Monday, July 25, 2011

Part 3: How Nea is doing, vis-à-vis apraxia and literacy

Nea is seven and will be starting second grade next month.

Looking back at May, there were many memorable lines from the IEP meeting. From the school psychologist: "Her IQ and other scores were normal! That's good news!" Wow. No shit, Sherlock. Did you manage to find those results in the massive, detailed, financed-by-us neuropsych report we gave you? Or did you come up with that yourself? She has excellent logic skills and does well on standardized tests as long as there is no language component.

From our mainstream teacher: "Oh, no, she's nowhere NEAR reaching the bottom of the class!" (Trust me, it was very clear in context that she didn't mean she's in the middle. She meant there was no prayer of Nea ever catching up.) A hearty middle finger salute to you, Mrs. M. Oh, and this gem: "She's not very good at non-fiction, is she?"

That was when I decided that we needed to focus on academics this summer. Because I know my special special snowflake is smart. She just needs a little more effort than your average kid. Not every mainstream teacher is talented enough to teach to multiple levels. I understand that. But it sure would be nice if they tried. On the other hand, I don't think she should be in the special education classroom as much as she is. It's not a good fit.

Anyway. Enough of the venting. On to more positive things.

The good news is that Nea is advancing at reading! And just as our wonderful SLP said, it's improving her speech. She's using more of the "little words" ("the" and "of" and so forth) than ever before, more full sentences, all that. People comment all the time on how much clearer her speech is. I'll post some examples soon. I haven't been able to transcribe any lately. I mean *blush* she says, "You're the best mommy in the whole wide world" but it doesn't come out exactly like that.

And it's not just the reading. Check out this great drawing she did recently.

Lightning McQueen

She's started with inventive spelling, which is a big milestone. On May 26th (I know the date because I tweeted about it) Nea wrote her first unscripted sentence. "I like you." All spelled right, too! Sure, she's behind, but this is more progress than we've seen before.

In her workbook, she and I counted out loud from 1 to 100 while pointing at each number. I actually wanted to quit twice, but she wouldn't let me.

So. My house is a disaster. My garden is a weedy mess. But it doesn't matter, because Nea is only about a full grade behind her peers, which is better than where we were in June.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Part 2: Our insurance saga - Winning!

My last insurance update was here.

Several months ago I heard from Blue Cross Blue Shield. In a chirpy voice, the nice lady told me that they were not only going to stop paying for speech, they had changed their minds and were TAKING BACK all the money they paid our SLP this calendar year. Under the very weak argument that they do not cover developmental delays after age 6. Nea is 7 now. She does not have a developmental delay. She has apraxia.

I'll be honest. I was a little pissed off.

So we lawyered up. Which was a great decision. Also, turns out ASHA* (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) has a very helpful form letter that argues persuasively (using that insurance-speak language that the insurance companies love) that apraxia is not a developmental delay. Please contact them if you need help fighting your insurance company.

Here's the money shot from their letter:

Verbal apraxia is not a developmental delay and a child will not outgrow this disorder. It is not an educational issue, but rather an issue of health and normal physiological function. Developmental delay describes a slower than normal rate of development, but verbal apraxia is a disorder.

The lawyer (who, I'll be honest, is ruining my deep suspicion and disregard for the profession) recommended we get nice, fresh letters of medical necessity from our SLP and pediatrician. These letters said the same thing as the letters we had previously submitted, but they were, you know, new. Plus she has fancy letters behind her name when she signs official documents. People respect that.

And then the clouds parted. The sun shone.

And therefore, ta da. BCBS is covering our ST again. With no visit maximum for the calendar year! (Let's go every day!) I'd frankly feel even more excited if I didn't think we'll have to go through it all again next year. Still, a victory for now. I'll take it.

Thanks to some help from my friends on Facebook (shout out to Steve and Lex! Smoochies!), we have a rewritten I Fought the Law by The Clash (from the point of view of BCBS)

Denying claims in the hot sun,
I fought Bluestem and...she won.
I fought the completely rational and justified MamaBear and...she won.

*Next time perhaps I'll share my thoughts on the American Saddlebred Horse Association and the American School Health Association.

C'mon! Everybody sing!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Part 1: Summer homeschool curriculum - trying to catch up

I know y'all thought I was crazy when I told you our summer plans for getting Nea closer to grade level reading and math. I am proud to say she has made significant gains! In reading, anyway. I don't think the math has changed much, but given a choice between the two, reading would be my pick.

1. Hooked on Phonics has a giant gap between level 1 and level 2, so we are using the Scholastic Hello Kitty phonics readers, which have an emphasis on vowel sounds, which Nea really needs. We are also borrowing books from our SLP. They are The Learning Company's Reader Rabbits Interactive Reading Journey books, which don't seem to be available anymore, but there's always eBay.

Sample page from book 34: Sam hit the ball. It was a bad hit. See Nan with the ball.

Like most early readers, it's a snorefest, but them's the breaks.

2. Educational iPhone and iPad apps we like are: math bingo, word bingo, rocket math, sight words, stack the states (for Boo)

3. Summer Bridge Activities workbooks -- just discovered all the online games and iPad apps, so we'll be using those soon.

4. Earobics

5. Working on calendar (days of the week, months of the year), time, and money

6. And the usual focused activities assigned to us by our wonderful SLP.

Apraxia update

This is it, people. This is the huge blog post that I've been putting off all summer. It's turning into such a monster that I'll be covering recent news in three parts, in the next few days.

Part 1: Summer homeschool curriculum - trying to catch up

Part 2: Our insurance saga - Winning!

Part 3: How Nea is doing, vis-à-vis apraxia and literacy

Monday, July 18, 2011

Salad that my kids will actually eat

A while ago we all went to Stacia's house for dinner. Among other delicious items, she made this salad, and at one point I glanced over at the kiddie table, and the kids were fighting to the death over what was left in the serving bowl. They were fighting to get more salad. No, I swear.

So, not being stupid, I asked for the recipe. Boo said it wasn't nearly as good without the anchovy paste, so we (meaning my husband) went to four stores and finally found it. Also, the big white bag of croutons they sell at Costco are apparently crack.

Caesar Salad Dressing

¼ cup light mayo
Scant ¼ cup skim milk
½ T lemon juice
½ tsp anchovy paste
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp pepper
pinch ground mustard
1 garlic clove, minced (or ½ heaping tsp crushed garlic)

Put the above ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously. In a bowl, combine Romaine lettuce and croutons in the correct quantities to satisfy the number of people you expect for dinner. Toss. Then add:

¼ cup parmesan cheese (heaping)*

In other news, this baked marinated tofu was a big hit around the house, too. Give it a whirl. I left out the smoke flavoring, though.

*Buy the good stuff. You deserve it.