Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ode to the Aides

It is a huge deal having someone come into your home, into your life, and especially work with your kid.

Lucky for us we have always had just the right people come at just the right time. 


But it's even trickier to make sure you move on when it's time. Tricky because it's hard to say good-bye to people who have become woven into your family, who have seen you (and your kids) and varying degrees on chaos, insanity and emotional stability. People who have been my support as much as they have Aaron's.

But almost Mary Poppins-style the winds inevitably change . Sometimes they are moving on to their own ambitions or dreams (or babies), and sometimes it's our family that is the catalyst for a change up. 

Always inevitable.
Always hard.

The winds are changing in the Bretzke house-hold once more.
Our window of relative "calm" time in the afternoon is evaporating along with McKye's apparent need to nap. Levi's mobility and total insistance that he be left out of nothing that his older brothers are doing, is also added to the general unravelling of our old afternoon routine.

We're looking forward to yet another heaven sent someone to come join us for a season. 
Someone for right now, just like they have always been.

Rochelle was our first home aid. She was so great. Some learning disabilities in her own family had made her empathetic, patient, compassionate and believing. She was easy to talk with, easy to let her in to our lives. She was with us during all of our adjustments to being a special needs family. She heard Aaron's first attempting sounds, and hours worth of his giggles. She saw me cry and it was just fine. (Who am I kidding who hasn't seem me cry?) She bravely stayed on with us as long as she dared during her first pregnancy (Aaron can be a bit physically demanding..again who am I kidding, he's exhausting! The kid would be thrown, swung, picked up and twirled 24/7 if he could find anyone with as much energy as him!) She know has a beautiful daughter of her own, but I like to think she got her "mother heart" all warmed up and practised at our house. It's been so long, but we still miss you Rochelle
A video from back in the day.
Aaron totally could match his colours no problem,
but he was conducting his own little trial, seeing
what we would do if he put it on the wrong one.
 I love his happy face when we cheer for him.

Trisha came next. I loved Trisha because she was real. I could say what I really thought with her. Professionals are always coming in to oversee Aaron's programming. Sometimes these suggestions are wonderful, intelligent, insightful, "thank-you so much, we'll defiantly try that" suggestions, and sometimes there a bit too much textbookish-ness and not enough Aaron -isity if you know what I mean).
On days when it was the later, Trisha could look at me and say, "Well that was dumb."
I got to tell Trisha things that I hated about Autism, and all it's cohorts, because she really looked at things and didn't gloss over, or try and candy coat things that just all around sucked. (I'm thinking maybe she was around during Aaron's poop-smearing phase). She was by no means a pessimist, she was happy and sensitive to the good in everyone. She just could break things down and wasn't just gonna go through the motions of things, just because. She truly cared about Aaron and his progress, and she helped me see I could follow my gut, and say what I thought would work and what I didn't. Trish wasn't with us even that long, before she went back to school, but she sure made an impression on the Bretzkes! Trisha, thanks for helping me find balance and truthfulness in all the well-intentioned, but mostly thanks for the courage I gleaned by mere association.

Then Aaron started school. (Scariest thing ever! I few of my anxiety described here). And at the risk of this post becoming totally unmanageable (home aids, branching to school aides--those specific to Aaron and those in the class--  to teachers,  to respite workers, speech therapists, behaviourists, occupational therapists, social workers...the list goes on and on..we are so blessed to have so many great people on Aaron's "team"!) I'm going to include his aides at his home away from home.

Christine set the standard so unbelievably high. For Aaron's first year and a half of pre-school he could not have been in better hands. She was consistant and kind, firm and fair (she was the mom I kept thinking I should be!) She was so vested in Aaron. She was so involved with what he did at school, she didn't just stand back and supervise. She took every opportunity to help him stretch and progress. She was so in there and intentional with everything. It would have been so easy to let him happily play on the carpet with his animal figurines, but Christine was there to make sure Aaron was striving for his potential. She took few head-bangs for her persistence, but luckily she was understanding of Aaron's"bad days". I would have been happy with her staying with him til Highschool graduation! But alas, she was too good and mid-year the school decided her expertise were needed with a more difficult student (darn Aaron be more difficult:) And we had to say goodbye.  Christine really did set the bar so very high, she showed us what being an educational assistance is all about.
Doesn't Aaron look grateful Christine?

Luckily the EA's out at Aaron's school are all amazing! 
Christina picked up the reigns and finished up the year of pre-school with Aaron and is now helping him transition into kindergarten.  And doing such a marvellous job. She has him sitting (oh there's a killer amount of sitting in kindergarten these days...back in my day all I remember is play, snack, nap, play!) which is no small feat, if school only saw how non-stop he is at home! Aaron keeps her running for sure, but she keeps up, and with sweetness guides Aaron along and sets him up for lots of little successes. She is observant and anticipates his needs, tossing him a fidget just before he starts getting overly-antsy. I can hear her voice calling "Aaron" probably the only person who says his name as many times as I do in a day! I know he looks to her, as his guardian and guide. He knows that she is there to help, and so do I. Knowing that her kindness and direction are there for Aaron each day, is what let's me smile and wave goodbye to him each morning. I can let him out of my care, because Christina, you care. And I'm so thankful you do.

Mean while back at teh ranch...ha ha there's a hprse picture to make the that transition even cheesier!
Laura. Have you seen Miracle Worker? The scene with the fork? The excruciating power-struggle between Anne and Hellen. Well we definitely saw some miracles while Laura was with us. Laura had had a stroke when she was young and although she very rarely talked about it, I think she felt a great deal of pain daily. She knew how to do hard things. She believed that Aaron could do hard things too, and she was just stubborn enough to make sure that Aaron knew it. Our therapy up until this point had been very play based, and driven by the things that motived Aaron, bubbles, tickles...from Aaron's point of view probably not that bad of a gig. Laura was the first of our more strict ABA therapists. Laura drilled Aaron. She was a master, trial after trial, collecting data, reinforcing, she was a pro. Her and Aaron had their own little bonding moments; her tickles under his knees and this funny little doggie sniff she did to send him into giggling fits. It was during Laura that Aaron learned to imitate, which led to soem sign, which led to him copying our mouths, which led to was verbalizations he has now. Because Laura did hundreds of "Arms up!" and "leg's together...legs apart...jump!" Aaron's mind clicked to the idea that he could watch other people and make his body do what they were doing (that is a big concept!) Once we got some sounds, Laura drilled em. The only way she could get him to say the short "e" sound (like in wet) was for him to growl it out like he was coughing something up. it was so cute how hard he would try. Thats what Laura did, she worked hard and she expected Aaron to work hard too. We'll always be thankful for that, Laura.

Deanna is actually our senior therapist, 

but she filled in doing direct hours with Aaron, and so is fully involved that we count her in the "trenches". Many people do this job on the way to their dream, this field is Deanna's dream. It's her passion. It's not just what she's good at, this stuff is in her blood! She can relate to parents, she can relate to staff, but most importantly she can relate to these kids. She analysis their behaviour, discovers their motives. She never takes things at face value, she truly believes that all behaviour has a reason, a cause, and that if we just look hard enough, with enough patience and a broad enough scope we can figure out what makes these kids tick (and what ticks them off!) She is so knowledgable, and while lots of it is her formal training and continuing education, it is amplified and validated by her time spent with kids in their homes. She gets it, because she's been there...she is here! While other choose to manage from behind office doors, she is with parents and kids doing what she does best. It is marvellous to watch someone who has a calling in life. Deanna calling is these kids. She respects them enough to try and understand them, even when they don't seem to make sense, or when others are happy writing things off as "random". She values their complexity. I'd almost say she reverences it. And because of that respect, that value, that reverence kids respond to her. They feel safe. They feel wanted. They feel worthy of the time and effort she takes to know them. Aaron loves Deanna for all of these reasons (and her cool car and long hair). She is so practical and so responsive, willing to "go there" with the kids. So much of these kids lives are told to them and dictated, Deanna lets them take the lead, and follows them, she stops and  listens, she waits and sees. 
in the "trenches"
And that's why we love Deanna.
So sad this is fuzzy!

And then there was Cara.

Oh boy, I don't know if I can write this one. Cara was quite simply pure sunshine. If you could bottle ya up some "Cara", it'd be in high demand! She is such a joy. She literally would come up our walk singing each day. Not humming a little tune. Singin! She reminded us Bretzke's to live! I don't think Cara ever came here just for Aaron (though she was good for him). She came for us all. Especially me. Therapy, and plugging away at programs meant to help a child develop, who's development is the very problem, can be exhausting and it's easy to start taking everything way to serious. Cara reminded us to find joy in it all. She reminded us to laugh: both together, and at ourselves. Eliza R Snow once said "Faith is energy. We must be energetic." Let me tell you, this woman has some energy! (Just talking about her makes me more energetic:) Cara's energy, to me, showed me she was also full of faith. Faith that everything would work out. Faith in herself. Faith in me. Faith in Aaron. Faith that mistakes happen and faith that things can be made right. Faith that there are no real tragedies because any experience can make us better if we so choose. (And there have been some crazy in her life...everyone she's ever met(including me) after hearing bits and pieces of her story too, have always said, "You should write a book!") She reminded me, by her very person, the meaning of strength and resilience and optimism no matter what. It was a lesson I needed. She was my everyday visual, my real-life object lesson. And I love her for it. It was so hard to accept that our time with her needed to end (don't worry I can't go very long at all without a little Cara so we'll for sure keep in touch). But she has her own dream she's chasing...gonna be the best darn nurse ever! How could anyone stay sick around her?!? She truly has a healing influence. We felt it. And Cara, we are grateful for it.

And she made me give in a get a lockable therapy cupboard  (which I should have done long ago, and I recommend to all parents, its' so nice to have some where to make treats or needing-supervision type toys inaccessible)
I love the picture above. Cara dosen't hold back. She just gives you love, all the way. 
And in the end you can't help but love her all the way back.

See we all love Cara. She was just part of the family.

And we'll love the next person. Because it's all playing out just the way it's suppose to.