Today we looked after a friend’s lovely toddler. We’ve looked after her a few times now when their regular childcare can’t. She’s a little sweetie and a pleasure to have around. Our big girls love her and spend most of the day carrying her around or trying to make her laugh. She has a brother who is two years older than her, so is very independent and able to hold her own.
Today I watched the big ones playing with her. All very natural and easy. Little Legs sat watching them, almost looking like she was trying to pick up tips. She is not often relaxed in her play with her sisters. And they don’t often ask her to join in their play at the moment. She is too often hitting them or spoiling what they have been doing. They have lost some of the endless patience they had with her when she first came home.
Today I observed the gulf between Little Legs’ four year old play and our just two year old visitor’s imaginative play, both alone and with my big girls. We are fairly sure that Little Legs is working at toddler level emotionally. Her gross and fine motor skills are progressing at a rate of knots. But her play skills clearly are not. She is just beginning to show signs of symbolic play, but she is usually engaged in solitary play.
Today I saw her frustration as she just couldn’t figure out how to ingratiate herself into the game her sisters were engaged in with Happyland toys. Instead she settled on parallel play alongside them, with her Peppa toys. Sometimes I intervene and invite her into their game. Sometimes I just observe and try to figure out ways to help her fill in these gaps.
Today I grieved again for Little Legs’ losses. For her struggles in her new family. For her desire to be part of the game, but her difficulty when not in control of the game’s progress. I grieved for her early months and years of delays, when her time and energy has been spent on learning the things that come naturally to other children. She didn’t really crawl, although this isn’t necessarily a problem in itself. Some kids just skip it altogether. But she didn’t walk until she was rising three and needed the support of a walking frame and supportive footwear in order to master it.
Today I saw again how far behind her peers she is, thankful that she is not in school where gaps are magnified and her tiredness becomes a huge barrier to her progress. Yes, she is finally walking and steady on her feet. But increase her speed and she is still a liability, likely to fall on an uneven surface, or to completely miss a change in gradient. She still requires an hour or two of early afternoon rest, which we simply build into our home ed days.
today I remembered just how far she has come in her less than a year as part of our family. During matching we were talking about significantly reduced mobility, above average fatigue levels for a child of her age, the likely need of referrals to local services (Physio, OT, SLT, Paediatrician, Podiatry) and to our regional Wheelchair Service. She still requires the use of a buggy for longer distances, but she no longer chokes on anything larger than a pea. She is managing well with supportive Clarks footwear, although this will be under review by her Paediatrician after the summer.
Today I reminded myself that she is still making significant strides in many areas of her development, despite having been uprooted from everything that she has ever known. I mentally checked off all of her physical accomplishments since joining our family. I watched the video we have of her on the big wooden climbing frame at a local stately home, which showed us early on how quickly she was growing and changing and overcoming challenges.
Today I reminded myself that although we are dealing with many unknowns, all her tests so far have come back as clear and she is making slow but steady progress in the right direction. The fear of neurological issues is diminishing as she passes milestones. We are walking an unknown path, but our adventure is well under way.