We had moved into a new house, one with a large yard, because 4 children do not fit well into a 2-bedroom apartment. In moving, we had crossed county lines, so I gathered up all my documentation, and started making phone calls.
The first place I called, I found in the phone book. It seemed that this county had a self-referral speech therapy program called SmallTalk. I called the number and spoke with the SLP, explaining what was going on with my daughter. I also explained that transportation was difficult now (as I had moved out of the city and did not drive), so what I was looking for was self-education. Teach me to teach her.
I met with the SLP and watched as she did some assessment and therapy with my daughter. At the end of the half-hour session, she explained what she had been doing, and gave me some things to do to work on specific issues with my daughter. This turned into a regular pattern. We met with the therapist once every 3-4 months, for a mini-assessment and to get new instructions. I adapted them at home, and since I was already homeschooling one child, I simply created my own program for this child.
I began seeing advancements right away. Within 3 months I had been able to help her gain basic communication skills. She was able to tell me her needs and wants, and finally, finally the screaming sessions slowed, and eventually stopped. I was able to help her learn to self-regulate, and her social skills began to improve.. and a little social butterfly emerged. She began to attend Sunday School at our church -- and it was a wonderful experience that she really enjoyed! I was able to get babysitting for her, finally, and take a much needed break.
From SmallTalk, I was given a number for a self-referral occupational therapist. I called and found out to my delight that the therapist was willing to come to my home! We set up an appointment and again I asked to be taught so I could teach my daughter. The therapist worked with me and my daughter, even giving me books and games to use in helping her develop her skills. She came about once a month to check on us and give instructions. I added in her therapy to our already existing program, and again, saw immediate results.
Within weeks, I saw this child begin to dress herself, and gain independence. She started loving to color and draw, and it was amazing to see her personality come out. I learned to take advantage of her love of color and "pretty" things to help with basic hygiene tasks, like washing her hair or clipping her toenails. What had been a two-hour screaming torture to clip nails, turned into 15 minutes with the promise of sparkly nail polish. What used to leave both of us in tears to brush her hair, became a morning ritual that required me to not only comb her hair but now put it up in pony tails with barrettes or some of the dollar-store crowns, so she could be a "princess". The promise of new earrings made washing her face a breeze.
From the OT, I learned of Family Services. This innocuous sounding name hid a gem of a service. I received a dedicated case worker who helped me apply for some financial support through a disability certificate, and access to some other services. I needed a new pediatrician, and she was able to recommend and even refer us. She was also able to help us learn about and get into a specialized screening for Autism.