Thursday, 10 March 2016

A Side of Autism: Speech Therapy = Torture

I am incredibly fortunate enough to live in a country where, for the most part, they take care of their people.
Of course, no system is perfect- and we have had our ups and downs with the Finnish system in a variety of ways but I'm here to talk about an up and not a down.

I'm currently sitting in a cafe after dropping off A-Man at his daycare far too early. I have an occupational therapy meeting to go to soon for the V-Man and forgot my gym gear- and thought I should try to be productive while waiting over an hour to get to my appointment.

Yesterday I had a double speech therapy meeting with both kids.
Shoot me - it was awful for the V-Man. A-Man's appointment was at 10 and V-Man's was at 11.
It was awful, not because of our new speech therapist "O" but because of the location.  It was downtown in some building that none of us have been to but apparently have walked by several times.
It was extremely brightly lit and the V-Man didn't want to stay.  I can't blame him as my eyes were hurting and despite the posh decorating and setting- V-Man must've felt extremely uncomfortable in there. Hubster pointed out it may have felt "too clinic-like" for him because he did nothing but fight and scream the roof off.
Nobody was wearing scrubs, there were no sounds of drilling or other kids screaming as if they were getting blood work done-but still.
Maybe it's because it was the first time. Maybe because he was hungry - despite having gone to McDonald's for lunch while I stayed with the A-Man.
It just was a major flashback to when he was younger and no amount of scrolling through his iPad photos or movie choosing made him happy.  Not even my phone was good enough.

Anyway, the point of this meeting was to meet the new speech therapist. Sadly, our last speech therapist for the V-Man, "R",  moved away and wasn't coming back to our city for therapy sessions anymore.
This was incredibly heart breaking for us because it took V-Man so long to get used to her and was quite well bonded with her. 4 years with the same therapist was amazing and she was also a nearby neighbour (not that we ever got around to having her over for dinner)- so it really felt like she was (and still is) a friend as well.

The original plan was to have the V-Man meet the new therapist WITH his previous therapist and that way the transition would be a bit smoother.
But we had a rough time getting a new therapist. Kela, the Finnish social services program, is undergoing a lot of budget cuts thanks to the government.
So. We went through 2-3 therapists that would potentially work with the V-Man -only to have it be cancelled or they changed their minds or they couldn't take him on.
Never mind the fact that A-Man also needs therapy -although not as intensively perhaps as the V-Man, since he can speak and point things out at least.

So the A-Man was up first and she more or less had to talk with me about his habits, his hobbies, things he needed work on speech-wise and whatever else needed work.
We agreed that A-Man is speaking a lot more compared to his assessment and now is curious about what things are called and will ask.
However, the issue remains that he doesn't understand longer or more complicated sentences or time frames unless a timer is used. For example, "when the timer goes off-game is all done!" is an acceptable sentence for him.
Saying something like "you need to be ready in twenty minutes to get the bus!" isn't something he would comprehend because he has no concept of time without a timer.
Also, A-Man still has a difficult time expressing himself. There is regularly crying and screaming meltdowns over little arguments between him and M-Girl mostly.

"My mommy."
"No! A-Man's mommy."
*repeat for a solid minute at least.*
"$@?!;$:$/&/$;&/&));/&!!!?!!;$;&:&{*}!#€\*{ !!  MY MOMMY!" (Symbols represent some sort of baby language combined with Finnish and English from the M-Girl.)
Cue massive sob fest from A-Man.  M-Girl is triumphant in whatever the heck she just babbled to him and stands proudly with her face flushed and her body ready for more baby babble throw downs.
Hubster and I sat back and observed this (I admit I was laughing inside because the M-Girl is a very strongly verbal child - even in the art of babble) and when we realized the A-Man was a hot mess over whatever his little sister screeched at him- I scooped him up into my lap and asked what's wrong.
He couldn't say it. He couldn't tell me why his feelings were hurt or why he was so upset or what his sister said.

Imagine how frustrating that is for a parent who want to do the right thing and console one child while lecturing the other at the same time...but even more so for the kid who can't express what he wants to say.
Whether it's because his vocabulary isn't big enough due to the two very different languages or because he can't simply string the words he needs together to form an understandable sentence- it's sad.
So I played what I call the "Guessing Game". I say anything and everything I could possible think of and he tells me when I'm right.
I managed to break down M-Girl's chatter down to being very hurtful and mean. And I took a wild guess and asked if she told him that Mommy & Daddy aren't HIS parents-only hers.  He nodded while still sobbing and with his arms flung around me and his snot dripping all over me.
But this is why he does need speech therapy. Sometimes I doubt myself because he is speaking so much more than before but also because compared to the V-Man's nonverbal autism- it doesn't seem like he needs therapy at all!
But it appears he does.  What if something very serious, more than hurt feelings, happens and A-Man can't explain what he's heard or witnessed?

Anyways, the V-Man came in for his turn and it was more or less O, Hubster and I shouting at each other trying to be heard over the screams and trying to tackle the V-Man and prevent him from leaving the room.
The V-Man wasn't having it and thankfully we stayed for only 30 minutes so I could fill paperwork for his therapy, answer a few questions and we could go.
In future, his appointments (A-Man too) will be held at school and a couple appointments here and there at home- so she can see them in their ultimate comfort zone.
I really need to invest into some good ear plugs...he can really break a headache in for you in a short & loud period of time!

If you're wondering how we apply for therapies here- it requires a 2-days assessment at that neurological clinic at the hospital. Then a doctor's recommendation plus some applications via Kela.
It can be time consuming, depending on the situation and also the queue for getting a therapist-but otherwise- I'm really happy and thankful I live here.
Even with budget cuts going on - I'm fairly confident my children will get the help they need.

No comments:

Post a Comment