Today was Matthews first day at his new Toddler Group.
This is a group for babies and toddlers with special needs. There were only 6 kids there, including Matthew, so already a much more intimate group for him than his previous Toddler Group (where there were 16-20 kids there).
The class is led by a Speech & Language Therapist, an Occupational Therapist and an Early Childhood Development Assistant, so instantly I felt like Matthew was in good hands.
The kids and their parents/ carers were all lovely and were full of kind words and advice, and it was nice to not have that feeling of guilt whenever Matthew acted up because they all understood.
Amongst the 5 other kids were a mixture of disabilities (I hate that word) ranging from Cerebral Palsy, Dysphagia (problems with swallowing food/ drink), Autism to Hypotonia (a muscular disease).
Matthew was born 4 months premature and so has certain developmental delays. However, as well as the delays he also has certain other sensory problems and “disabilities”:
✦He is affected by certain noises.
✦He doesn’t like be be touched or held (unless it’s his choice).
✦He is frightened and overwhelmed by large groups/ crowds.
✦He has a very high pain tolerance (will hit himself in the head and doesn’t react).
✦He’s very frantic when playing and doesn’t play with his toys in a constructive way.
✦He doesn’t speak any words (except dada) and grunts to communicate.
✦He puts everything he can pick up in his mouth.
I often convince myself that these issues aren’t important or that they don’t exist and this isn’t helpful to anyone. Let me just say though, it’s not because I’m in denial about it, it’s just that he’s such a gifted little boy in so many other ways that it’s easy to forget he has so many other struggles.
Anyway, the class went well. He had a mid-level meltdown for a good 20 minutes because the class all cheered after their first song (this is a big trigger for Matthew as my family will all attest to). He enjoyed the actual songs, but was anticipating a “Yayyy” after every song (which they deliberately didn’t do because it upset him) and had a great big outburst after each one.
He really enjoyed the second part of the class which was more of an independent play session, but again he didn’t play with the toys in a constructive manner, despite the therapists and development assistant encouraging him.
They assured me that he handled the first class very well and that they will work on helping him overcome and improve on some of the issues he has and hopefully he will be participating and at least enjoying the interactive part of the class in the next few weeks.
It’s the most hopeful I’ve felt in such a long time.