My daughter was ...different. I don't know how else to put it but there was something different about her. I helped raise my sister from the time I was 16. I was pretty involved in the early lives of my 4 nephews. I am a psychologist. I know when something is different.
I have been very watchful since she was 1. She had obsessive tendencies, would sometimes not reply. Was always intently focused on most things and struggled with her fine motor skills. I was sure she had asperger's I talked to my husband and close relatives about it. We promised to keep on observing.
Truth be told. I was scared for a while. I didn't bring her to a developmental pediatrician right away because I wasn't ready for a possible diagnosis. When she turned 3, I realized it was time to have her checked. I realized that if something was off with her, it would be better if I knew right away so I can try to train her properly. I went from fear to acceptance. I told myself, who better to raise a child with asperger's than me? I studied for this, I'm trained for this.
All that hoopla was for nothing. She didn't have asperger's. What she does have is poor fine-motor skill which the OT attributed to weak muscles. This resulted in delay in writing, inability to color within the lines, delay in using spoon and fork on her own. Here's how we dealt with this issue:
1. I didn't tell my daughter. -- this is not an excuse for her not to do something. She is expected to do everything her classmates are expected to do even if it takes her longer. We did offer some support like pencil holders, and special scissors during the first few months.
2. Weekly OT therapy -- I was blessed to find an awesome therapist in Marikina who was amazing in dealing with Andrea and was very innovative in coming up with fun activities for her to do. She also came up with exercises for Andrea to do at home.
3. I talked to the teachers -- I told them this (verbatim) "Teacher, Andrea has some problems with her fine motor skills so we're working with an OT regarding this. But please, let her do everything her classmates are doing." What's the point of this? I want the teachers to understand that when Andrea's uninterested in an activity or is listless it doesn't mean she's misbehaving...it means she's struggling and might need more motivation and support.
4. I called her Occupational Therapy sessions "Writing School" -- once again to remove any associations with her being not well enough to do something.
5. Introducing more avenues for her to practice her fine-motor skills like cooking, folding paper, using clothespins, finger painting, playing with clay, etc.
6. Daily writing exercise immediately after breakfast. - to be sure that she's not tired
These things together helped so much, Andrea is now able to do a lot more things than before. More than the things she is able to do, what I value more is her confidence in herself. She now believes and understands that she can do things on her own and she just needs to keep trying. Her confidence lessens her frustrations and makes her more interested to try new things.
We are still working on further strengthening her hands and arms but we are so excited by how much she has grown in the past 18 months!