Monday, August 19, 2013

A little help?

  I've mentioned on here we are VERY blessed to have a free clinic to be able to take Levi to for speech therapy over the past year. I'm too lazy to count it up ;), but we've been seeing Paul and Korey for probably 40 weeks and there are some weeks we've gone for as many as four times in a week. These sessions are valued at $100 each, so even if we just averaged 1.5 visits per week, we've saved an estimated $6000 so far in speech therapy for Levi. Due to the fact that very few insurances will cover the intensive speech therapy needed for kids with Apraxia, there are many, many other families across the country getting second jobs, downsizing their homes, and making huge financial cuts in order to afford their child's much needed speech therapy. Our insurance only will cover 20 visits per year, so without the service provided by Rite Care, we would be another one of those families trying hard to find a way make the payments.
Levi working with Paul at Rite Care.
  Knowing that we've been given so much, we have been working to find ways to give back to the clinic. As a part of that goal, we'd like to invite you to support Levi and Rite Care as they help Levi and many other kids like him learn to speak. There are two opportunities we would be humbled for you to consider giving to: 1) To support Team Levi in the Walk Rite for Rite Care on September 22nd. Whether you can actually come and walk with us, or just send a donation on behalf of Levi, here is the link for all of the information (and a VERY adorable picture). 2) Rite Care, being a non-profit, has a rather slim selection of toys to use in therapy. Because toys are so motivating and such a key part of each therapy session, they have sent me a list of toys that would be helpful (per my request). If you would like to help purchase a toy from this list for Rite Care OR already own the toy and would be willing to donate it (used is fine!), then please let me know. If you would like to purchase a toy to donate, please just have it sent to our house (let me know if you  need our address) and I will drop it off to the clinic for you. If you are donating a used toy, let me know and I can arrange a way to get it from you and deliver it to them.

Thank you so much for considering these opportunities! Whether or not you are able to give, we appreciate all of the support we've received from so many over the last year as we've been on this journey with him.

Levi turned three!

  I have much to blog about, but first things first, I wanted a separate post to celebrate our little big guy. On July 14th Levi turned three!  It was super fun celebrating him and his precious life these last three years. They've gone by fast and slow at the same time, but either way we couldn't imagine life without his sweet existence.
    I had mixed feelings about him growing older for a few different reasons (he's my BABY!), but my heart especially had a hard time since I feel like the gap has widened now between him and his peers. At three, people expect you to speak and to understand you and since he cannot do that, it's hard. We have to work extra hard to keep him from shutting down when others talk to him, but he is up for the challenge.
Showing off daddy's medal from the state games.

One big party to celebrate all the spring/summer birthday cousins. There are so many of us, we had to party in the garage. :)

He loves dinosaurs!

The zoo never gets old.

"Fishing" at the farmer's market.

We love you sweetheart!! Praising God for your precious life. :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Is Here!

Summer arrived exactly two weeks ago for us and we are already making a large amount of memories!  Here are some of the pictures from the last month to prove it.

My garage sale helper. Never before has there been a cuter bite taken from a bagel.

And then this also happened during the garage sale... Still cute, but messy.

Jonah brought home his school journal and this was in it. "My favorite person in the world is God. -He's the best. -He's perfect -He's amazing -He's on the good side" So proud of this boy and a successful first grade year. We so love our sweetheart.

A bird, not an eagle like it would seem, too up residence in our grill for a few days. The grill is now in the garage.

Two boys in a barbie jeep. Not too cool for it.

Princess Abby had her adenoids removed and was a champ! Hoping this keeps her from getting so many of those yucky sinus infections.

We got a face-painting kit and had to try it out. It's a hit.

We went to the Lauritzen Gardens (you may remember such a place from our wedding reception exactly nine years ago today!) and saw the lego displays intermingled with the vegetation. It was beautiful!


Little Miss graduated preschool and will be off to Kindergarten next year. And she is R-E-A-D-Y. Just disappointed it's so far away from now. :)

This picture melts my heart.

Mother's Day. Up here, Levi!

Also Mother's Day. They just wanted to serve me all day. So sweet. I'll take it!

The tulips have come and gone, but they were the sign that Spring was finally here!

And it's hard to believe, but Brian and I have been married nine years today. Not too long until the big double digits!  I love him more everyday and can't imagine anyone more perfect to share this crazy journey with. Love you, Brian!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Lesson in Patience

If I was forced to name my biggest weakness, I'm almost certain that after painfully listing out endless issues of mine... and then listing out a few more, I would eventually land on patience. It is not my strong suit. We have DVR and fast forwarding through the commercials takes too long for me. I don't like things that slow me down on my journey (even if that journey in the moment means watching Shark Tank) and that is definitely not an attribute, or lack there of, that I am pleased with. Not only am I not good at it, I'm so not good at it, I'm too impatient to even make baby steps in that direction.

Insert God and his irony. As Levi is now a little over two months away from turning three, it is becoming clearer and clearer that we have a very long road ahead of us, and little to show for the last nine months of speech therapy, six of which have included intense speech therapy, four times a week. Today, Levi has maybe about ten words that he uses spontaneously, and when I say ten words, I mean he may say one of those words- such as "moooooo" (for move) as he pushes you to move- maybe once in a week. And not only that, but it a partial word, or approximation as they call it in the speech world- not even the correct word. He can get to more sounds at this point than he could six months ago, such as /s/ and /n/. He can also do some new combos, such as "puppy" "baby" "bubble" "mommy", but all of these things can only be done with prompting and usually a very concentrated effort by him.

Things are moving at slower than a snails pace. No way did I think we would have so little progress in such a long period of time. And yet, I am so proud of Levi and how hard he works. He spends two hours in the car each week driving to and from speech therapy, and three and a half hours each week working. He tries so hard to move his little lips and tongue in the way he needs to, and even spends a decent amount of the time failing, yet almost never complaining. Slowly over the last year, he has learned that working on speech is just a part of the way of life for him. I am so proud of him for every little step he has and hasn't made.

So, I've decided to quit fighting the rush rush rush of wanting to speed through "fixing" Apraxia for Levi, and allow God to refine me in the area of waiting. And waiting patiently. With hope and with peace. Levi is such a bursting ball of joy and giggles and fun, he is already making this slow journey enjoyable with his insane cuteness and bubbly attitude. While I will always long for the day when I will finally hear him call Brian "daddy" or be able to understand the story he's telling me, I will wait with joy. Thankful for the present time that we are in, even if it isn't as I would have planned.

UPDATES:  Levi's device was covered 100% by insurance (Praise God!!) and should be arriving any day now. Yippee!  Also, Levi had an appointment with the Developmental Pediatrician this week and while we didn't really learn anything new, I Levi does officially now have the diagnosis of Apraxia. The Dr. said the diagnosis really is good and bad. Good in his case that there are no cognitive issues, Autism, or other physical disabilities, but bad in that there is a long, intensive road ahead in regards to speech. He also was retested within the school speech program, and is on par for his age for receptive language (another huge praise as being unable to speak can often really hurt receptive language also), but at a 15-18 month level in regards to speech. Nothing surprising there.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Test Run

Levi's trial device arrived! We have enjoyed working with it the past few days and while it will take some time to fully get used to, he is picking it up very quickly. In this video, we had really been doing the puzzle for maybe 10 minutes and he had never seen the puzzle menu before on his device and was already using it. Smart cookie!  Notice too when I ask him his name and was at the home menu, he knew right where to go.  We have made very slow progress with sounds, but he can say "yeah" when he is looking at me to get a cue of how to form his mouth. He also was mumbling his no, which sounds like "oh" for him, but when I asked him to try harder it sounded much clearer. It's such hard work for him to make the sounds he wants. I don't blame him for getting lazy with it. He's allowed to be two, Apraxia or not. (Please try and ignore my voice.... ugh)


Here's a look at the device. It's about the size of an ipad mini. There is a bluetooth speaker mounted on the back.

Here is the first menu you see, or the "home" menu. 

When you tap chat, it takes you to these common conversational phrases. He tapped "name" to say his name.

If he taps "I want" it takes him here, where he can choose what he wants next.

This is the "to play" menu

This is the "cars" menu. I added the "Mater" button, since that is his favorite toy car that we have. He can tap two buttons to start pairing words together, such as "car crash" and "Mater jump". He should be pairing words together and forming sentences at his age, but since he can't speak, he is very behind in this. A device can aid him in building this language skill even when his mouth can't keep up.

This is the "puzzle" menu he was using in the video.

This is the "things" menu, which we will add into use over time. It helps provide words that he may want randomly, if he's hurt, wants his socks, or to wash his hands.

I'm excited to use this menu tomorrow so he can tell me what he wants to see at the zoo!! He's never been able to do that before. I'm curious to see what he decides.

So that's the basics of it. We have given the OK to go ahead and start the process of getting this ordered, but I'm not sure if they'll be able to do that until we return the device. Oh, and another great story about it: On Sunday, I was making cookies and Levi was whining for something when he walked into the kitchen. At first I thought it was chocolate chips, which is wasn't. Then I thought it was Mater, which he threw. I decided to give Levi the device to see if that would help, and he quickly tapped right through the menus saying "I want" "To eat" (then went into the snack sub menu) and chose "cookie". THAT is what we're hoping for more and more of!!

P.S. (Toby, plug your ears) Abby lost another tooth!  The one just to the left of her middle one that she lost. She's got a top one that's barely wiggly now, but she's getting to work on it. She likes loosing these teeth.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Durable Medical Equipment

I am happy to say that we have had a rebound from last week's discouragement!  Saturday we had our first get together with other families with Apraxia in the area and it went really well.  There were members of five families there and while it was a bit crazy with the kids climbing all over the giant tunnel gym, it was so helpful for the parents to chat and compare treatments and progress. One of the moms said it was like a counseling session. :) We plan on getting together again soon!

Yesterday was a very big day for us!  Levi had his usual speech therapy appointment at Munroe Meyer and then right after it was his evaluation for an augmentative device. At first we sort of talked about what my observed concerns and needs were for him, and then we went into a room with toys and devices. The first thing they did was put a device on the table and ask him what he wanted to do. It literally took him no time to get things down. He tapped right on to the cars and they said "Oh, cars? OK! They are right here!" They went on doing a series of things like that, asking him questions and guiding him through the device to respond. Before we knew it, they were asking him "What do you want to do?" and he was tapping things like "car crash" and crashing the car into a block or "crash horse" and crashing the car into a toy horse. There was a monster on the hood of the truck and the specialist added a button for it since he was pointing to the monster so much. I sat across the table and it took everything I had not to start crying. He looked SO HAPPY. The specialist actually mentioned that when Levi tapped and 'said' "I want to play" he looked up with a face so happy and looking like 'I just said that!!'. It was so sweet. Best of all, he was mimicking whatever word he tapped and heard the device say. He actually said "bo" for blow, which is a sound that we had just literally spent a half hour trying to get out of him in speech therapy, but hadn't heard. Not only did he do amazing with the device and catch on with the communication assistance it provided very quickly, but it also was encouraging sounds and word approximations out of him beyond what I ever could of hoped. So, in a word, it went amazing! Levi tried out three different devices and did very well with all of them, but I settled on the one I felt was the best size, light weight, and made in Nebraska, which may save us some hassle. I hope to have pictures soon, but it essentially looks and works like and ipad mini with speakers mounted on the back and a handle on top.

The not as exciting news is that it will most likely be a bit of a battle to get insurance to come through on this. While they should approve it and cover it, they will most likely deny the prior authorization that they require and we will need to appeal, perhaps a few times. There also may be a battle to get the manufacturer considered "in network" for insurance. In theory they should be able to make it happen, but insurance companies can be.... interesting... to work with, and I'm not holding my breath. If it is not considered in network, we will need to cover 20% of the cost. Seeing they way Levi interacted with it, however, we would find a way to pay for it, whatever the cost. It is so exciting! Starting next week we should be able to get a two week trial of the device and then hopefully have our own with the next month or so, depending on how long things go with insurance. With insurance, the device is actually coded under "Durable Medical Equipment", the same categories as wheelchairs and other similar items. It is an odd feeling having a child need such a thing, however we still have so much hope that he will overcome this, perhaps faster than we could ever imagine, and I know that his need of it will be temporary. For the meantime, I'm so thankful that we have it as a tool to help him!  I can't wait to see him communicate in a new way I've never seen!

In other news..... Abby lost her first tooth! It was very exciting and the tooth fairy came, even though the tooth accidentally went down the garbage disposal. Whoops! Abby claims she was a topic of discussion at preschool. Tooth loss envy. #fiveyearoldproblems Our little girl is growing up!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Keeping it Real

    If you know me very well, hopefully you consider me to be someone who keeps things real. I don't mean that in a prideful way, but in more of a "here I am, take me or leave me" kind of way. An example, I now have a very lovely scar on the right side of my head/neck that is rather exposed when I wear my hair in a ponytail. I don't like it and I wish it was much less prominent than it is, but I don't have the time, energy or care to cover it and pretend like the surgery never happened. It did, I have a scar, and take it or leave it this is my neck now. (Scarfs do come in handy when I'm having moments of feeling self-conscious, however). So, on that note, things have been harder here with Levi lately, particularly for me, and I'd like to ask for some prayer if you happen to think of us. I posted a video a few weeks ago of him pointing out the window and telling me a story that I never did figure out. Well, this is pretty much a daily occurrence here lately. I can't tell you how hard it is to be a mom and have a child so desperately trying to communicate something to you and feel like you of all people should be able to understand what he's saying, but not be able to. He tells me stories, comes and asks for things, tells me jokes, but it all is done using one or two vowel sounds. He knows exactly what he's saying, but his mouth isn't able to form the words. It's heartbreaking, really. Particularly as his mom. So, if you think of it, pray for me and us in this area.
    As things have gotten harder with him, I have gotten more concerned and am becoming more aggressive with how to help him. After some resistance that I don't feel it's probably helpful to go into detail about, I have finally found a path to have Levi evaluated for an augmentative communication device. The hospital that we take him to twice a week for therapy agreed that it would be very helpful for him to have. This does not mean that we are giving up with him speaking, but more accepting the reality that there is a long road ahead of us. There are a few key benefits of him having the device. 1) It will keep him communicating. I really am afraid of Levi withdrawing more and more out of frustration from not being understand. When no one understands you, soon enough we all would quit trying. Having him be able to communicate in a way that he is understood would be so amazing for him. It brings me to tears to think of all the things he has in there to say that I've never heard! I can't wait to get to know Levi in a whole new way!!! 2) He will be able to hear the sounds of the things he's saying. There are some sounds he knows that doesn't use, and I'm hoping and praying that by using a device to say "dada" he himself with remember, oh, I could say that! and use the sounds he has. Speaking is very hard for him, so I think he's gotten a bit lazy from using sounds that he can do just because of the challenge. Hopefully when he sees the power that these words will have for him, he will be more motivated to try harder. 3) The outside world will be able to understand him. People aren't really sure what to do with Levi. He talks to people all of the time, but they either end up looking to me, or get embarrassed and turn away, or tell him they're sorry, they just don't understand him. I'm hoping this will keep him interacting with the world and keep people interacting back with him! (On a side note, if you are one of these people in this situation, talk back to him. If he's pointing at a picture, name and discuss what he's looking at. If he's pointing out the window, discuss back what you see. If he seems like he's asking for help, ask him to show you what he wants. I know it's a bit awkward sometimes, but hopefully knowing how to respond will make it less awkward.) Praise God, we have found out that our insurance will cover a device for him 100% (they can cost up to $7000!) and this coming Monday he will be able to play with some of the options out there and hopefully we can get a feel for which direction to go. There are literally dozens of devices to choose from, so praying the right one for him becomes obvious!  I will explain more about the device once we have one chosen.
I cannot look at this picture without laughing. :)
    A few other things I'm working towards doing for us is getting us as a family into a community where we are able to relate. About a month ago I started calling around to try and connect with people in the area who also had Apraxic kids. After a week of phone calls calling the national Apraxia association, local special education non-profits, school district case workers, and asking speech therapists, I came out with zero contacts in our area. The only person who knew of anyone in our area with anything close to Apraxia is his speech therapist at the hospital, but he knew of no group or community to become involved in. However, a few weeks ago I was able to track down a national Apraxia social group on facebook and through that, connect with a few parents in the area. It was amazing! We are actually going to get together this Saturday night with all of our kids and I am so excited to be able to interact with other families on a similar road, to compare notes and be able to see other kids with Apraxia in action. I am even more excited for Levi to be able to go up and "talk" to these other kids and not feel out of place. Perhaps he will even feel understood.
   Ok, so, thus endeth my blog counseling session. I feel like it's important to say, not only for me to be able to look back on, but also for the other people out there who maybe stumble upon this and are in a similar situation. Hopefully it's also helpful for those who just care and love our family and are looking for specific ways to pray. We appreciate your prayers and support! This road isn't the easiest, but Levi is so very worth it!