Balance and Coordination
This isn't something that specifically is about autism but it is a big part of who Stephanie is and what she is capable of doing. Beside being diagnosed with autism at age 3, she was also diagnosed with apraxia. Apraxia is a speech motor planning disorder. The brain knows what it wants to say but the message gets mixed up and the mouth, tongue, and lips don't know the right way to move to make the correct sounds. But along with the verbal apraxia Stephanie she also has dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a neurological motor planning disorder that effects the planning of her fine and gross motor skills. Having both is referred as global dyspraxia.
Gross motor issues were one of the fist things I noticed when she was very young. I can remember before she turned 2 and I was pregnant with my second daughter Emily, and Stephanie still was not able to walk down stairs. She would still crawl down backwards. With my background in child development I knew something was not right. but as most people I had never heard of dyspraxia. She could walk and run and climb. But she was always very careful. She would always hold onto the railing on the stairs, she would put her feet down on the slide to slow herself down, and she wouldn't walk normally with the heel then ball of foot like most people. We were a family that had their child in squeaky shoes. they made sure that had a squeak in the heal to encourage kids to step down with the heal of their foot. To this day she can't walk in flip flops correctly.
Once we knew something was not right we tried getting some therapy. Our first experiences of Birth to 3 was in home therapy and it was not a good experience and very short lived. We started around the age of 2.5 with special ed, speech, and OT. Those only lasted a month before starting private lessons. Our first speech therapist was as bad as it could get. She wanted to get Stephanie to say some sounds through play but what she was doing wasn't interesting Stephanie and she didn't try anything else so Stephanie would sit and cry the whole session. The OT (occupational therapist) was great but for a reason she was gone a month later. We never had another good once since. She received physical therapy for a very short time because she could walk, climb, run, even if it wasn't all completely normal. We tried a few different places for speech and OT but none of them produced results for to make it worth our time.
When we started in home ABA therapy I specifically chose the company I did because the owner, who is a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), was originally a SLP (Speech Language Pathologist). I knew language was something we needed to focus on along with her behaviors. What they taught us to help Stephanie talk and communicate was priceless. We learned so much from them and continue to use all that knowledge today. We stopped our private speech when we started ABA but continued OT for another year. But because we never found a good therapist it wasn't worth Stephanie's time or energy.
After we moved and stopped ABA we needed to find another SLP because even though she was receiving speech in school, they weren't very receptive in helping Stephanie in the way we knew she learned best. Something I still can't understand to this day. If you know a child/student learns best one way, wouldn't you teach that way? Not be stubborn and do it the way you are use to doing. Your job is to teach the student. We finally ended up finding a great private SLP who understood Stephanie, accepted her and knew how she learned best. Unfortunately that therapy ended abruptly for a reason that we never were told. It started as a scheduling problem that ended with Stephanie never making it back on the schedule again.
We have taken it upon ourselves to continue teaching speech with all the things we have learned along the way. The use of masks in school has been hindering her language development. She needs to see the mouth and lips move to be able to know how to make sounds and that is hard to do when the mouth is covered. Now as Stephanie enters adulthood next year it will be harder to find another SLP if we ever want to find a private speech therapy again.
Stephanie has been able to try many activities to help Stephanie with her gross motor skills. When she was little she did gymnastics, baseball, and soccer. As she grew we tried skiing, both snow and water skiing. She did her first Triathlon last year. and can't wait to do it again this year. The snow skiing was something she loved and it was so good for her balance. Walking in snow is hard. Then adding snow boots and skis on top of that, it sure takes a lot of work keeping upright. She loves all these adventures she tries. We hope they can all start up again as she has sure missed being active since 2020.