Friday, September 4, 2009

More From Rehab - Crossing the Street

As physical, occupational and speech therapists worked to get our son back to pre-illness form, they took the time to get to know and understand him. We gave them a pretty detailed developmental history to help them establish a baseline skill level. Our expectations were for our son to return home as strong and fit as he was before he got sick. Those expectations proved to be unrealistically low!

Under the care and coaching of his therapists, he strengthened his core muscles and limbs and improved his posture. His endurance was dramatically better as well. But the biggest change was in his attitude. They fostered a confidence in him that had been lacking prior to his illness. As part of his rehab, they took him for walks and helped increase his awareness of people and, more importantly, traffic around him. In the past, he had always put his trust in whoever he was with when it came to crossing the street. The occupational therapist pointed out that he had to look all ways, and sometimes over his shoulder to see if cars might be turning; she reminded him at each corner of things to watch for. Although we had tried to explain that to him as well, it was clearly more effective coming from someone outside his immediate family.

When he was released from the rehabilitation hospital, he had a few more months of therapy on an outpatient basis. Since my husband was coaching at the time and not always available to get our son to and from his appointments, we put our faith in him (and his therapists) and gave him directions for taking public transportation or getting there (about a mile and a half) on foot.

Because of his issues with communication with peers, he did not have many close friends. While he was a typical teenager in may ways, he had never just "hung out, " gone to a movie, or grabbed a bite to eat with friends. It was off his radar. So walking through the streets without an adult was a giant leap in his development and he rose to the occasion. We gave him a cell phone in case he needed to get in touch and let him go. Getting to and from those appointments became as big a part of his therapy as the sessions themselves. Ever since that time, he has set aside time on weekends and days off to "go walkabout, " with destinations that include the local Starbucks, the bookstore, sometimes even the library! For the first year or so, I would watch from the window for his return. Now I pretend not to.

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