Friday, February 27, 2015

The Cat In The Hat, Hat!!

March 2nd marks Dr Seuss’ birthday and this year I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate!  Keegan is so obsessed with his books and so am I.  They are so fun to read, and if I decide to have a themed party for Keegan’s birthday this year it will be Dr. Seuss-themed… exciting, quirky, colorful and fun!

There are endless possible crafts and activities you can do relating to Seuss books and I just came up with something that I’m sure has been done before, but it really makes reading the books all the more fun! Drumroll..... Cat In The Hat, hats! Lol! Keegan loved his and didn't want to take it off the whole time we were reading and even during lunch.  
I went to the dollar store and bought the smaller poster boards that you can get like 3 for a dollar.. I think they are 14x22 in.. I bought two of them.. The first poster board I cut in half lengthwise, and wrapped a piece around each of our heads to measure then marked that spot.  I then laid them down flat and we colored the red stripes for one hat and glued red construction paper stripes on the other.  You can use this activity to practice cutting, which Keegan wants nothing to with, lol and gluing.  After the glue was dry, I wrapped them around to where the measurements were marked and I stapled the hat together.  
 With the next piece of poster board I traced the outside of the hats and them made another circle and inch away from the traced one and cut it out into an "O".  

To make it simple I taped the two pieces together and we got this!!

Love it!! We will be doing some more celebrating on Monday. What fun Seuss activities will you be doing? :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Finding Keegan's Voice

If you are wondering what Keegan’s speech sounds like there are many different ways to describe it.  If he is having a conversation with you, it will sound like a whole bunch of:  “Uh puh uh uhuh uh , buh uh uhuh eee uh uh” It’s not a stutter necessarily like you may be reading it… It flows together so nicely and he is sure to use hand motions and expressions and different pitches to get his point across.  It is so enjoyable to listen to :]  He knows exactly what he’s saying and in that moment is happy to talk to us about whatever is on his mind.  I make sure to smile, nod my head, give “ohhs and ahhhs” and if he will sneak in a word that I can understand, I’ll try engage him with that topic.  “I bet that dragon was big!”  “Bear-bear is so silly!”  “Well, I didn’t know Daddy did that!”  ..To let him know I understand and I am interested and I want to continue to talk.

Conversations are very disfluent but when he uses single words to communicate, they are usually understandable and he is really going to town on his 2-word, even 3-word phrases, especially since we started therapy.  Many people who aren’t with Keegan often have a hard time comprehending what he’s trying to say: single words, two word phrases and all.  With every word, except for Daddy,  (Daaa – eee) he drops the ending syllable, so he usually only ever says one constanent and vowel part of a word at once, ex: dog= “dahh”,  toast = “toh”,  juice= ”doo”  Keegan= “Tee”  mom= “ma” … etc.
My favorite two-word phrase he says is “Tee tay!!!” which means ‘Keegan’s crazy!’ And is typically said with a giggle while wrestling with dad or acting silly with our dog, Bear.  Makes me laugh.  When he’s happy, I’m happy!

Keegan is doing great lately with wanting to repeat words that we say, and is starting to thrive in his 2 word phrases like I’ve said before.  It has always always been a struggle to get him to want to do anything other than what he wants to do… I know, I know, he’s a toddler… but he’s super stubborn and most certainly has his own agenda.  Very hard to coax him into doing an activity that we want him to do to promote his learning.  Our therapist has noticed this too, and has told me to let him lead for now and try our best to incorporate the speech therapy tactics that we are focusing on, which is things like bombarding him with the missing sounds of words..  ex: “pusshhh” since Keegan says “puh” or another example, “haT ” for Keegan’s word, “ha”. 

At the moment, songs are what motivates Keegan the most.  Recently, he has found his ability to slightly change the pitch of his voice in order to make it sound like he singing.  We have come a long way from: watching him want to sing but not know where to even begin, to picking one word out of a song that he can say and singing/screaming it like he is in a heavy metal band (pretty impressive and comical I might add, though I would never laugh at him) to now, being able to anticipate when a word he knows is going to be said and he can sing it.  Can’t wait to see what more practice brings us.  Because he is so stubborn, songs are the best motivator. Songs are fun, and an easy thing to incorporate in our everyday tasks so it doesn’t seem to Keegan as if we’re practicing speech. 

By the way, I never make it seem as if we are doing speech therapy and talking related things.  He is such a smart cookie; he will catch onto what I (or our therapist) is doing and will either ignore or get upset if he realizes what’s going on.  So I just incorporate it into MY speech and our play, that way he hears it but isn’t pressured to do it, too.

Sign language is a great way to engage your child in communicating when they have yet to communicate through speech. (Here is an AWESOME website for signs that was recommended to us by our therapist. It includes demonstrations and everything! Click on the Dictionary tab)  One of the most common signs to begin teaching is “more.”  We have been using this one since Keegan was around 13 months, around the time I was noticing his vocabulary wasn’t expanding.  Oh, I wish I knew then what I knew now so I could act sooner, but can’t think with that mentality, right?! ANYWAYS, there were some signs Keegan took to and some that he didn’t.  Practice and repetition makes perfect, but Keegan has his own agenda and some signs he just never wanted to try to learn.  The ones we currently use most often are more, again, cars and motorcycles.  I honestly started to make up my own (before I was advised to do signs) for words like please and hungry – which he still uses to this day.  (I don’t suggest making up many, just stating what worked for us lol)

Also, books, books, and more books!! :] Reading is our favorite activity. I’ll post more later  regarding our favorite songs and books that promote speaking.

To wrap up, we as a team are just striving to help Keegan succeed.  There are a lot of other things we do therapy-wise, and a lot to remember… these are just some of the things we practice.  Thanks for taking the time to read

To my Keegan:
On the day that we met and I put you to bed, I noticed a crown on top of your head.
-Nancy Tillman

You are my prince, my pride, my joy.  You have so many special qualities and so much to offer the world.  I love you so. 

Love, Ma

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Make Your Own Fire-Breathing Dragon

I’m always trying to think of new and fun ways for Keegan to practice his speech because we often hit roadblocks… some activities just get old for a toddler.  One of Keegan’s favorite movies is How to Train Your Dragon, and last night I remembered a post I found on Pinterest a few weeks ago on how to make a “fire-breathing” dragon out of a paper cup. 
This particular craft involves making a hole in the bottom of a cup to blow through which is a great activity to do with children who have a speech disorder or delay.  Blowing in things like flutophones, kazoos, party noisemakers,  anything.. is a great way to encourage oral motor movement.  These kinds of activities don’t necessarily help the child’s actual talking directly, but they help the child be more aware of their mouth and also helps enhance the ability for them to use those mouth muscles more often.   Our therapist gave us an easy idea of putting a pompom or cottonball on our hands and blowing it off.  We have blown them around the floor, tables, anything to make it fun and silly!

For the dragon craft you will need:
Paper cups
Pom poms
Red or Orange Party streamers
Hot glue
Googly eyes
Construction paper (optional)

We didn’t have any paper cups, but thankfully had black plastic cups to make the black dragon, Toothless, from HTTYD.  **If you end up using plastic cups, the hole you cut in the bottom of the cup will be sharp so make sure to put some tape over it or glue some felt around the area**

To make things more simple today, I made sure to hot glue the eyes (pom poms and eyes)  last night so it would end up being a quick and easy craft toady.  Keegan often has more important things to do than finish a craft!

After you cut the hole in the bottom and glue the eyes, cut out 4 strands of party streamers.  Use the tape to secure each strand to the top of the cup (what would be the roof of the dragon’s mouth)  After the streamers I cut out little ears and horns, or whatever Toothless has on his from black construction paper and taped that on…

After that, blow through the hole that you cut out and the wind will make the streamers fly, looking like the dragon’s breathing fire!  It took Keegan a bit to get the hang of which side to blow! ;)

He was also ROAR-ing through the cup and would then fly the cup through the air while roaring! Fun for him and too cute!!

Super simple craft and although mine isn’t Pinterest worthy ;) I wouldn’t call it a fail! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mending this Heart of Mine

My heart breaks..
It breaks into pieces every time Keegan gets excited to say a prayer before a meal, only for him to clam up and be reluctant because it won’t come out in clear words.  He stops and frowns and he covers his face with his hands……. He is two years old.  I want to beg him, “Please, don’t be embarrassed in front of your Mommy and Daddy!”  The worst feeling.… I want to cry, I want to hold him and say “please, please, Mommy loves to hear you talk, you don’t have to be upset or self conscious.  We love you so so so much!!!!!!!!”  I want to cry because his pain is my pain.. Instead I say it’s okay and start the prayer slow and short, allowing him to join in if he wants to.. But usually he doesn’t.

My heart shatters..
It shatters every time he snuggles to read a book with me only to throw it on the floor, too embarrassed to start trying to speak……
It was our before nap-time ritual.  He’d put a big pile of books beside the rocking chair.  Mommy reads it first then its Keegan’s turn - before he opens up the book, he nods his head and gives me a smile :-)  But ever since he realized his talking doesn’t sound how he wants it to, he takes a breath to begin to read then shuts the book because he thinks he can’t.
No, baby, you can do anything you want to.  You can do anything you set your mind to.  It takes every ounce of my being to hold back my tears.  I tell him “You’re such a good reader but that’s okay if you don’t want to,  I love to listen to you read but we can sing songs instead?”  More often than not he just wants to curl up and not look me in the face. 

There are also days where he has his confidence, where he takes the lead and says that prayer.. or even reminds us that we forgot to say it!  There are days when he takes the initiative to read a book no matter how hard he struggles to speak.  These days I am so happy and so grateful and I feel so full of joy!!! When he reads his books to me I literally grin from ear to ear!!!!  Some days we will lay in his tent and take turns reading together for almost an hour (I think it might be a ploy to avoid nap time, but hey, I’ll take it ;) ) 

I’ll say one thing… I don’t take my situation for granted because I know it could be worse. I’m grateful that the struggles we have are the only ones we are dealing with and I pray for those who have it much worse than I do. 
Although I know it's okay for me to be upset I often find myself thinking: Why should I vent about my troubles when there are those out there who would trade anything just to have the struggles and worries we have.  To those people, I want to let you know, I know.  I want to let you know Keegan and I pray for you every night and you aren’t alone. It’s okay to be upset and to worry but you do have someone watching over you, things will get better.  God picked you to be on this path.  He chose you because he knows you can handle the situations that come your way.  He gives you the strength to be YOU and HE will help you through anything.  

That’s what gets me through Keegan's speech disorder.  That, and writing these posts.  Not sure if people want to read this stuff, but this… writing… typing ... is my therapy, a way to get my worries off my chest and a way to possibly and hopefully reach someone who is going through something similar.  It’s tough for me to expose our difficulties, but this is my way to cope because for some reason, I just can’t speak about it (ironic? lol)  Keegan is a happy boy, and we are a happy family….I just felt the need to share what’s been bothering me, at this time….

Anyways, I remind myself God gave me the gift of being Keegan’s mom, He chose Mike and me to care for him, He chose us because He knew we could tackle the rough roads with Keegan's speech and to guide him and teach him and to help him thrive.  I pray every night that God allows me and helps me to be the best mommy I can be and allows Keegan to have the voice he is working so hard to achieve.

There are tough days but that’s what makes me cherish the good days.

To my Keegan:
“On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder, that the stars peeked into see you and the night wind whispered ‘Life will never be the same’ because there has never been anyone like you, ever in the world. “
-Nancy Tillman from On the Night You Were Born

On the night you were born, I was forever changed.  The world gained a beautiful, unique soul who was destined to create his own path of wonder.  May you always follow the light of God’s stars and know how much you are loved.

Love, Ma

Friday, February 13, 2015

Party for Two: Your Little and You

We've had a fun week over here.  My mother-in-law taught me how to crochet, something to check off the bucket list!  We ventured out in the ice with friends to an indoor clubhouse where Keegan was surprisingly independent.  I usually have to climb in with him and try to squeeze through all the obstacles but he jumped in right away by himself and went to town climbing around.  He makes me so proud.  

Mike was out of town the beginning of the week and Keegan and I kept busy making sugar cookies with royal icing.  Sugar cookies are not my specialty but I think decorating them is so much fun!  Practice makes perfect lol... So we had a blast mixing and baking and of course, using sprinkles.  Keegan was such a good boy while Mike was away so I figured I'd surprise him with a Valentine's Party when he woke up from his nap.  He was so surprised and loved it!! 

We talked about Valentine's Day and all of the people and things that we love all while enjoying our cookies.  Keegan was so excited to show Daddy his party when he came home so I'm excited to see what he thinks of his Valentine's Day treasure hunt <3

Here are some pictures I took before he woke up.  Something fun and different to do for you and your little one to celebrate LOVE! 

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day weekend with the people you love most!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why I've Been Gone

Have you ever heard of childhood apraxia of speech? I know, what does that even mean?  I had no idea this even existed until a couple of weeks ago when I found out that it -in the most eerie yet relieving way- described my Keegan.  I have always thought that there was something more than a speech delay with my child, but no one could ever elaborate for me or give me an exact diagnosis. 

Actually, to this day, I still do not have an exact answer.  Keegan fits many if not all of the descriptions of apraxia and I’ve spoken with his speech therapist about this.  She feels it may be too early to say for sure if he is apraxic because he is thriving and improving immensely in some areas. His very first appointment with her, she noted he had severe dysfluency; but we are and have been treating him with the same techniques we would be if she were to diagnose him with apraxia.  I agree with her and trust her fully. 

Apraxia is a neurological speech disorder where, when it comes to talking, the brain knows what it wants to say, it just can’t seem to send the right signal to the mouth to help words or sounds come out right.

BINGO!!! My baby.   

When Keegan was several months old, he wasn’t babbling (sign of apraxia, but don’t freak out of your baby isn’t, yet!!!  Talk to a doctor if you have any concerns)  Back then, I didn’t have any concerns about it really, until my doctor asked if he was doing baby talk “mamama, bababa” etc.  I said “Actually, no.”  He told me to start babbling and doing baby talk to him, and I’m like “Well I do!! And he loves it!!!!” We laughed and convo was dropped….
Even after that appointment I wasn’t truly worried, it was more so when Keegan reached his first birthday and a month or so after, we still didn’t hear any babble and he wasn’t even saying Mama or Dada.  Around this time, though, Keegan said (and kept saying) his first word, “Bear” which is his dog’s name, clear as day and I’ll admit, a huge, huge weight was lifted off my shoulders….. I thought ‘Wow, now the words will start rolling in!’  Except they didn’t. 
It was then when his doctor had me take autism tests and we had a long talk about that….. I wasn’t prepared for those kinds of questions and I was scared.  Ever since that appointment my doctor and I have always been in touch regarding Keegan’s development and we have seen specialists over time, who’ve ruled out autism.  The doctor said not to worry, start sign language with Keegan, keep me updated and we’ll see him at 18 months. 
Well, 18 month appointment came with a request for me to call Early Intervention (EI) to receive speech therapy since he seemed to have a delay.  I agreed 100% and Keegan was tested and approved for speech therapy!  Long story short, the state had then just changed its guidelines, and since Keegan scored so high for receptive language (understanding words spoken to him) it ruled out his expressive language score (speaking) and he was scored in a sense, “not delayed”.  He was unable to begin or receive therapy.
I was devastated. 

All I wanted was for someone to help me, help him!!!!! I read up on what I could be doing with him and activities and toys to promote speech, but nothing helped.  At least not at the rate of speed I was hoping for. I got advice from a friend who is a Speech Pathologist, and she said I was doing everything right, everything I was supposed to do, but despite that, and as much as I don’t want to admit it, I felt like a huge failure in every form of the word you could possibly think of.  I felt I was failing as mother. I was failing Keegan at helping him speak, helping him succeed, communicate, learn, everything! I had never felt so helpless and so ashamed… 

But finally.. 
At just over two and a half years old, Keegan is getting the therapy he deserves, and I finally (kinda) got an answer to why this was happening.
There is so much therapy material we are working on and Keegan is doing such a great job in getting to where we have to be.  I’m so looking forward to seeing all the progress he is going to make!


To my Keegan,
For never before in story or rhyme, not even once upon a time has the world ever known a you, my friend, and it never will… not ever again.
-Nancy Tillman from On the Night You Were Born

You have your whole life to shine and so far you have done a tremendous job.  From your twinkling eyes, to your contagious giggle (I could go on and on) - you have been you, and you have shone.  There has never been anyone like you and that is something to be proud of. Keep being that bright star and you will go far. 

Love, Ma