Saturday, July 17, 2010

Now *This* Is A Graduation I Can Celebrate!

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I am not big on graduations for every occasion, as I've discussed previously.

Today (yep, on a Saturday), however, we had a graduation that I am still celebrating. I called everyone I could think of to share the good news, and I even tweeted it. What was this graduation? Why, Mister Man finished his vision therapy today!

Now, keep in mind that Mister Man has been in one type of therapy or another since he was seventeen months old. With him not talking, I had him evaluated, and lo and behold he entered the Early Intervention program where he received five hours of therapy a week - speech, occupational and physical.

He continued that not until he graduated from it, but until he aged out. When he turned three, he became the responsibility of the school district, where he continued to receive the same therapies and also added a social component.

He has never dropped a therapy. He's never become age appropriate to where we can say we don't need a particular therapy anymore; welcome to the life of the special needs child. His IEP to this day has some of the same goals that were written almost four years ago, and it requires the same set of services be provided weekly.

In fact, we added private occupational therapy earlier this summer (after I quit my job to give myself more time to dedicate to getting him the services he needs - whee!). Fortunately, he loves this OT, especially since it's conducted in a gymnastics facility in a one on one setting, so he feels like he has his own gymnastics class just like Little Miss.

The vision therapy one threw me for a loop, however. It was a surprise when we started it, in fact. Mister Man entered kindergarten last year, and we took him for the required exam - except that I went to a developmental optometrist.

While there, I learned that while he sees (or saw since he now has glasses!) 20/20, his eyes didn't function properly. He had visual perception issues and lacked depth perception.

This explained so much.

When he read aloud, he skipped some words and added others. It turns out that his eyes couldn't follow the line across the page, so he relied completely on context for reading. While this sufficed for now, come later in the elementary years, he would suddenly have a very difficult time.

And t-ball last year? When he never hit the ball a single time from coach pitch? And my child who was completely unable to catch even the most softly thrown ball? OH! It's because he sees the ball in a different place. No wonder that's such a challenge.

And his handwriting? No, it isn't just a fine motor delay. His brain and eyes weren't working together to help him figure out how to plan in space and determine how big and how close together to write his letters.

My eyes were opened.

And we began our vision therapy journey last fall. We have been going once a week to a location forty minutes from my home - because there are very few doctors who do this (and none in my insurance network!) for an hour since late fall.

We could start to see differences as we did the homework and he progressed in his therapy sessions. He could catch his socks when I tossed clean laundry to him to put away. He stopped skipping words when reading aloud. He suddenly became interested in drawing and creating - something he'd avoided his whole life.

And January 22, my insurance company - that would be BCBS of IL - decided that my developmental optometrist can no longer bill for services. My letter of exemption for the specific CPT code and agreement to pay me in network rates since there were no other providers were apparently no longer worth the paper they were written on (I'm still fighting this one), and so all the expenses were now borne out of pocket.

In case you've never been to therapy of any type, let me tell you that is it not cheap. Were we not seeing the results already, I would have discontinued it immediately. I could justify the risk of not being reimbursed because I could see the difference the therapy was making with my child.

And today? We had a progress report today. Mister Man read the randomly spaced stream of numbers without a hitch. He followed the cue with only his eyes - neither his head nor his mouth moved to help him track it. He could tell his right from his left. His copying of random shapes in a grid was "completely average and age appropriate."

I couldn't stop the smile from lighting my face. "Average" may not be the way you want your child described, but me? That description of Mister Man makes my heart sing!

We are officially released. Mister Man has made such great strides that we can halt our therapy sessions and just work on our practices at home from time to time. He graduated from a therapy.

And for me, this is a real graduation to celebrate!


Mrs4444 July 18, 2010 at 12:54 AM  

Michelle, this is so awesome! That line, near the end, about being thrilled to be average, really warmed my heart. I'm really happy for you and am glad you posted about it. Vision Therapy can change lives, an Mister Man is living proof!

Tara R. July 18, 2010 at 9:00 AM  

Woohoo! That is fabulous, congrats to Mister Man. I would take average any day too.

Hyacynth July 18, 2010 at 2:42 PM  

Yay for MM!! And yay for you. No more carting him to vision therapy and dealing with insurance for it. :)

Pat July 18, 2010 at 3:51 PM  

That is awesome, Michelle. Your dedication to your son's vision and learning will make a huge difference in his future academic and social success. Kudos to you!

Michelle July 18, 2010 at 10:56 PM  

Mrs4444 - It's amazing what he could do now that he couldn't before, and none of it was anything we thought was "wrong" or fixable - just how he was, we thought. Oh were we wrong!

Tara - I know you understand. Average is sometimes the only goal I shoot for.

Hyacynth - I know... especially since insurance decided halfway through that my provider isn't able to bill that code; since they're licensed to do it, needless to say they aren't happy about it either!

Pat - No, kudos to him for all the hard work he put in. And I'm not sure if I'm more excited to not be driving, to not be paying the fee each week, or that he has made such great progress. Nahhhh, I know which one I'm most happy about :)

Melisa Wells July 19, 2010 at 8:02 AM  

Whee! Congrats to Mister Man! (and to you, because you'll have more money left in your wallet!)

I'm so glad the the therapy did what it was supposed to do: a lifetime investment, that's for sure!

Michelle July 19, 2010 at 11:45 PM  

Melisa - Here's hoping it's a lifetime. We're going to keep working at home and hope that our 5 month out progress report shows good news!

Alexis AKA MOM July 20, 2010 at 9:27 PM  

Ahhh sweetie that really is a graduation like no other :)

Savannah July 21, 2010 at 8:24 AM  

AWESOME news!! Great job Mister Man!!!

Happy Graduation!!

septembermom July 21, 2010 at 12:05 PM  

Congratulations Mister Man!! Terrific!!

Michelle July 22, 2010 at 11:55 PM  

Alexis - It so is. I'm so proud of him :) Now to finish off OT!

Savannah - Thank you. He is so proud of himself, and why wouldn't he be?

Kelly - Thanks! My pocketbook is also thrilled.

Lucy August 6, 2010 at 9:47 PM  

That's amazing! Way to go, Mister Man!

Michelle August 10, 2010 at 9:34 PM  

Lucy - Thanks. We were (obviously) pretty happy for lots of reasons!

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