Friday, March 27, 2020

Orion and Family, Staying Safely at Home

Heather Withrow
March 27, 2020
Wide-brimmed hat-wearing Orion is crouching/sitting on his bottom, feeling bark pieces in the front yard at home.

No school for our kids at this time as their schools are looking at their options and resources; getting ready to teach through a distance format. It'll be an interesting sea to sail when it comes to teaching across a distance a child who is totally DeafBlind. We'll find out through this sudden "opportunity" what it looks like.

Now, on the home front, we know kids like Orion benefit from routines wherever they are. It is so much easier to follow routines in school than at home. I'm sure I'm not alone in needing to take a very deep breath to ummmpphhh and commit to them for Orion's sake. Anything for Orion! He doesn't have as much access to information and make-do activities like his siblings have.

Our Decision to Reduce Social Contact

Our family decided to stay homebound when our oldest child came home from school two Fridays ago. We would only go out for necessities. We have two family members who would be considered high-risk if ill with the novel coronavirus, Orion is one of them. We had our last intervener for Orion a week ago. *frown* We decided with Austin's stay-at-home order issued earlier this week for 3/25 through 4/13, and perhaps interveners would be considered necessary personnel (not sure yet, doubtful), we would make absolutely sure that our family and interveners remain healthy by not having them come to work with Orion until the coast is clear. We know it'll be quite a while so our family needs to do more to keep Orion sane and comfortable. We miss our interveners and I know the feeling's mutual!

Looking for Interesting and Family-Maintainable Routines

As for routines, I realized we needed to elaborate on activities already happening on a daily basis. One is to dress Orion in the mornings so he would experience that every day. (Then he would take his own clothes off! He'll leave them on at school, though.) I don't know why I hadn't thought of this before. We'd always permitted him to chill in the attire he prefers at home, which is just pull-ups.

I wanted to be careful not to overwhelm myself and our family with a schedule of activities we had to hurry and check-off for Orion. We could add activities, yes, but we could look at including Orion more often on things already happening on a daily basis. We need to move forward carefully and know we need to give Orion and ourselves grace with having plenty of down time, too. Every one of us have our own needs, especially during these concerning times.

Yesterday, I decided to start an additional daily activity which was watering the plants in our front yard. He was not interested in the bigger "landscape" of the activity except for discovering the water coming out of the hose/nozzle and my showing him the different spray settings. He sat on my lap, in between my legs during that moment. I signed, both on him and on myself, "Water."

Today was day #2, he didn't have the same interest longevity with the water hose as yesterday. He wanted to be carried in the house by his brother but he needed to walk walk walk his short distances as much as possible. I know he walks more at school, so trying to keep up with that especially as I'm studying orientation & mobility and want him to keep on movin'! Orion dropped to his bottom, not wanting to walk but he was provided "wait time" to consider his options and for us to see what he would do. Orion decided to scoot and found the edge of the sidewalk and explored the bark. I noticed he was leaning forward onto his feet, lifting his bottom ever so slightly from the concrete. He seemed to be exploring, testing this delicate balance. Whoo hoo, Orion!
Orion appeared to explore balancing himself onto his feet and back onto his bottom.


He spent a while in that crouch/bottom-sitting position then lowered himself to laying. It was really nice and cool outside, bright and sunny, relaxing in the shade with the familiar, constant Texas spring breeze blowing/massaging our skin.

My point in sharing this is that the only thing that was actually planned by us was for him to go outside, with clothes on and water the plants that needed watering. Orion experienced and pursued, with us observing and following along with his cues, his own interests in that moment without any time expectations or demands. Such a welcome, enjoyable moment for all in a practical, natural setting. A nice way to start a day!
Skyler encourages Orion, using hand-under-hand technique, to discover the blueberry pot to his right. 
At a closer look, you'll see it's more like a forearm-under-forearm technique but that works, too!

A Mom's Musings

With Orion's siblings home and with opportunities for them to join in Orion activities, it's another way for me to coach them on hand-under-hand, wait/processing time, "Do With, Not For." I'm conscious about not wanting to overdo it with the kids because I want them to continue their natural interaction with Orion; it's mostly wanting to maximize the opportunities during these interactions. It feels like a delicate balance. I want to sensitively explore this more.
Two brothers, lounging in the comfortably warm Texas breeze.


As for Orion's routines, we have interveners who look for/maintain activities for Orion at home. This is all without interveners. It may look like, "Why hadn't I done this before anyway?" Yeah. I have my own mom guilt I deal with and being a graduate student which is akin to "people with not much social time at all", I put in much of my extra time in my family and tried to create "Taking Care Of Myself" time. I'm almost done with graduate school. I've had enough of doing things with the gray cloud of "graduate assignment due soon" hanging over my head as I try to parent. I'm almost there! I had just come off of an approximately 5-month orientation and mobility (O&M) internship of full school days just last month (early February)! As I was getting near my internship goal, I was also eyeing the increasing coronavirus spread, especially with the first COVID-19 positive patient in the United States being in Washington state, my home state. I was relieved to be able to reduce my frequent contact with multiple people and concerned for those who were still teaching (both employees and interns). I'm starting to be able to focus more on what we all can do at home.  Great timing. I'm grateful. 

I know each family has their own needs and resources, varying between family units. I'm musing that it's not about what and how many activities, it's about it being regular, interactive and enjoyable for our DeafBlind child... the bonus is these are great human connection and communication opportunities!

I hope we all are able to reduce our social contact as much as possible while staying in touch with our DeafBlind family members. Y'all stay healthy and shut down that nasty viral spread!

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