Having a special needs child is one of those things I cannot fully explain using words. It’s like that crazy — I’m going to burst because I have so many feelings I didn’t even know existed — type of love you have for your kids. Like the kind that can’t be explained until you have a baby. You know what I mean?
My son just turned four. He’s the oldest of our two kids and he is so loving and sweet. He has THE BEST laugh on the planet. Our home is so full of joy with him around it’s unbelievable. But with that joy comes frustration.
My little guy has sensory processing disorder, developmental delay, and possible autism. He’s high functioning and very intelligent but easily distracted, flustered, and is just learning to communicate.
I am usually pretty positive — I really try — but I’m having one of those days. A ‘my heart hurts’ kind of day. Here’s some background.
On our second day home from the hospital we knew our baby had colic. Talk about ripping your heart out. Our sweet bundle cried and cried and cried. He didn’t just have a few fussy hours each day — he cried nonstop — which meant he barely slept (which meant we slept even less). He cried and grunted and pushed so much that he gave himself a hernia. Suppositories were his only relief — about 25-35 minutes of peace before everything started up again. (I am convinced colic is from an underdeveloped digestive system.) It was so trying but he started growing out of it by 10 weeks or so. We made it!
Enter the ear infections. By eight months, baby had had about 10 infections and we were scheduled for double ear tubes. There was so much fluid drained from those little baby ears. Things would be better now. Fast forward many more infections and about 10 months later, and nerves were being tested to see if baby was deaf. Nerves checked out fine (normal hearing loss from tubes) and a second set of tubes were inserted. So much fluid again. However, this time we saw improvement right away.
Our big 18-month old was beginning to turn his head towards sounds. Yay! He started to babble (we hadn’t heard that since before the first tubes) — but there were serious issues with eye contact. We began in-home speech therapy services and did development assessments. It was hard to tell if testing fell a year below average due to hearing issues or if there was something more going on.
All kids have quirks and do funny things. Ours walked with his head tipped sideways, liked to be on his tip toes, chewed his finger nails, and was a runner. (I mean, the kid took off like a lightening bolt.) But we moms have this sense — and mine was on full alert.
Enter food sensitivity. Seemingly overnight, our big eater of steak, fish, apples, chili, and almost anything we put in front of him, refused nearly everything. His new diet consisted of pizza, venison hot dogs (he still loved venison!?), peanut butter sandwiches, chicken fries, and sweets (but not ice cream unless he could suck it out by a straw). Tantrums ensued and then came the hitting and the slapping if/when we tried to introduce old favorites. Next came the melt downs from ketchup and pizza sauce touching his fingers and cheeks. We didn’t focus on the food stuff — we kept plugging along with learning signs and trying to say More, Mommy, and Daddy.
In Minnesota, in-home services cease once your child turns three years old. That meant we needed new assessments — we got an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for developmental delay and had to send our (little) big boy on the bus to go to school. He was still testing a year to a year-and-a-half behind schedule for communication, social, and a few other skill areas. I was a nervous WRECK!
I had horrible visions of my baby taking off and running away from the bus driver and from teachers and of him being scared and crying. There was most definitely some of that (okay, a lot of it) BUT preschool was quite successful and we made it through the year! In fact, the yellow school bus was a huge hit. There were challenges — but those can be for another day.
It took a long while, but we’ve made a lot of headway. A third set of tubes were placed this past winter and they really did the trick this time. At age 3 1/2 animal sounds were being mimicked and new words were emerging. I even heard words that made me cry — Daddy — and — Luh-you (love you) — and Day-dee (baby).
We celebrated birthday number four this summer and — you guys — I’m the one who got the gift. My peanut can say Mommy! I can’t begin to convey how wonderfully special it is to hear. I am finally, officially, Mommy. ❤
Eye contact is very good now (except when he’s done something naughty or is ignoring you). We understand tantrum triggers (most of the time). Visual schedules help and we use a visual timer. Food hasn’t improved much, but we’ve gotten a little better with our ketchup fingers. We’ve started occupational therapy, physical therapy, and have speech therapy at the clinic in town — which amounts to appointments three days a week (in addition to the services at school).
I am so insanely proud!
So what brings me to my current mood?
Well, we still struggle with behavior and transitions — going from one activity to another. Over the past few weeks it’s been brought to my attention that my sweet and sensitive boy is “the mean kid”. Granted, most people know he’s not intentionally mean, he probably just doesn’t understand, but that doesn’t ease the hurt I feel in my heart. I got a text from daycare that my peanut was having an off-day. Refusing to eat. Not wanting to ‘splash’ outside. Fussing and hitting.
I don’t know how to communicate to him that fun activities and experiences are being missed by him not listening and his hitting and pushing. He comprehends a lot — but there is still so much he doesn’t understand — especially social mores. He misses out on going to the pool with the other kids at daycare. We haven’t been to a movie theater. He doesn’t go on play dates. And we don’t let him run around outside like we want to. I don’t want him to miss out anymore.
I do know it will continue to get better with time. I know I need to stay positive and be patient. And I know my own disabilities get in the way some. It just gets tough sometimes. It’s not just my son who is learning. I am, too.
Even on tough days — I would move mountains for him.
Screen shots, photos, and stories are edited to omit my little ones’ names. Thanks for understanding. ❤