So we had made it to the shelter, got semi settled in and were excited to start our new life! We were not only out of the King Salmon area, having finally escaped an abusive, isolating depressing relationship but also we were out of the bush, back on the road system, in an area that would be able to offer more support and services for all of us.
Here we are 30 minutes outside of Anchorage, depending on traffic and weather of course, now I just had to figure out how and where to start over.
There were so many things to do, so many questions without answers. My friend came and picked us up and took us to go get car seats and a new cell phone. Unfortunately the shelter did not have internet access so I wasn’t able to utilize the internet there.
It was now Friday our first full day in our new area and I had carseats for the girls and a phone. We did some grocery shopping and headed back to the shelter. I was anxious to get everything done at once but that wasn’t going to happen.
I spent that first weekend trying to not only help the girls settle in but also trying not to go stir crazy because I was so motivated to get things moving with our new life but yet it was the weekend and everything was closed.
The next weeks were filled with finding and utilizing resources. I contacted the headstart and filled out an application for Cece anxious to get her back in school. I met with the headstart staff and the school district special ed coordinator. The headstart didn’t feel that they could meet all of Cece’s special needs so the school district wanted to enroll her in the special ed preschool.
Cecelia had been on the waiting list for a nine appointment evaluation with a Dr. in Anchorage for nearly a year. Her appointment wasn’t even scheduled until May 2011. The school district told me to contact the Infant Learning Program. I called them and asked for an assessment of not only Cecelia but also Glenna. I was worried that Glenna might start regressing and losing her skills like Cecelia had done and wanted to keep a close eye on her. When the ILP came to the shelter to do their assessments they told me that they had their own doctor who could evaluate Cecelia and that he would be up from the lower 48 that next week. They scheduled her an appointment to see him.
Glenna was pretty much right on target where she should be other than the fact that she wasn’t walking yet. They decided with her sister’s history that they would keep a close eye on her.
Cecelia went to her appointment with the ILP doctor that next week and he diagnosed her with PDD-NOS with Complex Emotional Trauma. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified is like an umbrella diagnosis that Autism falls under. He referred Cecelia for a Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy evaluation at one of the local providers.
I called them and scheduled her evaluations. We went there and they evaluated her for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. I specifically remember the speech evaluation. I remember the SLP asking me towards the end of the appointment what it was that I WANTED Cecelia to get from speech therapy. I started crying when I told her I just wanted to be able to have a conversation with my daughter. I wanted her to be able to tell me her wants, needs, hurts, and happiness. I wanted to hear her say Mom and I love you! I just wanted to be able to talk to my daughter and have her talk to me. It was a very hard appointment.
On I believe it was March 10th Cecelia started going to the Special Ed. Preschool in the afternoon class. With her there were nine students total in her class with three teachers. Cece adjusted well to her new school. The school bus would come and pick her up at the shelter and then bring her back.
I got the evaluation reports back from the OT, PT and SLP. I cried and cried. It was so unbelievable hard to read them. Being a writer seeing words in black and white about Cecelia was very hard to digest. Sentences like…
Cecelia displays severe impairments in receptive language. Expressive language is severly impaired. Cecelia often speaks within activities, however the words are unintelligible and the purpose unclear. Gross motor age equivalent: Stationary = 18 months; Locomotion = 23 months; Object Manipulation = 13 months.
Those are not easy words to read, and those are just a minute sampling of what the 10+ pages I received said. There was one section that I read and then googled words and still didn’t have any idea what it said. It read: Imbalance of core muscle groups (excessive trunk/limb flexion with lack of head/trunk/limb extension movement patterns), BLE malalignment, delayed gross motor development, sensory modulation dysfunction (high arousal level; seeking vestibular and tactile sensory input; frequently avoiding auditory input). I still don’t think I understand that completely but I have a general understanding.
So she had her evaluations and the dr. signed off on her needing therapy. She now goes to therapy every week. Mondays and Wednesdays she receives 30 minutes of speech therapy, 1 hour of physical therapy and 1 hour of occupational therapy. Tuesdays she receives an hour of occupational therapy and 30 minutes of speech therapy. We travel by cab to therapy, packing up the girls, carseats and stroller. While Cece is in therapy Glenna and I find ways to amuse ourselves. We quit trying to join Cece in therapy because we are just too much of a distraction and Cece thinks that if Mommy is in the room then she can not stay on task and whine to leave. But if we aren’t in the room then she stays on task and does well.
So on Mondays Glenna and I have a standing date. A mother/daughter breakfast at a wonderful lil family restuarant. Glenna has gotten this whole routine down and loves having mommy time. After breakfast, weather permitting, we walk around town. Go to park, go walk by the river, go to the Wednesday market, the library etc. Then it back to therapy to wait for Cece to finish.
So we are still at the shelter. Life in a DV shelter is anything but easy. Frankly, communal living sucks!! Don’t get me wrong I will forever be thankful and continue to advocate and support the need for DV shelters but having lived in one for nearly 5 months was hard. The shelter we were in could house 32 people. The most that were ever in residence while we were there was 30. Thirty people, mothers and children, sharing a living space.
We were all there obviously needing shelter from domestic violence. Women and children would come in some with visible bruises other with not visible signs of abuse. It hurt my heart to see women come in with black eyes and bruises but what was worse was when children, little tiny preschoolers and toddlers and babies, would come in with bruises and black eyes. The first few days in a dv shelter are hard, you feel vulnerable, yet safe. You don’t know exactly what to expect and you are ashamed to have to be there.
Emotions swelled, tempers flared, children fought but through it all we were all united by one simple fact…we were all sisters, survivors of domestic violence. The advocates were available 24/7 and offered shoulders to cry on, support, advice, resources and just an ear to listen. At times they even had to act as moderators between clients that were having issues.
Ok I am going to stop here and will continue on in part 9 as this one seems to be getting lengthy 🙂
to be continued….