Sunday, 26 April 2015

Forever families

We're in the middle of a very busy few weeks where two stories are playing out simultaneously in our house, as two little girls are meeting and moving in with their forever families.

Belle is meeting her new parents tomorrow for the first time. She has gone to sleep in her cot tonight oblivious, but tomorrow is the start of a new life for her. She'll spend more and more time with her parents as they gradually take over all her day to day care, and then in about a week she'll go to live with them and their lives will never be the same again.

Another little girl, we'll call her Alice, is also oblivious to the changes that are about to happen. We haven't met her yet, but in just a few weeks she'll be living with us. It might be a tough transition as she's been with her current carers for several years, but we're going to be her final move as she'll stay with us until adulthood.

Even though the legalities of permanency for the two children are very different, the process from the child's perspective is very similar - once plans are made the child is prepared in advance as much as their age and level of understanding will allow. We have received a special talking photo album for Belle from her new family to help familiarise her with their faces and voices. They've also sent videos including all family members and pets, and taken her on a virtual house tour - technology is a wonderful thing in preparing a child for permanency! We've done a similar photo album for Alice and are thinking about recording a bedtime story for her carers to play for her.

There are quite a few good products to help out there, here's a selection:

Whoozit photo album

Lamaze hear me see me photo album

Sparkup magical book reader

We'll all miss Belle but her new parents are lovely, and hopefully it will be a good week. It would be awkward if the foster carers and adopters didn't get on at all, since most of the "action" is in the foster carer's home, for the first few days at least! Once Belle has moved on, we will take down the cot, rearrange the furniture, put away the baby toys and start decorating the room ready for Alice.

That's something we've learned in fostering - there's always another child who needs a safe home, so rooms are never empty for long.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Speech update

I thought I'd post a little update on Peter's speech as we recently noticed how much he's progressed. He came to us 18 months ago aged 4, able to count to ten and say circle, square, monkey, water and car. None of it was clear, but you could just about work it out. Apart from that he communicated only in screams, or by leading us by the hand to whatever he wanted.

We recently decided with the lighter nights it was a good time to make his bedtime later as part of a new “grown up” routine now he’s nearly six, and he now gets a couple of hours of play time after tea rather than going straight up for his bath. My wife puts Belle to bed and then goes to work, and we do Peter’s choice of activities with my undivided attention until it’s bathtime. The chosen activities have ranged from reading stories, to rolling back and forth together on the trampoline for half an hour giggling, to building an awesome train track or marble run, but more often than not at the moment he wants me to draw on his magnadoodle. It’s fascinating getting an insight into his mind and the things he thinks about, and his speech is getting better and better as he has to find the words to describe what he wants me to draw. He looks forward to this all day and we spend at least half an hour every evening with me drawing whatever he asks, often things from books or from his own experience with a happy rectangle taking the place of himself. There’s a lot of imagination going on there too.

Examples to test my drawing skills have been:

– Caterpillar on a skateboard. A big fat one. No, now a little one. Five little caterpillars on skateboards. And then chocolate cake. Caterpillar eats it! Ha ha ha!

– Rectangle in the sea. Feet. Eyes and mouth. Armbands on. Swim pants on. Splashy toes. BIG SPLASH! Good swimming, rectangle!

– Thomas and Rosie and James and Percy. Eyes. Happy mouth. Wheels. Tracks. Tracks round the corner this way (gestures). Now left. Tunnel. Clouds. Stars. It's night time, goodnight Thomas. Thomas going to bed in Tidmouth Sheds.

- One hundred beautiful butterflies! (I think we got to about 20 before the magnadoodle screen was full.)

Amazingly, he has had no direct speech therapy as the school therapist has been unable to engage him, although we may find a private one in the future. We put him on fish oils early on to help his concentration and focus, and we believe that weekly music therapy has had a positive effect on his communication. Other than that, it has been mainly about finding what he wanted to talk about, following his lead and providing the vocabulary for him. A lot of his speech has come from echolalia - repeating phrases from books, TV programs or things that he's heard us say. Over time he's been able to adapt these, adding in or replacing words to fit new situations.

We're meeting Belle's adopters tomorrow and she'll be moving to her new family at the beginning of May. We're not sure yet how Peter will take this, I gently broached the subject for the first time tonight and we'll do some visual photo work with him to prepare him, and hopefully reassure him that he's staying with us. He's clearly fond of her and calls her "my Belle", but she's been going through a phase of crying a lot lately so he might just appreciate the peace, who knows! It won't last for long as we have more than one potential placement on the horizon. Watch this space!