  He can accurately identify most letters and can count and write numbers up to 12.  He knows all of his colors and most of his shapes. He began learning a few sight words and simple addition and subtraction.  A few weeks before the end of the school year, he surprised us by reading a simple sight word book to us.  He pointed to each word as he read and he was so very proud of himself.  It brought tears to my eyes thinking about how far he has come. From knowing no English and not even understanding what an alphabet was to reading a simple book!  With all of the other things that he has had to deal with this past year, I consider his progress to be amazing.  I am so proud of my guy!  He is still significantly behind his peers, but he will get there.  Nothing seems to stop him.

Due to Emery's speech apraxia and sensory issues, we placed her at Horizons Development Center.  She has been attending therapy sessions once per week since September.  Her progress has been
amazing. She has a dedicated, caring and extremely knowledgable therapist.  We recently discussed a
potential education plan for Emery with her therapist.  Her therapist did not think Emery was ready
for a formal education setting.  We agreed.  Emery is still not speaking many words spontaneously and she still has sensory issues, although very much improved.  We decided it would probably be best to keep her in therapy and begin a homeschool program with her this Fall.  Our goal would be to get through a preschool and kindergarten curriculum with her for the 2013/14 school year.

I was very nervous about homeschooling.  I was not very successful working with Blake last Summer and feared I would not be any better with Emery.  We did not want to put her in a public school program because we were afraid she may never progress if she was in a special education program.  Emery's therapist confirmed our fears and strongly recommended avoiding a public school program. She believes Emery has a lot of potential and feels it would not be fostered in a special ed program.

Still nervous about homeschooling, I decided to schedule a meeting with St. Anthony's principal and vice principal.  The vice principal also is the phenomenal skills support teacher that worked with Blake this past school year.  I really didn't think a small catholic school would be able to accommodate Emery's education needs given her speech and sensory issues.  As it turns out, they had already been discussing an education plan for Emery, assuming she would eventually be at St. Anthony.  I felt instant relief after just 5 minutes into the meeting!  They want to begin Emery in half day Kindergarten this Fall and start out with her only attending for half of the half day.  So about 1.5 hours per day.  Emery would work one on one with the skills support staff for part of her day and slowly be integrated into the classroom with her peers.  She would be in a class with only 8 other students and her teacher would be the same kindergarten teacher my girls had at St. Anthony.  My girls loved their kindergarten teacher and I think she would be wonderful with Emery.  I cannot begin to explain how wonderful this has made me feel.  We talked it over with Emery's therapist, and she thinks it is a great option.

The therapist and skills support teacher will converse to make sure they our both on the same page regarding Emery's needs and Emery will spend some time with her teachers in August to get to know them and her surroundings.  I am so grateful for such a wonderful school.  Having an education plan
for Emery brings such a sense of peace in my heart.  I want what is best for her and I know she will be in the best hands at our school. We will still continue her weekly therapy sessions for as long as she needs.

So, for the 2013/2014 school year, I will have one high school freshman, an 8th grader, 2nd grader and part-time kindergartner!

Monday, June 3, 2013


Thought I should post a medical update on the twins.  I will start with Blake.

Blake had a minor set back which caused him to not be able to practice with his prosthetic leg.  As of last Tuesday, he received the OK from his surgeon to begin practicing again.  Blake, however, is now very nervous about using his prosthesis.  He is afraid his incision will drain again.  We held off pushing the issue until Friday.  We casually talked about how we had to begin practicing again.  On Friday, we told Blake we had to start.  As many of you know, Blake is the type of kid that is extremely nervous to try anything new.  He needs a big push, then he instantly is happy when he realizes it is something he can do.  Blake most likely would put off trying his prosthesis forever, if we did not insist.  So we gave him his needed push and he moved around the house for about 15 minutes or so.  He whimpered the entire time.  He is scared to put weight on the prosthetic leg, which is interfering with his ability to bend the knee and ankle on the prosthesis.  As soon as he realizes the leg can hold him, practice will go much smoother.  He practiced a little on Saturday and again on Sunday.  On Sunday, he did much better. Very little whimpering and he seemed very proud to be moving along a bit better.  He still will not put weight on it, but I am sure that will come in time.  He is scheduled to see his prosthetic doctor tomorrow and begin physical therapy next week.

Blake also recently had a follow up appointment with his ophthalmologist.  He does not need to wear his glasses anymore because he has 20/20 vision.  He was a bit disappointed because his cousin Conner wears glasses and he wants to be just like Conner!  The bad news was that his strabismus has not improved.  The doctor wanted him to have surgery in both eyes.  She wanted to do it right away as soon as school is out.  Blake has been through so much this Spring with his leg, we decided we would wait until Fall.  We are going to be diligent about him wearing eye patches daily for two hours at a time.  His next appointment is in September and we are praying his strabismus shows some improvement and possibly he can avoid surgery altogether.  Our decision is based on the fact that surgery is not a permanent solution.  He could need a second surgery as early as one year after the first.  The patch therapy is a permanent solution.  He is capable of bringing his eyes together and focusing on an object.  We just need to train his eyes to do it on their own.

Have not yet had the twins first real dental visit.  Had to reschedule their May appointment because Emery had a fever.  Turned out it was just caused from updated immunizations, but didn't want to take a chance that she was sick.  They go in two weeks.  So we will see how that goes.

Now for Emery.  Emery has been continuing her therapy at Horizons.  She still loves going and loves her therapist!  Her apraxia has improved slightly.  She has started to say some words spontaneously, but not many.  This process is very slow.  I wish there was something to move it a long, but there just isn't.  Apraxia is difficult, but possible, to correct.  We just have to keep going.  Emery does not like learning new things in therapy unless they involve something physically active.  But, when pushed, she catches on quickly and then enjoys working with the new skill and masters it in a relatively short amount of time.

We have also began a neurofeedback therapy treatment with Emery.  The therapy is called LENS.  It can be extremely helpful with Emery's sensory behaviors and even her speech issues.  Not sure how long she will receive the treatments, but praying they make a significant difference for her.  This therapy is done during her normal therapy time and is included in the price we are already paying.  So no additional cost!  It has only been about 3 weeks, so changes are minimal at this time.

Emery has to keep wearing glasses because she has astigmatism.  Her strabismus has improved!  The doctor wants us to increase the eye patch therapy to two hours per day, rather than one hour, and we will have a follow up appt in September.  Hoping surgery is avoided for her too!  The funniest part about the visit to the ophthalmologist, is when the technician handed Emery her glasses back, Emery stretched the bows apart and broke her frames. Right there in front of the technician.  Fortunately, the frames were still under warranty and they were replaced at no charge.  Emery did require a new prescription, so we did have to get new lenses.  We got her lenses from our long-time optometrist at about 50% the cost of the ophthalmologist's office.

Overall, we are basically where we thought we would be medically with the twins.  Still some work to go, but we are getting there.  Other than a few minor colds, the twins remained healthy over the winter season.  Hoping by Fall Blake will be comfortable with his leg and the number of our medical appts will be decreasing!

I have to write an education update post about the twins.  Will try to get to it soon.