Early Intervention.

With Geoffrey’s diagnosis came all the Early intervention routines.

Firstly we attended Noah’s Ark in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. This entailed a 30 kilometre drive from the hills of the Yarra Valley to the venue where the playgroup was held. We enjoyed this, well I did anyway. We spent lots of time singing nursery rhymes and playing with our children. The kids got to play instruments in a circle and Katherine was able to attend as well as Geoffrey’s sibling.

We then broke up into individuals where we assisted our children to go through a range of exercises. The premise of this was that intellectually impaired children need to be taught skills that able children generally pick up by observation of their parents and other significant adults role modeling.

The playgroup was once per week and it was something that we looked forward to each week. I think that this gave me an avenue as a mum to get out and meet other parents. I also interacted with the therapists that ran the play group and assisted the group leader. They offered support as well as helping us to teach our children. Because Katherine was so young when we started, at times I needed to feed her. I felt embarrassed about breast feeding in public and there was no room that I could go to have privacy whilst I did this, so I very quickly put her on formula. I think also my own stress levels and demands on my time and energy made bottle feeding so much easier for me. From this experience I find it difficult to hear others strong opinions on Breast feeding Vs Bottle Feeding. It’s my own personal experience that it is the mother’s choice and what suits her, her child and also her circumstances at the given time.

We then also went to the local special school that ran an early intervention program on a 1-1 basis. This was time that Geoffrey and his therapist had together where his therapist taught Geoffrey and exposed him to different tastes, sounds, textures and environments. At first they asked me to stay with him because he was so young, but as they got to know him and Geoffrey became comfortable with the environment, I was asked to leave and have some time to myself. It was difficult though, because I had no girlfriends with whom I could meet, and I also had Katherine with me. We would often go to the local shopping centre and window shop, because being on the sole parents pension, I could little afford any luxuries.

As Geoffrey grew older,  he joined a group program at the special school where they emulated a kinder environment… teaching the kids skills that they would need as they entered Kinder. This group ran twice a week. On top of that, we attended a local playgroup in our community. That meant that I was out four out of five days, and made my life busy as a mother of the disabled kid. I was never home and the petrol costs that I had to pay out to drive Geoffrey to all these programs was very expensive. As such, I often left myself to last. This is where I put on my weight. I was very tired at the end of the week, and what I struggled with most, was people assuming that I would not like to go out because it would be too difficult for me. The invitations were never extended to me. I got really angry because I thought etiquette would allow me to either accept the invitation or decline it as necessary.

Geoffrey enjoyed going to all these programs. He joined in and played alongside all the other little kids. Because he had associated autism, I had to seek out cuddles and eye contact but when he did connect, he did it with such affection. With the people whom he loved and knew well, he was very affectionate but with new or unknown people was very shy and would hide behind me or his Nanna.

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