I was greeted at the door by a short, happy woman with a green St. Patrick's Day T-Shirt and a green beaded necklace with beer glasses hanging off of it. She laughed and said she had a green wig to wear for the Early Intervention Specialist that I had followed there, but when she saw I was there too, she thought it might be too much and overwhelm me! (Her birthday is March 17, I later found out.)
So started an afternoon visit to gather with other team members to share ideas on how to help a girl with multiple disabilities who will start her kindergarten year next fall.
Tanya, we will call her, accidently fell in a horse trough at the babysitters and drowned about 3 years ago. She was revived but experienced traumatic brain injury and now has CVI, a swallowing disorder, is orthopedically impaired and uses a feeding tube. The wonderful caregiver is a foster parent who hopes to see Tanya make some progress.
"The doctors have never let us believe for a second that there is any hope. From the beginning they were straight with us that she will never progress," the foster mom explained. "My sister and I just give her lots of love."
I was amazed at this woman who is of a retirement age and could be kicking back and relaxing, but gets her enjoyment through being a caregiver. The place was spotless, comfortable and Tanya was very relaxed and loved her foster mom to cuddle and hold her.
A vision specialist and speech pathologist soon arrived as well to give us 4 people to contribute ideas. We discussed eye blink and eye gaze strategies, but because of the inconsistency with her gaze, we decided to put that on the back burner for now. The vision specialist did some visual tracking exercises to see where she looks and how she responded but there were no indications that were consistent enough to tell us much of anything.
Finding an access point for switch hits was of interest to me. She loves music, a TV show she "watches" and has a stuffed bunny she loves. We decided to try a universal mount and Big Mack switch linked to a Powerlink 3 and a tape player/radio. We are going to start out by seeing if she will respond to keep music playing by hitting a switch. We don't know what movement she has that could help her access a switch consistently (maybe she can't) but we will do some trials to see. If she is able to access the switch to start the music going again, we know we have a starting place.
I left the session with my head full of the different strategies and ideas we came up with to get something going for this girl. It was great to feel a part of a caring group of people who desire to see great things happen for this girl. The foster mom shared several stories of Tanya over-hearing conversations and having consistent emotions and facial expression as a response to those discussions. There could be a very clear mind inside this girl waiting for us to find the way to help her reach out and contact us and open her world. What an exciting possibility! Can you believe in what sounds like the impossible?
All the best to you!
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