We have been truly blessed by the Infant Development Program (IDP) of El Dorado County. Another blessing, I believe, from being led to live in El Dorado Hills. We are just inside El Dorado County, instead of Sacramento County. We would still have had the services in another county, but I was told there are a lot more needs in Sacramento county, plus the actual people we were paired with were just amazing and they work for El Dorado county! The best thing about this program is that they came to our house! That meant we didn’t have to pack up everything and also I didn’t have to find a babysitter for Daniel and Michael. It was a big deal, since we were averaging an appointment a week at least.
Nathaniel was referred while he was still in the NICU, and soon after he came home services started. From then (September 2013) until now, Nathaniel has had occupational therapy twice a month. Our OT, Mary Beth, was more than wonderful. She knew what muscles he needed to strengthen and always had fun ways for Nathaniel to do it.
Here is Nathaniel on the wedge building core strength (I think). Mary Beth left this at our house for a few weeks so Nathaniel could work on it.
In the background of this picture is big exercise ball that she also used with Nathaniel to practice all sorts of things. He would sit and bounce on it and practice balancing. Another thing that stayed at our house for weeks at a time. In fact my big kids popped one of these and Mary Beth didn’t make a big deal out of it at all.
I really love how she embraced our whole family. Michael was always here for her visits, and she included him and even used him to help Nathaniel. If Michael does something, then Nathaniel wants to try it, so Mary Beth used that to get Nathaniel to try new things. Unlike many kids, Nathaniel does not like to touch new things. I specifically remember one time Mary Beth brought beans to play with. Nathaniel would not touch them. For 30 minutes Mary Beth patiently showed Nathaniel ways to play with the beans, and had Michael play with the beans. Finally Nathaniel started to play with the beans and we were ecstatic!
Here is Nathaniel about a year after that first time, playing with beans.
Recently she brought finger paint. Even though he was hesitant at first, Nathaniel did get his fingers in the paint. He has come such a long way with this sensory issue.
One time Mary Beth brought a big beach ball and this soft bat. He had the best time hitting the ball, not realizing he was exercising exactly what she wanted!
I truly believe that Mary Beth’s help is one of the reasons Nathaniel is doing so well.
In addition to OT, we also had a special ed teacher come twice a month. Sara came for a long time, until she had twins last fall. She taught him “ready, set, go”, which he still signs when he is going to do something. This toy that she brought, he absolutely loved. They let us keep the balls from it for a couple of weeks. Nathaniel held onto the balls a lot! See the picture above with the exercise ball in the background.
I remember the time she brought a drum and wanted Nathaniel to pound on it to make the lights flash. We were all so excited when he did it and loved it.
After Sara left, we had a speech pathologist come instead, Colleen. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of her, but she was also wonderful! She was just what we needed at that time. Nathaniel was really starting to sign, and so communication is something he needed to work on. It was obvious that Colleen knew what Nathaniel needed to learn and the order, and she brought activities for him to practice. Again, we used Michael to demonstrate. For the most part, Michael was so patient during these sessions. He is really so great with Nathaniel.
We were also blessed to have sign language teachers. There were several over the 3 years – Summer, Mary, Trish, DeAnna. For me it was helpful to have all those perspectives on ASL, and to learn different things from each. They were just so excited when Nathaniel signed something. And even from the start, Nathaniel was always very intent on watching them sign. For this last year, DeAnna came every week, at the same time as Mary Beth or Colleen. It was just so helpful to have her signing and teaching us how to sign.
It takes a special kind of person to work with kids with special needs. I am so grateful for these wonderful helpers that have been so patient with Nathaniel, and have loved him and rejoiced when he succeeds.
The program also has a play group once a week that we attended this past year. It was a great experience for Nathaniel, preparing him for preschool.
A huge thank you to the IDP of El Dorado County. Nathaniel would not be where he is today without them.