When I first became a mother nearly six (!!) years ago, I assumed that my child could get everything she ever needed from me. I was Mom, after all, and I could do it ALL. I very quickly learned that that was not the case. I was isolated, overwhelmed, exhausted, crying all the time and my body was not my own. She was not even a month old. What had I done? I immediately went online and found a local stay-at-home moms group that was meeting in a park the next day. I went, wearing yoga pants and a messy bun, with my tiny baby in a huge stroller. There were maybe 7 or 8 women there, all first-time moms with interesting careers and new babies. We sat in the shade (it was July and HOT, y’all), fed our babies, rocked our babies, traded war stories about childbirth, and, of course, went to Starbucks for coffee. Two of the women I met that day became two of my closest friends in town, and we have stayed in touch despite moves to new states, more kids, jobs and life. From that meetup grew a huge mommy meetup group where we were constantly busy with playdates, classes and activities. I made some wonderful, lifelong friends and had support to navigate the baby and toddler years and being a stay-at-home mom.
I learned then that I was so very wrong about this whole mothering thing. I could not do it all myself. I am not one to ask for help, but I needed it. I created my village of moms, and we figured a lot of this parenting stuff out together. When you have a child with additional needs, though, the village takes on new meaning. I am ashamed to say that it was not until now that I realized what an incredible village Team Eli has become.
Eli has wonderful, loving grandparents on both sides of our family. Two of them hosted both kids for several days so that apraxiadad and I could have a much-needed vacation. Eli got a stomach bug on the second day, and without complaint, they took care of him through several vomiting episodes and many loads of laundry. The other two grandparents are local and help us every week. They take Eli to speech when I work, pick up Layla when Eli is at speech with me and watch the kids if they are off school and we both have to work.
Eli had teachers this year that have gone beyond the call of duty. Eli started camp this week. He is back at his old preschool where all of his peers are neurotypical. I was
a little extremely nervous about the whole thing. Eli’s lead teacher from last semester got in touch with me to check how he was doing and was thrilled to hear he was doing well and having fun. One of his assistant teachers spent the first two full days at camp helping Eli transition and making sure he had visuals and other supports in the room. That teacher forwarded pictures of Eli at camp to another assistant from the class, who then got in touch with me to see how Eli was doing and to tell me how she adored working with him and would love to babysit. Yes, please! Yesterday, the school speech therapist Eli had since January visited the camp as well. She offered suggestions and supports, like encouraging him to use his words and reciting the classroom rules (listening ears, quiet voices, walking feet, stay in your own space) which was his favorite job to do at school and helped with behavior. Today, an administrator from the county who has been part of the last two IEP meetings and has also spent time with Eli in the classroom went for a visit too. I was floored that so many people were willing to take time out of their summer break for Eli. Several members of the staff at camp remarked to me how all of these visitors raved about how wonderfully Eli was doing, how much progress he had made this year and what a sweet boy he is. In turn, the teachers shared with me that they could see how much the camp staff and the kids in his class were truly enjoying him.
Our speech therapist: Eli’s therapist is on vacation for a couple weeks, and I do not know what I will do with myself! She left me a page and a half of notes for “homework” so that he does not lose ground while she is gone. I may bill her for my time. 😉
Eli has his parents, of course, and his sister. She gets Eli up in the morning, and I often find her in his room, still in pajamas, reading books to him, dancing to music with him, or just talking to him and asking him questions. It is clear that they adore each other. Eli is able to interact with her in ways he could not even just a few months ago.
These are just highlights of Team Eli; I could go on and on. There are many friends, acquaintances, virtual “friends” and even strangers who don’t bat an eye at Eli’s speech or lack thereof, include him in activities and talk to him as they would to any little boy. Thank you. I cannot put into words how much it means to see Eli treated as just one of the kids.
On to the updates!
I am thrilled to share that next year, for pre-k, Eli will be attending a blended class. This is a class with both typical kids and kids with IEPs. The lead teacher is certified and trained in both special education and regular education. Everyone on the IEP team agreed that this would be a great place for him to work on his communication and play skills. In other words, he will have to talk and have conversations because these kids will want to talk to him.
Eli is talking more and more and becoming more understandable. He has started spontaneously singing songs from school, like The Five Little Ducks. He tries to sing along with songs he knows, mostly the Trolls soundtrack (thanks to his sister) and most recently, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse hot dog dance song. On repeat. Over and over. He is understanding questions and responding more appropriately. On the second morning of camp, I asked him who he wanted to play with that day. I would do that every day on the way to school and he would name all of the kids in his class, generally in the same order. I expected him to recite that answer. Instead, he said the name of a little girl in the class, and the teachers confirmed that they have been playing outside together. He has started using “I” instead of always referring to himself as “Eli.” His sentences and 3-4 word phrases are becoming more complex. On the way to and from his sister’s camp, we pass a horse farm, and each day, each way, Eli has said, “Horse!” Today, he said, “Horse! I see two more!” Indeed, there was one horse and two together further down the road. Proud mama moment right there that may or may not have led to some tears.
Thank you, Team Eli, for all that you do for us.