Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No Boundaries...

Comfort zones. We all have them and most of us try hard to stay inside. Staying with what we know is easy and comfortable. Going beyond? Well, that can be very unsettling. Three years ago, I made the decision to homeschool Bella for 1/2 days. Did I want to? Not really. I was unsure I would be able to meet her needs, but I understood that one on one teaching was the only way she would get the repetition she needed to retain key information. So I dove off my cliff of fear into the big sea of the unknown.

Two weeks ago I was attending my favorite Zumba class. In this class, the teacher invites people to come on stage if they want to dance. There are a number of people who attend on a weekly basis and know the dances really well. There are also people in the class that you just know took dance all the way through high-school and are super coordinated. Let me just assure you that I am NOT one of those people. Anyway, before I went to class, I made a decision. I was going to get on stage that day, if they played a certain song. Most weeks the song was played, so it was pretty certain I would be going up. It is not a super complicated song. In fact, it is probably one of the easiest, but there is a lot of butt shaking in it. Next thing you know, I am in the class, and then came the moment. I heard the song. Decision time. Did I go up? Yes, I dove off another cliff.

So what is the payoff for going outside your comfort zone? I think that is the scariest part. Sometimes there is no payoff, except for the satisfaction of knowing that you tried something new. That is a small payoff for a risk that might negatively impact your life for a long time or make you look like a fool.

10 years ago this August, my husband and I dove off a mountain. I daresay it was the Mt. Everest of comfort zones. We sat through an 8 hour surgery with our six month old child to have her bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants. She was the youngest in the world at the time, to have the procedure done.

And then there are the times you are rewarded greatly for taking a risk. A few weeks back, we were at Mayo Clinic for Bella's annual cochlear implant tune up. I asked them to do an audiogram on her since she has been learning about them with her Deaf/hard of hearing teacher at school. Usually they just do sentence testing on her and she performs extremely well, so they figure her audiogram is fine. Looking at her audiogram was amazing. Her scores were in the zone of "normal hearing" across the entire span of frequencies and decibels. For some frequencies, she scored above the line of normal hearing. Truly amazing.

We went on to see the speech pathologist we usually see on a yearly basis, while at Mayo. Last year we did not see her because Bella got a new updated version of her implants and there wasn't time to fit in both visits. I was nervous about hearing Bella's results. Last time we had discussed how as kids get older it becomes harder to gain ground in speech because vocabulary increases at a great rate and figurative language comes into to play. She came out of testing with great news! On the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP) Bella showed evidence of strong phonologic memory. This was in contrast to two years ago when she showed weakness in short term auditory memory.  In the Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS) Bella made significant progress since our last visit. Last visit Bella was at the 16% for the Oral Expression portion of the test. This year she was at the 39%. In the Listening Comprehension part of the test she scored 47% last visit. This time she was at 58%. The big increases in these tests are significant because it is hard to gain ground in language when you are behind. As you gain more language so do others you are scored against. The hope is that you can just "stay your ground" and have your scores remain the same. To see significant growth is in one word "phenomenal".

Final payoff? Last week I received Bella's MAP scores in the mail. You may have read in past blog posts that I dread getting her standardized test scores. Standardized tests are supposed to reflect problems in kids learning. Well, since I am already aware there are problems for Bella, showing them on paper is little help. When I saw the tests results in the mail, I left them for a day because I didn't want to deal with them right then. So imagine my amazement when I opened them and saw that in reading she went up 31percentage points and in language usage she went up 22 percentage points. The first results were from Fall '11. The final results were taken in May '12. Pretty good year, I'd say!

So the next time you think about pushing outside of your comfort zone, DO IT! Sure you might fail or look like a fool, but maybe, just maybe the results could be amazing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

For The First Time...

The first time you ever experience an event is special. A first concert, a first love, a first car. For Bella, a few weeks ago, she experienced the feeling of being "first". Her swim team runs practice swim meets every month or so to get the kids ready for true swim meets where the times count. Everything is pretty official. There are timers, the starts are just like competitive meets with the three whistles to signify, "Get ready, get set, go!" Unlike a true swim meet, there are no DQ's or officials looking to make sure each stroke is legal. It's more about getting the kids to understand what the environment of a real swim meet is like before they go to one and get all freaked out and they can't perform. Ultimately, there are a lot less swimmers than a traditional swim meet and the distance is shortened to 25 yards instead of 50, except for a 50 freestyle at the end. Okay, enough back story. So there was Bella, ready on the blocks to swim her breaststroke. She is working hard to be legal on this stroke. Due to muscle tightness in her right calf muscle, she has difficulty keeping her foot flexed during the entire frog kick. That is a requirement for being legal. Right now we are trying kinesio tape to see if that helps to help her get the feeling. Anyway, usually Bella is slow off the blocks (somewhat to do with her hearing loss), but on this day she was very good! Into the water she went and she went into a very solid breaststroke.  As she neared the end of the pool, it was evident that she was going to get first place. Everyone started to cheer, including the three coaches. It was something to behold. When Bella got to the end, she didn't realize that she had won. Becca was timing in her lane and even she was excited. Bella's eyes were about the size of dinner plates when one of the timers handed her the blue ribbon. So maybe it doesn't count officially...but it sure counted to Bella!

Below is a clip of her 25 fly. She also did really well in that race and got 2nd place!