Monday, March 2, 2009


When the Rooster was only a few months old, one day I suddenly realized he kept looking to one side. When it dawned on me that he refused to turn his head in the other direction, the alarm bells in my head nearly made me drop him. WHAT? Just one word... countless implications. WHAT? WHAT? I ran frantically around the house as that word spun this way and that through my head.

The pediatrician saw us and told me not to worry about the new word in our vocabulary: torticollis. He told me, No Big Deal. I wish I had fired him then and there. Instead, I tried to believe him when he told me that physical therapy for babies was a racket, a waste of time and money, and that we could help our baby all by ourselves.

When I came to my senses and listened to my intuition a few weeks later, the rooster began therapy for the first time, and we began our very long journey toward the kind of help our boy really needs. We have moved twice since then, and changed resource providers and had a jillion ists, but sometimes I wonder if those early helpers suspected what we now know.

What I want to write about tonight is how good it is to get the RIGHT help for your kid. When it fits, you feel it. When it doesn't, you feel the absence, the void, the lack.

One thing I KNOW for sure from firsthand experience: one good physical therapist or occupational therapist does more good for our son than a hundred of our first pediatrician.

We have had many good therapists, and we watch with our own eyes as they help our son grow, change, develop, improve.

Every Monday since the school year started, the rooster goes to OT in one of our district's large therapy rooms. For many months now, he has worked with Miss O. When I first met her, she was just ist number 96 to me, and I wouldn't have minded if she smiled occasionally. J and I took turns taking the rooster to all his appointments, and often OT fell on J's turns, while I ended up more often at the pediatrician appointments or the developmental pediatrician's office. I asked J, "How do you think the rooster is doing in OT with Miss O?" He said, "She's STRICT." I often think of that word more positively than J does, I being the teacher, and J being somewhat allergic to authority. But I took the rooster to OT one day and found myself thinking, "She is so hard on him! She doesn't understand how hard it is for the rooster."

Well, of course she did. She is an OT. She knows exactly how hard it is for him. She knows so much more than I gave her credit for, and I have been thinking a lot about this. I think the reason I didn't give her more credit is because at first I assumed she didn't have kids of her own. Miss O has quite the baby face. I would kill to look as much younger than I am as Miss O does; I found out recently that she has a child of her own, and that if anyone underestimated another person's challenges, then I am the guilty one. Miss O has a baby born with special needs, too. Maybe it's completely unfair of me, but it definitely increases my trust of her and how she works with my son. I want Miss O's daughter to gain strength and be well and succeed, and I wish she had not been handed the challenges she has, but she definitely has the right mama. Because Miss O IS strict. She doesn't have a ready smile, she demands compliance, she gives consequences, and she sets high goals. If it's hard? Good. Do it again. If a little boy whines or shouts, she stares him down, frowns and says, "Excuse me, that's not okay," and that little boy gets redirection with a firm hand, and time outs as needed. But you know what? Miss O got the rooster to put on his own shoes. Miss O got the rooster to cut paper in a straight line. Miss O convinced the rooster he'd be able to climb. Miss O helped us realize the problems that the rooster's flat feet caused. Miss O looked over the rooster's IEP and realized we didn't get certain hours we'd be promised, and she made it happen. Miss O made sure we could extend the rooster's hours when he needed more. And when the rooster managed to get his shoes and his socks on all by himself today? She did indeed smile.

I am bothered by my bias toward doctors and ists with kids, especially toward people with special needs kids, and I want to work hard to remember that everyone has a story... everyone brings something to the table...
But at the same time, knowing that Miss O has taken her seat on both sides of the ist desk gives me a sense of confidence in her empathy, a feeling of kinship, and less of that bitter reflex to say, "You don't know what it's like..."

I've written many times about my fantasy dinner party attended by the special needs blogosphere mamas who inspire and support me, and now that it seems some version might really become a reality sometime, I have embellished the fantasy in my mind, and I've added a seat at the table for Miss O. I will lift my glass to her and thank her for being strict and for helping my rooster. Then I'll try to talk her into writing her very own blog. You will love her. She has a really beautiful smile, even if she does save it up for special occasions.


Suzymom said...

When our daughter was only a few months old, a pediatrician noticed that she didn't look at us. She kept her head turned to the wall. This lady's conclusion was biological too: the muscles on the one side of our daughter's neck were too tight to allow her to turn her head the other way. She gave me the advice to make the muscles stretch by always seating Suzanne on the opposite side so that she got a lot of practice everytime she wanted to see us. A whole lot of good that did...
Fourteen years later we got the diagnosis ASS, that shed a whole new light on the problem of preferring to face the wall when she was little.

Niksmom said...

God bless the Miss O's of the world, yes? So glad you & Rooster have her. Though she may reserve her smiles for the special times, I'll bet it's dazzling. :-) xo