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March is Developmental Disabilities Month. MSNN will be highlighting a different developmental disability each blog post this month in an effort to educate, inspire and connect our families. If you would like to guest blog, please email Kelly Hafer (KellyHafer@MSNNblog.com). Thank you.
I write quite often about my older son, but not so much about our youngest boy. Our son came into our lives when he was just 8 months old. Our social worker called us one morning to tell us about a couple of young brothers who needed to be removed from their current foster home placement. We were told that both boys were delayed. And, in fact, there was concern that the youngest, our soon-to-be AJ, was not cognitively intact.
You see, until the first time we held AJ, no one had ever seen him crack a smile. He had what was assumed to be a permanently flat affect. This 8 month old baby was unable to hold his head up (a skill usually acquired around 4-5 months), did not reach for toys or a bottle, made no coo-ing noises; frankly, the list of what he could not do was far longer than his list of skills. Essentially our son had been kept in a baby swing for 24 hours a day. He had no experience outside of that swing.
And so, after our transition from potential foster parent to full-time foster parent to the boys, our journey into therapy was “from zero to sixty.” Averaging 10 appointments per week combined, our boys were thrown into physical therapy, occupational therapy, attachment therapy, and speech therapy. Our boys had shots to get caught up on, well baby appointments to make up, and nowhere to go but up, with respect to their abilities.
Boy, did they! To watch the physical transformation in AJ was miraculous. It can only be described as watching life blossom. He went from being completely immobile to walking in an unbelievably short time – roughly six months from the time we got him, he was hell on wheels. Making up for lost time and experiences, AJ’s zest for life is palpable, if not always safe.
It took a Herculean amount of effort and hard work on his part, but today, I am pleased to report, that AJ is caught up on his global delays in social-emotional development, fine and gross motor, speech, and self-care. We still see the occasional backward slide under periods of great stress, as well as mouthing objects. We are very close to grade level areas of performance in a specialized classroom placement, and there is a lot of talk about mainstreaming in his future.
Anxiety, possible learning disabilities, and some other alphabet soup-type diagnoses aside, our son has a very bright future thanks to the years of early intervention, therapy from dedicated professionals who truly cared about AJ’s growth and development, and two amazing special ed preschool and kinder teachers.
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