Thursday, December 13, 2007

He's Come a Long Way

Josh's new love of pointing got me thinking about Sammy and how far he's come...

Sammy was born December 31, 2001. My labor had been a long one for a second child. Finally, after 22 hours and a small intervention, he rushed into this world just a bit before midnight. He was gorgeous and alert.

It wasn't long before we found the first small hurdle he needed to overcome: eczema. For his first four months of life he had eczema covering nearly his entire body. It was mild and, at first, we thought he just had a normal newborn rash. Once he had greater head control, he began rubbing his face back and forth on our chests; a habit we thought was cute until we realized he had eczema. It wasn't until I woke up one morning and saw him rubbing his face against the sheets of our bed that I realized the cause: detergents. That morning, I dumped every washable item we had into a huge mountain of laundry and washed everything without soap, on a double rinse cycle. His eczema almost entirely disappeared, and with it, that cute habit or rubbing his face against our chest. I wonder today if the eczema was part of the reason why he never did like being held much as a baby.

I always had concerns about Sammy from very early on. I believe God created babies to crave and need closeness; but Sammy just didn't fit that at all. He was happiest when he was on the floor, alone, untouched. It was odd. Then there was the fact that I could never, and I mean never, figure out what he wanted or needed. He would cry but I couldn't distinguish what kind of cry it was. Was he hungry? Was he tired? Did he have a dirty diaper? He wasn't my first child. I knew how to read a baby's cues. But with him, I couldn't. I was frazzled and frustrated with my inability to understand him. The only thing I could do was try each thing until one of them stopped the crying. Things progressed until he was two.

Around the age of two, it became obvious to me that something was wrong. He still wasn't talking. He couldn't even communicate his basic needs. I had a hard time convincing anyone to help. I kept hearing, "He's a boy.", "Boys develop late.", or "Don't comparing him to Mika. She's advanced." Then he lost the only speech he had (12 partially formed words). and began throwing violent tantrums bent on trying to hurt anyone he could get his hands on or sink his teeth into. He hit, pulled hair, tried to gouge eyes, and bit (everyone...Scott, Mika, Mika's friend, me, even the dog). I was finally able to convince the pediatrician something was wrong and got the needed referral to the developmental specialists.

We made appointments and went for assessments with the speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and developmental pediatrician. The results: at age 2 years and 4 months he was at the level of a 9 month old. Just one aspect of this, the part that Josh reminded me of, was that Sammy still did not know how to point: a skill that develops around 9 months of age. Finally, about a few months before he turned three, Sammy began receiving speech therapy through the Child Find program and the local children's hospital. At three, he entered public school attending the special ed. preschool program mid-year.

Adjusting to preschool was difficult in some aspects; but, overall he had fun. Meanwhile, I was asking the doctor why he was still having soft stools even though I had weaned him months prior. For a while, he wasn't concerned but I persisted and finally got a referral to a gastroenternologist. The hope: to find out why he was having diarrhea five times a day and why he ate and ate and ate and ate. Tests were run on his stool, his blood, and he had a endoscopy. The results: nothing, nada, zip. How frustrating!

Summer came and Sammy had made some improvements but not a lot. His speech was limited to individual words and two word phrases. At least now we could determine his basic needs. With no help from the doctor, I decided to begin a elimination diet as soon as school was out. I'd start with dairy because of family history (I'm lactose intolerant and Mika was allergic to dairy for a short time.). Would you believe that his diarrhea was gone in only three days! I challenged the test and it returned. Definitely dairy! What was frustrating at this point was that the gastroenternologist had tested for this but the test was negative. Lactose intolerance is easy to deal with; you can either avoid dairy altogether or take a lactase supplement with dairy. I found this wonderful product called Digestive Advantage; it is a once daily supplement and works so much better than other lactase supplements on the market. We started that and life got exciting.

By the end of summer, Sammy was speaking in full sentences. His teacher and speech therapist at school were shocked. The progress he made was astounding; school and speech therapy began to work well now that he could focus better. It was determined he had apraxia and his schooling/therapy focused on articulation.

Where is he now? He graduated from preschool last year and began homeschooling over thesummer. His evaluation showed him to be half way through kindergarten so we started there. Over the summer, it became apparent that he knew much of what was covered during the typical kindergarten year. In October, I ordered and tested him using the California Achievement Test. He passed the kindergarten test with 90% or better in all areas so he's officially in first grade now. He loves school, especially reading and math. He has a knack for numbers and memorizing parts of things. In November, he took a favorite book to his speech therapist at the local elementary school so he can show her and read it to her. Half way through the book, she stopped him and told us he doesn't even qualify for services anymore. She doubts he even has apraxia.

I think all of this was a result of lactose intolerance. Because of his undiagnosed intolerance, everything he ate passed right through him. His body never had the opportunity to draw sufficient nutrients from his food to nourish his brain properly, thereby hindering his ability to learn. Once we took care of his intolerance, he began making up for lost time in huge leaps and bounds. He's caught up or surpassed development on almost every level. He only has a short way to go in speech and language skills but that will come soon enough, I'm sure.

He's an awesome kid! He is fun-loving, sensitive, caring, and loves to laugh.

He's come a long way!

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