Monday, February 28, 2011

A new video of Stella

I am such a slacker when it comes to posting current photos or videos of Stella. But this one is from just a week ago. It's adorable! It's her singing "Shabbot Shalom!" She must have learned it at her pre-school, because I sure don't remember teaching it to her. She's really coming along, speaking, walking, talking, she's an absolute riot, and I am so lucky to be her dad. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

When We Knew Something Was Amiss

We had received the postcard for the birthday party in Stella's bag. It was for a classmate of her's at Adath Jeshurun preschool. Stella is in a class with 12-13 other toddlers, and from what I had seen so far she loved and was very comfortable in her school. In fact on the first day I walked her down the hallway to class, she was so calm, holding my hand in hers. All around us children wailed and cried, terrified to be away from their parents. But not Stella, I was so proud of her. (We have a short video of this, it is amazing, kids are just SCREAMING. And you look at Stella, la di da, like nothing's going on out the ordinary.)

Why was the postcard in the bag? Well, every day when I bring Stella to school I bring a little bag with her. The bag has an embroidered mermaid on it, and her name. It was a gift from my first cousin Eric and his wife Heidi, which was really sweet and very much appreciated. Now we use it to hold her extra clothes, diapers, what have you. On Fridays it holds a fresh loaf of challah, brought from the school home. It also holds various status reports from her teachers.

Anyway, the postcard. It had a photo of a young boy dressed in a Batman suit from Halloween, one of those suits with the foam muscles. It was adorable. Stella looked at it for one second and smiled. "Alex!" She knew right off who it was, and then started to talk about him with some enthusiasm. Next she talked about some of her other classmates and even some of her teachers. This kid, we thought, loves that school. And she is going to love this party, we have to go.

The party was to be held at a place called All About Kids in Louisville. We've been there before and, again, Stella loves it. It is an indoor playground, with mini trampolines, one of those inflated bouncy-bouncy rooms (for lack of a better description), slides of all kinds, just tons of stuff for kids to jump on, ride on and have a great time on. I go there about once a week with Stella and she just has the best time, she can't wait until I get her shoes off before she's up and running. "Bouncy bouncy!" she says, so happy.

This is going to be doubly great for her then we thought. She loves All About Kids and seems to love her classmate Alex too. This confluence of things even got me excited, because I love it when she has a good time.

Well, the say of the party arrived, and we met all the other parents upstairs. Stella kept to herself, which I didn't think too much of. Then we all went downstairs to the play area. There was a long runway that lead into a big pit of soft foam squares. The kids were to wait in line, run down the runway, and jump in. They all waited in line, more or less, but not Stella. She had this kind of blank look on her face, as if she was in another dimension.

One by one the kids waited for their turn to come and then ran down into the pit, where they would jump into it. When it was Stella's turn I had to get on the runway with her and guide/push her down to the pit. Once she was there she didn't want to jump in. Once she was finally in she didn't want to get out. She was oblivious, it seemed, to the order of how this was going. Meanwhile all the other kids knew more or less by instinct how to follow most of the orders and take turns. Stella just didn't seem all there.

Next we were lead to a little zip wire sort of contraption, where kids would hold onto a handle and then glide over a pit of foam. Once over the pit they would let go and fall in, all in all a lot of fun. I saw one classmate after another of Stella's try it and have a great time. But when it was her turn she screamed and wouldn't even get near it. Randi said this is okay, she's just scared. Randi also said this sort of thing used to happen her too when she was young, there was just so much going on.

I was a bit miffed that Stella was, well, kind of a fraidy cat with this stuff. But more to the point I was worried a bit, this didn't seem like the kid I knew. Back in Brooklyn in the playgrounds she would climb up, slide down, do the whole deal, for hours sometimes. Sometimes she was more bold, sometimes less, but she never just withdrew. I didn't know what to make of it.

Finally we all went upstairs for cake and ice cream. I couldn't wait to see her say hi to Alex, whom she had recalled with such warmth, but once again she completely shied away from all of the other kids, and either sat on my lap or Randi's. When cake came she dutifully ate it, but totally ignored the kid right next to her. Again, it was like she was there, but not really there.

After the party ended we packed up and when it was just the three of us Stella seemed like herself once more, chatty and lively. What the hell, we thought, is going on here?

More to come.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sensory Processing Disorder

Today I picked up Stella from her pre-school, Adath Jeshurun, and took her directly to Hear Here for Little Ears, a place in Louisville where they test, as the name indicates, hearing for children. It is paid for by the state of Kentucky, and is something we needed to do to ensure that Stella's developmental delays/issues are not related to her hearing.

(Wait, did he say developmental delays? I did. I will get into that more as the entry progresses.)

We were tested by a friendly woman named Shelley Moats. We were supposed to meet up with her about two weeks ago but had to cancel because there was a pretty severe snow storm, which in Kentucky means it came up to about my ankles. It's not so much the roads I worry about here, it's the other drivers. There's a little ice and they totally lose it.

The process was fairly painless (other than the truly awful cup of pod-coffee I had in the office: caramel mocha? Ugh, something like that); Stella sat in my lap while they put a foam covered tube into her ear to test the makeup of the canal. Both sides were perfect. Then we went into a small room with a doctoral student and Shelley piped in sounds from a control booth. When the sound would come from the left and Stella turned appropriately a picture of Minnie Mouse would flash. When it came from the right Winnie the Pooh would flash. Occasionally, for no reason I could discern, a middle picture of Tigger would light up too. Stella was a great little trooper through it all, even during the part where they put the tube in her ear. She hates having things put in her ear, she's very sensitive about it.

Before going in I had a nice conversation with the receptionist, a pleasant woman who also has a three year old. She called me Mr. Serchuk, which took me a moment to deal with. ("Dude, Mr. Serchuk's my dad!") Then she asked probably one of the stranger questions I've heard in some time.

"In New York are the Starbucks faster than they are here?"

I had to think about it. I am not a great drinker of coffee, despite risking it with the caramel pod above, and when I do I avoid Starbucks. Not for anti-corporate reasons. But for taste reasons. I think their brew is unremittingly bitter, with the added bonus of being expensive too.

Still, it was an interesting question. I would have to imagine that virtually everything in New York is faster than here in Louisville, but it's also much more crowded, right? So that's how I answered. If there isn't real traffic, I said, the New York Starbucks would have to be faster. My memories of Starbucks, in fact, are of them kind of joylessly shoving a hot cup of liquid tar my way, more or less with some alacrity. And that's what I told her.

"Because here, it just takes them so long to make the actual coffee," she said. They just keep talking her ear off, when all she wants is some joe. That's the South for you, I suppose. I really don't know. As a guy who spends 85% of his time in his apartment I don't really meet to many people during the day. But when I do they seem thoroughly decent. And friendly.

Anyway, back to the hearing test. Stella, it turns out, has great hearing. A bit better than average. This was great to know, but it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. As I've documented in this blog at some length back when she was a toddler the problem was that she heard all too well. When we would try to get her down for a nap or, heaven forbid, some actual sleep it would take just the slightest sound, the merest crack of the floor or creak of the lead-paint covered door to jolt her awake, wherein she would then proceed to stay awake for hours on end. So hearing, yeah, not such an issue with this one.

The issue, though, is why she was so sensitive to sound in the first place. Because we expected to stay away for the first several months without sleep. We didn't expect to have a child who seemed completely shocked and pained by the sheer volume and rawness of the world. Who cried from exasperation all day and all night for weeks, neigh, months. It was expected that she would cry, all babies do, thank god. But this, this, was something else. It was, we have only recently come to know, because Stella was afflicted by something called Sensory Processing Disorder. Which I had never heard of until we finally had her examined by a series of therapists within the past two months.

Once we learned what this disorder is it all started to make sense, all of it. The extreme crankiness that had no cure, and went on for over a year. The sleep that virtually never came for 18 months. The fact that she hated being swaddled, hates loud sounds, hates even being touched or held. We felt so alone, for so long, we thought this was just stuff that we had to deal with, that this was simply what having a kid is all about, only worse. Other parents simply couldn't relate. We'd hear advice that worked wonders for their kid, and it would never do anything for us. We'd hear about letting her cry it out, how there are choices you make about how to train your kid. None of this ever worked for us. And why? SPD.

Now, the question. What is Sensory Processing Disorder, and how did we know Stella had it? That is a question for the next blog entry.