Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What's in a Brain?

The main topic of my post today will be regarding Samantha's language development. But before I talk about that, I want to give an update on my hip and leg. Overall I've been doing much better since I got the second injection. I still have moments, but things aren't as chronic as they used to be; by that I mean I don't feel something all day long in varying degrees but rather I feel normal and then have flare-ups. I love my new vehicle, even tho I have to keep adjusting the seat b/c Katrina is driving it too! I haven't had to use extra cushions except on our trip out east.

So now, what's in a brain? Do you realize how many steps are involved in processing language? I've always loved language, and was particularly awestruck when I took my linguistics class for my master's. God has created the most amazing thing, and even more, He's created us with an amazing brain to "get it" - and we acquire it so naturally at an early age.

But as we know, although this is the norm, there are deviations with kids who can't get it. Before I go into Samantha's case, I just have to say I have such an appreciation for all the research and science and trained professionals who deal with these issues in kids. Like St. Jude, they know their stuff and are really amazing.

Samantha has sensory processing disorder, auditory processing disorder, and probably an anxiety disorder as well, although that hasn't been officially diagnosed yet. Based on her age, her receptive and expressive language puts her highly at risk for
learning. On top of that, she has a memory problem, possibly from a condition at birth i.e. malnutrition, poor prenatal care, or whatever. So why is she functional at school at all, which she is? Because she's a borderline child that compensates using mostly visual cues, and she has the basic "ability" to learn. What does this mean?

It means she needs intervention NOW before she starts dropping off the charts academically. So far, school has been manageable. She's a year older than her classmates and although most tasks are challenging and she's gotten outside help from pull-out programs, she's been able to slowly progress. So, this summer we've done three things. We had her tutored twice a week, then started an intensive four day a week language therapy, and are also now taking her to a special reading class at ISU. Although all three have been helpful, I think the language therapy shows the most long term potential. Samantha has started speaking more naturally and age appropriately the last couple weeks. She doesn't hesitate so much to think of a word (which I end up supplying for her most of the time.)

All that to say, what's in a brain? Somehow these language experts have figured out a way to make the brain restructure itself so that a child who doesn't fit the norm becomes one who progresses more rapidly toward the norm. It's amazing. I don't know how they do it, but as I see promise, I'm glad we invested both time and money. If it does what I hope it will do, we'll be one step closer to the long term goal of not only getting through school but getting through life and connecting on a deeper level emotionally.