Friday, August 14, 2020

Learning Over the Longest Summer Ever

The posts on this blog this summer have been few and spaced out. My computer hasn't been broken. I have simply been busy. 

I have been care giving since mid-March virtually nonstop. Remote learning for my kids took up all of our energy for the first few months. In May, I took off my temporary teacher, OT, and PT hats with great jubilation. I focused on being the mom (and sometimes nurse) again. 

In summers' past, I have spent three days working outside the home. Babysitters, my mom, and my sister-in-law all watched my kids while I was at work. Sometimes, the kids would be watched a few extra hours while I ran errands or spent time alone in the house to decompress. The kids enjoyed socializing with other people, swimming with their cousins, and being outside of the house. This year has been nothing like that. 

During this summer, I worked at home, and the work was much less than normal. My husband has been home the majority of this time too. We have shared the child-rearing during the day. There hasn't been much of a need for outside help. We have tried to keep our socializing circle small due to all the virus concerns given Jaycee's health issues. We have ventured outside of our home for shopping trips, camping, and a few other activities; we haven't locked ourselves away completely. For all of us, this summer has been much different.

All of the extra togetherness has allowed us to have the time, patience, and opportunities to teach Jaycee, our 14 year old daughter with Down syndrome and limited speech, new skills. I'm grateful for the things that have developed in Jaycee. Some of these are small things, but they are big things to us.

Here are some things that Jaycee has learned to do over this long summer:

1. Shucking corn.
My parents and brother all work together on the family farm. Sweet corn is one of those foods that we eat often while it is available. This summer, Jaycee was taught the quite useful skill of shucking corn. My family is most certainly proud. 

2. Write and read family names.
Jaycee loves to write names of people she loves. She has been writing mom, dad, and the names of a few other beloved people in her life prior to the shutdown. This summer, we have had time to practice other names. She can read all 7 names of her cousins now and can write some of them fairly well. The letter "S" sure is tricky for Jaycee, but it is getting better. I'm glad she enjoys this activity because it is certainly helpful for her fine motor. 

3. Use a vacuum.
Off and on over the years, Jaycee has unsuccessfully used a vacuum. She didn't have the stamina or muscle strength to push it. Now, Jaycee can help vacuum some of the rooms in the house before needing to rest. She doesn't yet understand the idea of how to vacuum an entire room without skipping a spot, but that will come with more practice. I am excited that both of my kids can vacuum their own rooms now! 

4. Make a bed. 
Jaycee has become my best helper when it is time to change bed sheets. Jaycee will take one side of the bed and I another one. We get those sheets and blankets off and on in no time. Pillow cases are giving Jaycee some trouble, so I generally do that. Jaycee places the pillows on the bed for me. We have a great system down. I love that she can help with this chore that goes much easier with an assistant. 

5. Use the brakes on her trike. 
Jaycee was gifted this trike last year. We live on top of a hill and on a road with no sidewalks. We aren't able to use the trike often. However, Jaycee got several opportunities to ride this summer and was pedaling her trike better than ever. It is hard for her to pedal, steer, and brake at the same time. We often walk (or run) next to her and help her steer or brake. Something clicked recently, and she started using her brakes by herself. This makes the trike riding much safer! She even steered the trike a few times on her own, which amazed us. I hope by next summer she is independent with the bike. Goals! (She likes to put her two favorite baby dolls in the basket for a ride too.)

6. Prepare strawberries. 
This summer I have discovered that both of my children love strawberries. Jaycee can now cut off the green stem, wash the strawberries, cut them up (in various sizes), sprinkle on the no calorie sugar, and stir it all up with minimal verbal instructions from me. I love to have her help in the kitchen, and I am thrilled to see her "make" something for the meal. 

7. Play new games. 
We have had numerous games nights at the house during the summer. Jaycee has always understood and enjoyed Candy Land and Sorry. Once she finds a favorite, it's hard to convince her to try something new. My mom discovered she loves Yahtzee. Jaycee shakes and rolls the dice like a champ. Someone keeps score for her and lets her know when she's done something good. She celebrates those successes. With some help, we've played many rounds of Skip-Bo, but card games are much harder for her to follow. The game of Life and Monopoly Jr. have also went over well. Whenever we tell Jaycee that she's won, she struts around the room saying, "Jaycee wins!" She demands we all congratulate her. I pretty much do the same thing when I win too! 

8. Fold laundry.
Jaycee has been hanging up her clothes and putting them away for some time now. This summer, I have taught both of my kids how to fold the laundry. Neither of them like it, but I make it clear that I don't like this never-ending task either! Jaycee is very good at folding washcloths, small towels, shorts, and underwear. For now, I'm sticking with the things she is good at because those happen to be the items I dislike folding the most. She's been introduced to the washer and dryer but it's a few too many steps to understand right now. 

Despite her disabilities, Jaycee continues to learn and make progress in life. Her gains may seem small, but anything that makes her more independent is a huge deal. 

I am grateful for this long summer and for the opportunities it has given. It is very easy for me to jump in and do things for Jaycee. It is often quicker and less frustrating in the moment, but it doesn't help in the long run. More time at home has given us ample opportunities to be patient with each other and have the repetition needed to learn a new skill. I am thankful that our long summer has allowed Jaycee to learn these things (and more not listed). 
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