Molding Therapy to Charlotte’s Methods

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  • Jami Desemone

    Hi there!

    I have a little girl, age 7, who has serious special needs. She is very sweet, easy going, but non verbal, and non mobile. She requires care for every aspect of life. She technically gets physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy (waiting to get a therapist right now) once a week each. Her therapies are very main stream, medically focused. But that’s kind of par for the course, finding a therapist who embraces Charlotte Mason type philosophies will be very difficult. I do most of the work with her outside of her sessions as part of her schooling, and want to try and incorporate charlottes methods as much as I can. So I am hoping you all might have some ideas.

    Physical therapy is pretty simple, getting enough outside time would be better in this area, but I have three younger children, soon a newborn too. Plus there is either a steep hill with a heavy wheel chair to get into our small yard, or I have to leave her chair on the deck and carry her (50)lbs up and down the stairs to do therapy with her/have outside time. Or it’s inside, or on the deck.  We do have a bird feeder she likes to do her standing at, but most of her therapy is on the floor…crawling, sitting… If one of the little kids gets hurt, I have to hurry her back up to her chair and then go help them, not very safe. I can sometimes, if its nice and not wet, lay a blanket outside, but she can’t be unattended long or she will put leaves and sticks in her mouth.

    Occupational therapy is a lot of fine motor stuff, right now the therapist is working on stacking blocks, putting toys back in the box or bag, picking up small items, exploring textures (no sensitivities here, but I am not good at this with my kids…any quick tips for helping them explore new things or textures…) She is also learning to pull her socks off, self-dress… Everything is heavily supported, she is getting better at understanding what we want and allowing us to easily help her without pulling away. I feel like it’s very formal, and maybe I am just over thinking it or something. Maybe what we are doing is enough, I just feel like it could use a charlotte mason touch.

    Speech therapy is where I really want to gear more towards charlotte. She has no expressive language that is understandable. She vocalizes, and we understand her, but no signs, or systems or anything. Expressive language is a high priority for us, her being able to say yes or no, stop or go, ask for food or drink…anything! Right now we are working with what they call a PECS system, she has a few cards with pictures of things we do often like a drink, her puffs, the ipad to play her favorite songs (she loves music)… I put them on her tray and she can choose what she wants. It is very limited though and again, I can’t carry it with me, so it only happens when we do it. We have also tried little recordable buttons that can say something like “more”. The other thing we do is flash cards. I use household objects and animals, she also does colors occasionally. She can identify, but it’s not expressive, and she’s just not that into it. I have tried using real fruits/veggies to identify, and she did like that, but I can’t carry stuff around, I am just wondering I there are other things I could be doing to help her learn how to express herself.

    We read books, we listen to classical music, we read poems, we sing hymns, read Psalms, we got out as much as we can, and I try to show her things, but I am pulled in 3 other directions at the same time.

    I would love some input, and I know you are all aren’t necessarily therapists, but I need a twist to what we are already doing, and thought someone might have some ideas. Thanks so much for anyone who takes the time to read this and help!


    Someone else may do better replying to your post, but my initial thought was that what you are already doing is good for where your daughter is cognitively. Just don’t try to do too much. Pick out those areas you feel are most important at this time and work on those consistently, with or without a therapist. It sounds like you have a lot going on with all the little ones. They also need your time and it is so easy to become so consumed with the child with special needs that your time is used up trying to work with her.

    I have an almost 30 year old daughter who was born with spina bifida and other physical problems that resulted in many hospitalizations when she was young. I had two children who were younger than 4 and 2 when she was born. I look back on how I handled things, and I guarantee I would do some things differently with the older two if I had to do things again. I feel like I missed some time with them. Our second oldest now has a medically needy child with two just a little bit older. She is realizing the needs of especially her middle child, who was only 16 months old when this needy child was born.

    I would recommend doing as much as you can with all the children together, like reading a book. If you believe your 7 yo can understand, but not verbalize, read books with letters and numbers, so she can see them and listen to them. Work on them together, saying them over and over again. My 15 yo adopted daughter, whom I am homeschooling now, has a learning disabilty. She has some expressive and receptive language problems, not in verbalizing, but in processing and understanding meaning. She has dyslexia, which can hinder a child’s phonemic awareness. But, thankfully, she does a good job with phonetic sounds. I truly believe she does well in this area because in kindergarten I had big flash cards with letters and pictures and a CD that played the sounds over and over. She has really improved in this area over the years, but I still need to correct her word usage and order at times in her verbal and written communication.

    Going outside is great. Certainly CM 🙂 If you would have someone to come and help with the younger ones once in while, it would be doable. Given the age range of your other children, you can’t do that alone. Do you get respite care at all? If you have insurance that would cover it, you could have someone come to help in different ways to give you some breathing room. My daughter had a nurse coming 20 hours a week to help with her needy child, bathing him, doing his laundry, doing his feeding pump, etc. It has been 6 months since a nurse has come. Although my grandson is doing better since having surgery, my daughter would like to start up with respite again, even if it only once a month. I live out of state, but I’m at my daughter’s right now taking care of my 3 grandsons so she and her husband could go away overnight. The needy 2 year old has a G-tube for feeding and she has a 3 and 6 year old. I can understand why she needs respite. Even if it is just to be able to go to the park with the boys and have some help. If you could do something like that for outside time, it would be so much more enjoyable and you could do more with the 7 yo. Just a suggestion.

    Again, I think what you are already doing is good. Hopefully something I said is a help. Maybe someone can add something more helpful.

    Jami Desemone

    Thank you, that is ncredibly helpful! We are hopefully starting a Personal Care Assisstant soon, and then I can start finding some help with the younger ones in the mornings and that should ease things up some. Thanks for your help!!!

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