Looking for the Helpers

We’re now through our first six weeks of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and Olive seems to really be enjoying having the therapists stop by the house every day to play with her. The door bell rings at noon and she comes running for the door squealing, “It’s Ms. Gabby” or “Ms. Denyse! Ms. Denyse is here!”

I am so thankful to have such wonderful therapists working one-on-one with her and I am so happy that we had an early diagnosis so she is receiving this help before she begins a K-12 program.

However, it does present an interesting dynamic and has required an adjustment on my part. Having someone in your home every day that isn’t family and not quite a friend (in the sense that they’re there to provide a service) is a little awkward. Imagine if your child’s teacher came to your house every day to work with your kids. While it would be wonderful to have such attention showered on your child, it would feel strange to have what you would consider an outside entity in your home on a daily basis. It’s not a bad thing, but requires getting used to. The first week I kept the house immaculate. The kitchen was clean and the sink was empty, floors were washed, the couch cushions were laundered, the table was empty, and wiped down and all dog poop was picked up.

By week three, I was constantly apologizing for the state of my home. “Oh, sorry, we went to the park this morning so there wasn’t any time to clean!” (Also, I decided drinking a second cup of coffee and talking to friends on Facebook was really more important this morning.) There’s a sheen of dog drool on most of the couch, the only dishes that are clean are the ones that were dishwasher safe, you can’t see the kitchen counter, the floors were mopped three days ago, there are veritable land mines littering our back yard, and it looks like Toys R Us projectile vomited in my living room. I understand that these are people who I’m sure are just as imperfect as I am and see loads of houses that are *hopefully* in worse shape than mine, but from what I can tell the therapists I have worked with so far, either in ABA or in speech or occupational therapy tend to be on the younger side and don’t have children of their own. Its one thing to work with children every day and realize that their parents have a lot on their plate, but to come into someone’s home and see the chaos first hand is another. I know I’m a hot mess, but I hide it fairly well in public. My home is supposed to be my private space to let my freak flag fly. Walk around in no pants, take off my bra, binge watch Shameless on Netflix (when the kids are sleeping of course), and eat crap straight out of the bag/carton/box. Basically, when I’m home, I need to not have to pretend like I have my shit together. I just don’t feel comfortable doing that anymore. I still constantly feel like I’m readying for company (or failing to do so). Plus, the contract didn’t explicitly say this, but I think its implied I’m supposed to wear pants during sessions.

Blue presents an interesting element to this new schedule as well. For logistical and liability reasons, I can’t have him in the house with us during sessions so he stays outside. He’s not aggressive normally and I’m not concerned about him biting them, but he becomes very excited when we have guests in the home and tends to jump and mouth (a habit we’ve tried and failed to break, even with training). I can’t run the risk that when my 160 pound dog jumps on my 125 pound speech therapist she will fall and hurt her back or twist her knee. Also, no one wants to constantly wipe the drool from their crotchal region every ten minutes while they’re at work. I could crate him, but if he’s crated while company is over he barks like Kujo non-stop until he’s let out. I can’t stand it for more than five minutes, let alone three hours. My solution has been to keep him in the house with us right up until session and then putting him in the back yard just until it ends. With temperatures being 90 degrees + the last couple weeks, we’ve had to be creative. We’ve planned some outings when possible and the therapist has conducted parts of the session in Olive’s bedroom so Blue and I can hang out inside the living room and he can get a break from the heat. This backfired, when one of the therapists forgot that he was in the living room and she came back to get her water and clipboard. Blue charged her and thoroughly slimed her yoga pants trying to sniff her and then upon deciding that she was friendly, tucked his head between her legs and tried to carry her back into the living room with him. She finally understands why I keep Blue outside during our sessions.

The other aspect that makes life more challenging given that my three year old has a busier schedule than I do these days is that now when something comes up that makes it necessary for us to cancel or reschedule something, I feel like Olive’s personal assistant. For example, last week our air conditioner broke (of course while Matt is gone). So in between passing out snacks and putting Twice Upon a Christmas on for the third time (in July no mind you), I was both yelping AC repair places and leaving messages with them and then texting her ABA therapists to let them know of our predicament and would they be able to meet us at Play Town for session instead of our house? And then the kids and I were taking turns passing colds around this last week and I had decided the night before that we were all just a little too sick for therapy. So I had to call or text five different therapists the next morning to make sure to let them know in enough notice to make sure we wouldn’t be charged for our sessions. I never had to jump through this many hoops when I had to call into work sick when I was actually employed.

This is our life now and although I grumble, its just because I’m a crotchety old woman at heart. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Olive is getting the care she needs; care I couldn’t provide without much needed help. And the silver lining is that I have actual adult company during the day (although I try to stay out of their way) and someone to keep Olive busy so I can focus more on other things if only for a couple hours during the day. Whenever I feel myself resisting this new normal, I try to remind myself what Mr. Rogers would say:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” — Fred Rogers