Saturday, January 05, 2013

My Great Fear

I don't normally like to talk about it because I have a sense that my fear is stupid and unreasonable to most people.

But I truly cannot get over it, and as my daughter's multi-disciplinary assessment from the school district looms large this week, it is becoming worse.  And probably more irrational.

I try not to get into the specifics of my daughter's speech delay, but let's just say it is significant.  Like, below the 10th percentile for her age group.

She has extreme difficulty communicating her needs.  I have never heard her ask for something to eat, and only rarely ask for something to drink.  When she is in pain, there is much screaming and crying, but not a whole lot of substantive words that help me to understand exactly where she is hurting and how I can help her.

She does not tell stories about her day, or things she has done.  She doesn't even refer to herself as "I" and only rarely refers to herself in the third person, often using her nickname.  She can say lots of single words at the moment, but has trouble stringing more than three words together.

The doctors are convinced that if she can just get into a special-needs preschool program, she will benefit greatly.  She'll be around peers! She'll learn through peer pressure how to sit in circle time! 

And while I don't doubt that in many ways, the program could be beneficial, I have this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to her, and she will NEVER be able to express it to me.

It could be bullying from another student.  It could be "accidental" roughness from another student.   Heaven forbid, it could be some form of abuse, verbal or otherwise, from an adult.

I positively guarantee that she is unable to express if something negative should happen to her.

This has led me to not trust any babysitters that aren't family or thoroughly background-checked by myself or my husband, which usually leads to high prices, as it isn't your regular high schooler.  Thus, not a whole lot of babysitting, either.

So as we roll into school sponsored services and programs where I cannot see her at all times, I am starting to panic.  She likes people and is so very trusting, she would be a perfect target for someone with not so good intentions.

When she visits her speech therapist, I always sit in the observation room so that I can see what they are doing.  Partly so that I can learn what she is learning and carry it out at home, but also because I trust no one.

I feel overwhelmed with fear, and I know in some sense it is going a bit overboard, but females with speech disabilities are statistically high on the list for encountering abuse. 

So friends, I need some advice.

How do I get over this?


Anvilcloud said...

As you know, panic and excessive worrying won't change tomorrow. Just be vigilant and trust yourself to monitor things as well as possible. Also, trust the school unless you are given a good reason not to.

Awesome Mom said...

Be as vigilant as you can and have hope for the best. I was seriously considering homeschooling Evan just because I knew his handicap would make him a big target for bullying. I swallowed my fears and entered him into public school and so far it has worked out great. At his current school his class is very loving and supportive of him and he does things for his teachers that he never would do for me.

Hopefully your daughter will progress in her ability to communicate so that you can have your mind put at ease.

marvel said...

A few random thoughts:

1. I don't think your fears are stupid.

2. I think you have 2 fears: 1) something bad will happen to your daughter and 2) she won't be able to tell you.

3. All parents have fear #1 about their kids. It's normal. But you can't be with them 24/7 forever, so you have to learn to manage it. How did you manage the fears of sending your son off to school for the first time? Can you find a preschool that a friend's daughter attends, so that you can talk with your friend about what her daughter tells her about school? Can you find a preschool with a "drop in anytime" policy, so that you can spot-check your daughter in her class? Can you discuss you concerns with potential preschool directors beforehand? If they won't take your concern seriously, find another preschool. (Our preschool confronts those concerns upfront with parents.) And then realize that there is only so much you can control, and once you've done all you can do, that's all you can do.

4. Fear #2 is trickier, because not all parents have that to deal with. Does your daughter do any kind of play therapy? If you watch her playing by herself, how does she handle her dolls? Does she draw/scribble at all? (she's a little young for drawing people, but she should start trying soon). Can she identify emotions on a chart? (point to happy face, sad face, etc). In other words, can you develop some form of non-verbal communication that would at least alert you as to whether she was enjoying school? If something were to happen, I would think there would be ways for you to figure it out without her having to tell you with words. (she would suddenly start being mean to her dolls, for instance.)

5. Where do her doctors recommend sending her? Are you in a support group, and if so, where do the other children go?

Liz said...

I understand completely. When my girls were little, I never left them with anyone before they were old enough/able to tell me if something weird happened. Getting over it is something that will take trust. And trust takes time. Any preschool worth a damn will take no exception to your vigilance. Ask her doctor for recommendations.

Gina said...

@marvel-Do you mean to tell me that you were unable to read the thoughts in my brain perfectly? What is wrong with you? ;)

I think that I wouldn't separate reasons one and two in my head. I fear that something bad is going to happen, and when it does, she will not be able to tell me about it.

The school we are talking about would be our district's Special Education preschool program, with which her speech/language delays and SPD, looks as if she will qualify for it. We are not finished with the process, but her language is so significantly delayed that I don't see how they could not accept her.

As I've already had one child in school, I can tell you it is just simply a matter of time before something happens to her, not a matter of if. And it doesn't necessarily have to be "abusive," but even just something that hurts her self-esteem and she does not have the communication skills to relay that to me.

I'm afraid that whatever happens to her, she will internalize it and I will be unable to counteract it, simply because I won't have any idea what is going on.

The pointing at "mood" faces is a good idea, but honestly, I'm unsure if she will truly understand it.

And yes, she does play therapy for her speech, and if she qualifies at the district, she will most likely have some Occupational Therapy as well.

And she is always pretty mean to her dolls as it is! At least to me she is. :)

Did I explain it any better this time?

marvel said...

How much does she understand what you say? One way to counteract unknowns is to babble about hypotheticals, or to read stories together and talk about the characters. You wouldn't BELIEVE the conversations I've had with my kids about Harry Potter. (Why is Hermione crying in the bathroom? Why did Ron say something mean to her? Why was she showing off her spells? Why was Ron jealous? And I thought it was interesting that the things that bothered them the most were the everyday things they could recognize, like Ron hurting Hermione's feelings in the first book.) I talk with them about why people do the things they do, hoping to give them "patterns" to recognize in their everyday interactions. This may not be developmentally appropriate for your daughter (yet), but I do want to encourage you that even if you can't directly address an event in her life, I think you can 1) provide her sufficient love and support at home that everyday episodes of child cruelty won't affect her as much as otherwise and 2) you can talk TO her about the ways people mistreat each other and how a hypothetical child might respond if it should even happen to her, even if she can't take it all in or express a response right now.

Gina said...

Her receptive language is only so-so, not as delayed as her expressive language, but still not up to par for her age.

I feel that anything past a command-type of sentence isn't going to really get through to her.

And of course, I had to read this today, and the child had a speech and language delay:

J at said...

We have some friends whose daughter has similar speech issues, as well as being completely overwhelmed by crowds. They home school her, because the stress of being in school is too much for her. I'm not sure what they will do as she gets older...I don't know that she's ever had a diagnosis. The mom is a teacher of young kids, and she suspects somewhere on the Autism spectrum. I don't know if they'll ever know for sure. I guess it doesn't matter the why, so much, except that if they knew why, it might help them to figure out what to do.

Gina said...

@J- I would definitely encourage your friends to try and seek a diagnosis, if she has something like Sensory Processing Disorder (which is Ms. P's current diagnosis) it can often be confused with autistic behavior, but the treatments are vastly different.

The younger they treat her, the better chance she has at overcoming her obstacles. Does she receive speech therapy?

marvel said...

P.S. I meant to come back and say, I would encourage you to chatter to Ms. P. as much as you can, whether you think she's understanding you or not. Receptive language almost always develops earlier and faster than expressive, meaning she will start to understand you before she can respond to let you know she understands, meaning that you will only find out later when the little light bulbs have come on. So just chatter. She'll enjoy the sound and the attention no matter what.