Corey’s stranger and separation anxiety remains at a heightened level at home but I am pleased to tell you that our conversational behavior plan with the therapy team at Bryn Mawr is beginning to work.
Her anxiety begins before she even gets dressed:
C – “Where are we going today”?
M – “Bryn Mawr”
C – “Why!” she yells.
M – “You were in a car accident 2 years ago. We go to Bryn Mawr 3 days a week for therapy to help you get better”. “Today is (M,T,TH), and it’s day (1, 2, 3)”.
C – “I don’t want to go”, “Where are my brother and my sister”
I have come to surmise that when Corey asks for JohnPaul and Caitlin it’s her way of telling me she’s nervous or afraid. The plan is designed to encourage Corey to talk about her insecurity and anxiety. She often does not remember the words to describe her feelings. For instance; tonight she told me she was sad. I asked why. She said, “I don’t know, it feels like something is not right”. After asking her some direct questions to describe her feeling, she told me that she feared Caitlin and I would leave her (we were bringing bags to the car for good will. She thought Caitlin was moving away and I was driving her).
The progress we’ve made using this approach is very encouraging. On therapy days we prep Corey by using her IPad on the car ride to Bryn Mawr showing her videos of her working with her therapists. She not only sees their faces and hears their voices, but she also sees herself working with them. I assure her it’s normal for her to forget and that’s okay. We literally rehearse the same conversation and details of each therapist/session for the full hours commute to prepare her to enter the building.
Normally when we are in her therapy sessions she refuses eye contact with anyone in the room except for me. Her eyes are fixated, locked (probably to make sure I don’t leave). If a therapist speaks to her, she answers appropriately but never breaks her eye contact with me.
Baby steps; Yesterday and today she began to turn her head and not only look at Kate, Natalie and Elaine, she engaged in conversation as she looked at them. This is a big improvement.
Today we saw Elaine for the first time since Corey could move her left fingers independently. She showed Elaine her “piano move” mimicking the simultaneous movement for the scales. Elaine was blown away! She had a great idea. She and Corey moved to the Patient Dining Room to play the electric piano. (another first…Corey allowed Elaine to take her with the assurance I would be following in a few minutes to meet them. She actually went with Elaine…and left me!)
We planned that I would be within earshot but not visible. Corey was having a great time playing the piano with both the left and right hand. After 15 minutes, she wanted to “show Mom”. Elaine came to the hallway (where I was waiting, listening and watching) and together we went in to play the piano. Corey looked at me and said, “look what I can play”. With Elaine’s help pointing to the keys and telling her when to strike, she played the HAPPY BIRTHDAY song with the left and right hand. I wish you could have seen her smile! After the applause and high five, she reminded me that her birthday is in 4 days, “I’m almost 20”.
Corey it’s going to be quite a celebration; In addition to your singing and playing the Birthday Song don’t forget…you can have cake and eat it too!
Today was an amazing gift, xoxo