yesterday was the day we took harrison to the STAR center for his evaluation.
our occupational therapist, juliana, met us in the waiting area with big smiles. she laid out the plan for the morning – completing a workbook, having a snack, playing some games and then playing in the gym. harrison agreed and we got started. she took us all back to a small plain room. harrison sat on one side of a table and juliana sat opposite him. she asked him to do some workbook pages – mazes of different levels, finding hidden pictures, tracing and handwriting. then they moved on to cutting out a paper fish, taping on a string (fishing line) and “reeling” the fish onto a pencil (fishing pole). then she gave harrison four-step instructions about how to fold a piece of paper into the shape of a dog. he had to listen to all four steps and then fold the dog by himself. he did fine with that. lastly, juliana gave harrison another piece of paper and gave him four-step instructions regarding how to fold it into a fish shape. he did fine with that as well.
they had a little snack break – which really wasn’t a break, it was still part of the evaluation. she asked harrison to pour some goldfish onto napkins for himself and for her. she also asked him to pour water from a bottle into two plastic cups. they both ate their snack. he seemed to do fine with that. he didn’t stuff all the goldfish into his mouth at one time, which is something he would do at home, so i may have to mention that to juliana when we meet to discuss the evaluation results.
they moved out to the hallway to do some games with a ball – balancing the ball on a spoon while walking in a straight line, a circle and a figure eight. kicking the ball with his right foot. kicking the ball with his left foot. all different kinds of ball kicking exercises. he had to balance on one foot, then the other, then with eyes closed. then they moved on to jumping tests – jumping out and in (like when doing jumping jacks), jumping side to side, forward and backward and in a triangle pattern. lastly, jumping in place continuously for one minute. he seemed to do okay with most of these. some of the jumping was tricky for him.
we headed into the novel gym at this point. man, do they have some fun stuff! of course harrison’s first choice was to do the zip line! he climbed up and zipped down, landing in a ball pit. he had to dig around in the balls to find different objects – stuffed penguin, lobster and dog. juliana asked him to choose one stuffed animal to ride back down the zip line with him. he climbed back up with the lobster in tow and had to figure out how to squeeze the lobster between his knees while holding onto the zip line with his hands and make it all the way down into the pit without dropping the lobster. he did it!
they did some other fun play things – scooter boards, swinging, balancing on huge exercise balls. she checked his core muscle strength a couple different ways. all of this was great fun for him.
she took him into the messy room next. she got out shaving cream and spread it out onto a mat. he was NOT about to touch that shaving cream! she prompted him by suggesting a game where he drew something in the cream and she had to guess what it is. he got one finger “dirty” with the foam and continually tried to wipe it off. he didn’t like the messy room all that much. but he didn’t SAY anything about it. hopefully therapy will get him to a point where he feels comfortable expressing his feelings! they cleaned up the foam and played with the rice and beans table for a while. he did fine with that. then we moved on to the rainbow room.
harrison really liked the rainbow room and talked about it for the rest of the day. he described it best by saying it’s a room full of hammocks! basically, the “hammocks” are all different colors and are anchored to the walls, one on top of the other, creating layers for kids to climb on. harrison climbed right to the top and peeked his head out over the edge, calling to us to find him. he had fun in the rainbow room.
lastly, juliana took us to the light room. the light room held a large computerized machine that had three towers (in a triangular formation) of lights. kids stand in the middle of the three towers and play a game similar to simon (remember that game?!) except they have to use their whole body to run, reach for, and hit each circle that lights up. and every light that turns on makes a different sound. harrison played two rounds, the first with jedi/star wars sounds and the second with more of a classical music sound. he did great both times and afterward he broke out into a random happy dance! he might not have TOLD us that he liked the light room, but he definitely SHOWED us!
by this time it was 11:00 and harrison had completed the first portion of the evaluation. he and i left to eat some lunch, chill out for a while and get some fresh air. we got back to STAR at 1:00 for his auditory testing.
the auditory testing was hard work for him.
lanie was the name of the sweet woman who gave harrison his auditory test. she was calm, kind and encouraging. i think harrison felt comfortable with her.
the first portion of the test involved wearing headphones, listening and repeating. lanie scored harrison as he repeated each word or phrase. he seemed to do well with this. she even commented that she would assume harrison is a great reader because of how well he did during this section. and, of course, she would be right! as the test neared the end, though, it appeared that he had quite a bit of trouble – sometimes not even able to repeat anything at all. or just guessing. it was clear he was getting tired (he was yawning). it was afternoon time, of course, but i also think it was just really hard work for him and he was getting worn out.
the test continued on without headphones. harrison had to listen to lanie and either repeat what she said exactly or repeat it backwards or only repeat back the first syllable or the last syllable or answer a question about what she said. he seemed to do okay with some (not all) of this. the later testing involved lanie reading a very brief story and harrison had to answer questions, some of which included inferring the reasoning behind what took place in the story – hard, hard, hard for him.
so that was our day. we got home sometime after 3:00. harrison was quiet during the drive home except to say that he wants to go back to STAR but next time he doesn’t want to do any workbooks and he does want to take graham! i was pleased to hear he would like to return. it’s nice to know he’s excited about STAR. he thinks it’s fun! he thinks it’s special! he feels privileged to go there!
and so do i.
when we got home i gave him a snack and turned on a video for him. i took two tylenol, three advil, laid on the floor with my feet elevated, closed my eyes, concentrated on deep breathing, and tried to stretch out my back.
the day was so stressful for me.
and not because they made it stressful. everyone at STAR was – is – fantastic! it’s just the emotions that accompany a situation like this. i felt as though i had run a marathon. i felt like i had a huge adrenaline rush and then an equally huge adrenaline crash. i felt absolutely exhausted.
and it’s not even the results that were bothering me. because our OT friend, rachel, already evaluated harrison and informed us about his struggles, we walked into the evaluation at STAR knowing quite a bit about what they might find. so i am actually excited to hear what STAR’s therapists discover! i’m looking forward to hearing the results!
so why, then, did i find myself tearing up, and hiding my emotional face from harrison, twice during the evaluation? i realized it wasn’t because i was sad. it wasn’t because i was stressed. it wasn’t because i was worried. it was because i was so proud of my son!
he did so well on so much of the testing. he has so many strengths! i wept for joy because of all the ways in which he excels. i am so very thankful for them!
and yet, even though i am able to see the good, it’s hard to face harrison’s weaknesses.
it was stressful, even though i could see how well he did on some of the tests, to deal with needing to have him tested at all.
it was stressful watching him struggle to repeat words and phrases and sentences.
it was stressful being strong and being smiley and being brave and acting casual.
it’s stressful telling harrison that STAR is just a cool place where he gets to play.
it’s stressful knowing the truth.
it’s stressful hiding the truth from my son.
and so i laid on the floor. and i waited. and i thought about it. and i realized…
“the lord said to me, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ therefore, i will boast about my weaknesses so christ’s power may rest on me…i will delight in weakness…for when i am weak, then i am strong.”
our weaknesses are our strengths.
and the stress in my neck and shoulders and back and mind melted away. and i got up off the floor. and i kissed harrison’s head and said “you are so strong, buddy.”
and i wept for joy again.
because of his strengths and his weaknesses.
and because of my own.