It is hard to believe that in 1 month, Micah will no longer be in SoonerStart's early intervention program. He was put in the program late. Through a series of glitches in the system, there ware a 10 month delay from the time I first contacted them and when they started working with him. The end result was Micah was able to qualify for the program 8 months before his 3rd birthday when he will be too old to receive the help. March will be the last month he receives services from the program. So, what is next?
Locally, there is a Headstart program, but it is ill equipped to handle someone like Micah. Rural areas usually have this problem. Funding and staffing is the key issue. They would have to hire someone to shadow Micah and help him with everything from diapers, feeding him, and helping him with each activity they do. Rural communities don't have the funding for that. This means that many times a child like Micah slips through the cracks and receives little to no benefit from the Headstart program.
Another issue that we face is Micah's developmental level. There is concern that he would be more likely to take on the traits we don't want (such as bad behavior) than to progress in a positive way. This is common even with typical kids, but can be a set back to special needs children. I have spoken with others, including those who work with special needs children, and most feel it would be best to not put Micah in Headstart. This brings me back to the question of what are we going to do now?
When Micah was first diagnosed, I didn't wait for the Early Intervention program to begin. What a waste of 10 months that would have been! I instead became proactive and did some research online and in books. I learned as much as I could about classic autism (the type Micah has) and the various therapy approaches that are available. I looked at the good & bad of each before choosing the approach that would benefit Micah the most. From that time on, I have worked with Micah daily.
I am currently using a combination of FloorTime and ABA methods with Micah. In FloorTime, you get down on the child's level and through play help them with their development. I incorporate ABA methods in some activities, such as his newest development of learning to point to the food he wants to eat. In that task, Micah has a choice of several foods on his plate. When we feed him, he points to which food he wants a bite of next. ABA, in my experience, is more structured than FloorTime. There are aspects that I don't agree with, but I do incorporate the basic ideas when possible. The ABA approach is benefiting in the teaching him to use resources like the PECS cards or a visual schedule. I just do it with a more gentle approach.
As I have mentioned before, I am preparing Micah to use the Workbox System in homeschooling. I am laying the foundation so that when he is ready to homeschool, he will have this organization method established. Using workboxes gives the child the ability to become independent. Each workbox contains 1 activity for the child to complete. There is a token system to keep track of the workboxes completed. As each workbox task is finished, the child places the token on the tally sheet before going to the next workbox.
Some of the activities we do now are sensory activities, such as having one of his little cars in a bin of rice. He has to reach through the rice to take his car out of it. Being that he doesn't like his hands touched by anything, this activity helps to desensitize him in this issue. Until he can handle various textures touching his hands, he won't learn to pick up finger foods and feed himself.
I have been buying Micah toys that challenge him to use fine motor skills, such as a wooden puzzle that has a series of doors with various types of metal latches & locks that he must open to see what is behind the door. Another wooden puzzle has large chunky shapes for the puzzle pieces.
Recently, I saw a video on YouTube of a company that makes activities for special needs children and adults. Each activity is contained in a plastic "shoe box" designed for that specific task. All materials for that activity are stored inside it's shoe box. There was a wide array of tasks that were shown on the video. One task was a cup that held about 12 wooden sticks (painted dowels) on one end of the box lid and a grid of 12 holes in the other end of the lid. The task was to take a dowel from the cup and place one in each hole. Simple task, but teaches fine motor control. Other activities involved sorting by color or shape, assembling simple items, taking apart 2 interlocked circles so that you can fit them into the slot, and more. In watching this, I was inspired to come up with more activities of that type to make for Micah.
There is so much that a parent can do to teach their special needs child. Some days, I wonder how I will be able to homeschool Micah. I know that it won't always be easy. I do believe though that the Lord is helping me to gather the information that I need to be able to homeschool Micah. When I am in need of a resource, the information is made available to me. Micah is very receptive to learning when I approach it in the way he feels most comfortable. For now, that is just fine. I make a game out of training him to use the Workbox System and he is accepting it. By the time I am ready to officially start his homeschooling when he is 5 years old, he will be so accustomed to the Workbox System that it will be just a part of his daily routine.
For now, I am gathering as much information as possible and planning to talk to shoe stores and ask for shoe boxes that I can use to make Micah a few activities that I think he will soon be ready to start working on. When I can, I will take and post some pictures. I am still trying to get a hang of the way to take pictures with my phone and figure out how to upload them onto the computer.