Wow… thinking back to the time period that brought us to Amy’s door – sometimes it feels like it was so long ago, and sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Desperate is the word I would use to describe that time period. Although it was scary and I was completely at a loss as to how to parent my child, I am so grateful that I was desperate and vulnerable enough to get help. Amy provided exactly the tools, support and comfort we needed. I would say to any parent struggling with an issue with their child – be desperate and vulnerable. There is no shame in not knowing what to do.
Our son, Josh, was a handful – well, he still is. I remember the exact moment when I knew we had a “passionate” child on our hands – he was 13 months old, not verbal yet, but full of things to say. He was standing at the refrigerator, banging on it and screaming for milk, but only in sounds that a mom would know what their child wanted. He was desperate, too. He couldn’t talk but boy did he want and need to. Since Josh couldn’t talk, he was physical. He would hit, throw, run away from me. I was really at a loss. I remember sitting in the pediatricians office just crying to the nurse practitioner about my 2-year old. I “didn’t know what to do!” Thank God for her, and for my desperation, because that moment led me on a path towards help, answers and finally feeling like everything would be “okay”.
The nurse practitioner suggested we start by calling Amy Meyer and a speech therapist. Thankfully, Josh’s non-verbal abilities were pretty easily fixed. I think he was just stuck, and once he got “unstuck” verbally, he has not stopped talking since! Josh becoming verbal, although not overnight, was helpful because he could tell us what was going on, instead of being physical.
The play therapy was quite a journey. First, Amy was wonderful – she was non-judgmental and caring – she was all that we needed. As I mentioned above, I think that is the most important aspect of the process of therapy I received, and still carry with me today, is that “everything is going to be okay”. I didn’t always know what that would look like, and it might not be pretty to everyone else, but I knew in my heart that we would all be okay, because we were getting help.
Through play therapy we learned what behaviors to care about and what to let go of. Josh was (and still is) all about control. For example – Josh hated to have me brush his hair. Well –my goodness, to have a child go to pre-school without great looking hair – what will people think? Hmmm.. we found out quickly that was a battle we really didn’t need to fight. What a relief! I was so happy to receive “permission” from Amy that certain behaviors were okay. A particular issue that I remember is that Josh never – truly never – sat down to eat dinner. He always stood up. I cannot tell you how we fought with him over that issue! When we discussed it with Amy, we all agreed that as long as he was with us at the table, ate his food and helped clean up, it was fine that he stood up. Something like this may not fly in another household, but it truly had to in ours because we had to learn that compromise was the key. I feel so grateful that early on, we were able to get to know this child, get to understand that things might look different with him –and that’s “okay”. I can honestly tell you that if we had not gone through those years with Amy, I would be further into the pit that I was in at the time.
There were many situations when I really gave into Josh because it was just so much easier. I was tired of fighting every single little thing with him. I think we made a lot of mistakes by letting Josh have control, and letting him run our family at certain times because it was just such a whipping to stay strong and do the “right” thing. As we learned from Amy, consistency was, and still is, the key.
Oh gosh – Josh is now 10, almost 11, and time certainly does fly! We met Amy when Josh was 2 or 3. I remember talking with Amy and she told me that more than likely, Josh was ADHD. Because Josh was only 2/3 at the time, he was too young for a formal diagnosis, but I am here to tell you she was right on the money. Amy suggested we go to a diagnostic psychologist and Josh was formally diagnosed at 6 years old (when he was in kindergarten). Since then, we continue to learn a lot about Josh everyday. I really think that since we were so open to help when Josh was young, it has enabled us to be so throughout our parenting journey with him and our other two children (Callie – 13 and Truitt – 6). Since Josh formally stopped seeing Amy, my husband and I have checked in with her a couple of times and I truly feel like I can call her anytime to make an appointment and receive her counsel. We reached out to her when we knew it was time to take the nest step and have Josh diagnosed – I knew she would be the best source for us. We reached out to her when I was worried about a new problem that arose – sometimes you just need a refresher and a safety net as a parent, and she provided that for us.
Am I the “perfect parent” now because we went to therapy? Nope, I am far from it. I am flawed, human – I make mistakes daily, hourly. But, I know that we gleaned so much from our time with Amy and I still use that knowledge everyday. I am open to realizing that each of my children is unique and needs different things from me. I realize some things are worth the battle and some are not. One aspect that has stuck with me from going to see Amy is that Josh is who he is. I cannot make him be someone different, I cannot make him be compliant when that is not his nature, I cannot have all the control. That being said, I know that because he is strong willed, we need to be vigilant about helping him realize his strengths and weaknesses. We are fumbling through this process, but we are trying to maintain the tools we learned from Amy to the best of our ability.
Hopefully we are raising great kids that will turn into great adults. Thank goodness we are not alone. It brings me comfort knowing that I can still reach out to Amy.