Monday, February 25, 2013

Natalie's Progress in Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy

The pictures below are from one of Natalie's recent Occupational Therapy sessions.  She currently has 2 sessions per week each of OT, ST (speech therapy) and PT (physical therapy).  Six total sessions a week keeps her busy in between her regular school activities with one on one expert assistance.

Natalie's weakest area has always been her fine motor skills.  She has a long list of goals to meet to catch up to her peers, and she is making good progress.  She recently was able to use scissors on her own and is getting better at holding her crayons correctly.  Her hand/eye coordination is gradually improving.  Since she didn't have the opportunity to crawl in China her upper body is not very strong.  Her OT has her crawling down stairs on her hands and knees and doing downward dog yoga pose to help build strength in her arms and shoulders.  Natalie loves these sessions.  She works very hard and gives the therapist 100% of her attention.  It amazes me that a 3 year old can stay so focused.

In the realm of PT, Natalie has made huge strides.  She can walk up and down the stairs now by herself while holding on to the rail.  She is beginning to be able to pedal a tricycle.  Her running and overall balance have improved a lot. She still has a ways to go to catch up, but she has come so far for a child that could not walk on her own until she was 21 months old.

Natalie's speech continues to improve.  There are three main types of ST: receptive, expressive and articulation.  Natalie doesn't need any help in the receptive area.  Before she turned 3 she tested at a 3.6 year old level...amazing for a child that had at that point only been exposed to English for 14 months.  Expressively she is only slightly behind - not enough to justify therapy.  Her ST is for articulation.  Natalie has a fantastic speech therapist.  Gary and I also work with her on pronunciation on a continual basis at home.  Natalie's teachers, Gary and I are seeing her make a lot of progress.  Her teachers say that she is engaging her classmates in conversation more since the beginning of the year.  I think Natalie is gaining confidence in expressing herself as people are able to understand more and more of what she says.  We still experience many moments a day of intense frustration when she can not make herself understood.  Sometimes Natalie will break down into tears after saying the same thing 10 times and realizing that we are still completely clueless about what she is trying to say.  It's not possible to console her or gloss over the issue by just saying "ok". She will say "No OK!" meaning that is not an appropriate response to what she is saying.  As one of her previous teachers said "Natalie is wicked smart".  You can rarely get away with any shortcuts around her.

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A word of advice, if you have the slightest idea that your child might need some type of therapy act now.  It won't hurt to get them tested.  I so wish we had gotten all of this started sooner, but I'm very grateful for the services Natalie is receiving now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Celebrating the Year of the Snake

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Gary, Natalie and I recently attended a Lunar New Year celebration to ring in the Year of the Snake.  It was a multi-cultural event for adopted children from all countries.  Everyone brought ethnic food inspired by their child's birth place.  There was an amazing Tae Kwon Do demonstration, beautiful African dancing, the traditional dragon dance, the parade of nations, a snake toss and lots of other activities.  As usual, Natalie was clinging to us at first, but she quickly loosened up and had a good time.

My favorite picture of the night
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Watching the dancers
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Happy Chinese New Year!
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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Birthday Girl's Big Day

When Natalie turned 2 last January we hadn't been home from China very long, so we had a quiet family birthday party. This year we decided to do something special to celebrate her 3rd birthday. We invited all of Natalie's friends from school to a party at the zoo.  photo file-130.jpg

The day started out a bit chilly.  We piled the cake and presents into a wagon and off we went to the Jungle Party Room.  Natalie brought her hedgehog in honor of the animal of the day.
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On our way to the party room we saw a some spider monkeys huddled together to try to stay warm.  After the party the temperature was much warmer and the monkeys were playing and having a grand time. photo file.jpg

At first Natalie was very nervous and wanted to hold on to either myself or Gary at all times.  She kept saying "I don't want to go to school!"  I think because all of her little school friends were there she thought we were going to leave her. photo file-3.jpg

For a couple of weeks before the party Natalie had been carrying her little stuffed hedgehog around in anticipation of meeting a real hedgehog at her party.  When the docent brought the hedgehog out the first thing Natalie did was hold her hedgehog up and put it nose to nose with the real hedgehog.  I guess she thought they might like to meet. photo file-5.jpg

The docent told the children to pet the hedgehog with one finger in the direction of the quills and to keep their fingers away from its mouth.  Natalie is really good at following and remembering directions.   Every time we talk about our hedgehog experience she reminds us that we should never put our fingers near their mouth.
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We received an unexpected visit from a bonus animal.  A beautiful and very friendly tortoise was petted and much admired by all the children and adults. photo file-7.jpg

We were supposed to ride the carousel, but it had broken down the day before the party.  Instead we got to ride the zoo train.  Natalie sat beside her Daddy and instructed me to sit on the seat in front of them because there wasn't room for me on their seat.  She really enjoyed the train ride and talked animatedly the whole time.  When we got back to the Jungle room she was completely relaxed and in full party mode. photo file-8.jpg

Natalie's Ni Hao Kai-Lan cake.  We bought her a Ni Hao KL lego set for her birthday and I used the figures and boat from it on her cake.  After we sang Happy Birthday to Natalie she blew out 2 of her 3 candles (I had to help with the 3rd).
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Natalie took the Kai-Lan toy back to the table with her.
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A very rare moment of eating unhealthy food.  Yummy!
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Along one wall were some of Natalie's favorite adults:  Papa, Marm, Donna and Mitch.  She kept going over to chatter with the four of them excitedly about various party events.
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The pink backpack Natalie is holding below was a gift from the zoo.  Natalie is really getting into Dora the Explorer, so she was so excited about getting this backpack.  I'm sure it will go with her on many future expeditions.

Her birthday dress and shoes were a gift from Marm and Papa.  Of course our little fashionista was thrilled to have a "bootiful, just like Cinderella" dress to wear.
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The kids got great goody bags that contained these fun masks.   photo file-13.jpg

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Papa holds Natalie up so she can pet the gorilla's nose.
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Back at home opening her presents
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Kitty cat card from Grandmother and Granddaddy
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Her favorite gift was from Neal and Sissy.  Her reaction was "Wow! Wow! WOW!!"
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The whole gang from Ni Hao Kai-Lan
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Papa and Natalie playing with a puzzle
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