Share the first part of C.'s story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?
My son (nicknamed C.) is a sensory seeker. He's very active. At 18 months, he was constantly moving and doing a lot of physical activities that I didn't see other kids his age do. He also had an enormous amount of trouble self-soothing at night to go to sleep. He was having trouble going from a highly aroused state to a calm, relaxed state where he could fall asleep. We tried sleep training. We tried to do all the typical things that people tell you to do at that age. None of it worked. I just felt like something was off. Like there was something else going on. And when he would wake up in the middle of the night, which a lot of kids that age still do, he just couldn't go back to sleep. He was in a highly vigilant state, wide awake. It was at 18 months that I first mentioned this to his pediatrician. She said, “Well, his nervous system is still maturing. Let's see what happens”. As the months went on, and he started to walk, we noticed that it was like he had no sense of where he was. And then feeding challenges started: he was a really good eater until he wasn't. It was very dramatic. We felt like there might have been some sensory-related stuff going on with either what we were putting in his mouth or what he was seeing. We still struggle with feeding. I mean, it's gotten better. But picky eating was a big indicator of his condition. Then there was the activity level and the lack of focus. C. had a hard time staying focused on one activity. My son was born extremely premature at 24 weeks. Not everybody knows that 24 weeks is the line of viability. He was literally four days after the line. It was a very traumatic birth for him and also a traumatic labor for me. He was born weighing 705 grams. I'll tell you why I say it in “grams.” Because when they are born that early, every gram matters. They consider your probability of surviving partly based on the number of grams you weigh at birth. After he was born, all the nurses kept coming into the recovery room saying, “Oh my! He's 705 grams! Isn't that amazing?” There was like this celebration. He was a little bigger than normal for 24 weeks, but 705 grams is actually one pound and nine ounces. He was tiny. He fit in the palm of my hand. He was very, very small. He spent about five months in the NICU, and it was a very complicated NICU journey for him. Every child in the NICU has their own story. He was challenged with a host of medical issues that almost claimed his life, and also were potentially going to impact his development. When we came out of the NICU we were linked with Strong Start, which is Washington D.C.’s version of early intervention. We started Strong Start at about four months of age, if we correct his age for his premature birth, or eight months old from birth. We were working on some very basic things around gross motor skills, making sure he was moving his head right, that he was making eye contact, some of those typical infant developmental milestones. From the beginning, I had a sense of vigilance around potential delays in his development. In that respect, I think my story might be a little bit different than most families. I already had a heightened awareness that things were probably not going to be typical. The challenges that I had were really the struggles with the system. We knew C. was going to need a lot of therapy. We knew that he was potentially going to be diagnosed with a host of medical conditions that we couldn't predict in his early infant years. I was very proactive about it. But it was still very, very challenging to get the right services, to know who the right people were to talk to, to get coverage from insurance. I always tell people who have questions about what it is like to have a child who was born early or has special needs: this is all really hard. You have the typical challenges of raising an infant. And then you also are a medical coordinator, you’re an insurance advocate, and you're an expert at X, Y and Z diagnosis. You have a host of different hats that you have to put on every single day. The system is not always cut out to support you, right? It's almost the opposite. There are some days where I wake up feeling, “Okay, I'm in fight mode. Let's go!” I have to fight to get through the day, to be able to accomplish the things that my son needs in order to continue to develop and to thrive. That’s our overarching experience. He is now three years and seven months old. When you're born early, they use “corrected age” (based on the date you should have been born, so to speak, if you came to full term at 40 weeks) versus actual age for the first two years of life, because there is a developmental lag. The medical and school systems assume that by the time you are two years old, the child should have caught up, unless there's a major medical issue. Then after two years, you use only on the actual birthday so to speak. So he's actually three years and seven months from his day of birth.
high energy level observed at 1 year & 6 months
Share the first part of Y.'s story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?
My son was two and a half years old when the nursery staff called us - me and his father - for a meeting. They said he has severe tantrums and he doesn't want to play with anyone. He wants to do what he wants to do, not to follow the class rules. He sticks to a certain toy or a certain activity and doesn't want to leave it. His school referred us to the Learning Resource Center, which is a beautiful and professional center in Egypt. We had a multidisciplinary assessment at first. We answered questions with: “No, No, No… He doesn't have tantrums. He plays with his friends,” and so on. After the parent intake at the Learning Resource Center, they scheduled the child assessment. During this time, we realized that we answered, “No,” but actually, we could have said, “Yes.” He puts blocks into a tower. He follows the lines in the floor. He doesn't answer his name. We called the doctor to correct our answers. Then, at the first examination, my son completed a cognitive screening and later did an autism spectrum disorder test. We were told he is on the autism spectrum with a moderate degree. I had a panic attack. We decided to see many - too many - doctors. Some of them said that he is borderline because of his age or we cannot diagnose him accurately at this moment, we have to wait three years. Another doctor said, “No. He is not autistic at all.”
hyperactivity observed at 2 years & 7 months
Share the first part of M.'s story for readers on Sleuth! When and why did you start to feel concerned?
I had a little heads up that things might be different. At the amnio, they found a marker on Chromosome 17. This was back in 2008. My daughter is 11 years old now. I went to everybody I could find: my doctor, other doctors, other specialists. I said, “What would this look like?” because the genetic counselor at the obstetrician’s office was trying her best to persuade me to abort. She went as far as to propose a date. They didn't know what a marker on 17 meant, or what it would look like when my daughter got older. My daughter looked okay in the sonogram. Finally, I found a genetic specialist who said it would look like learning disabilities and wouldn't show up until she was in elementary school. I'm a teacher, so I thought, “How could I possibly abort a child who has learning disabilities?” Anyway, the birth proceeded, and everything looked okay. This was my first and only child. I had no idea what to look for, or what the milestones were. Then, as she got older, it was clear there were issues with her development. She didn’t roll over. She didn’t sit up. She had hypotonia: she was like a rag doll with no muscle tone. She did make good eye contact, though. She talked early, before two years old, and has never stopped talking! She crawled late - two weeks before she turned two, and then she started walking at two or thereabouts. She couldn’t climb the steps, initially. She couldn’t run well. She has always had a problem with the right leg not quite keeping up with the left. She definitely has signs of ADHD. She has a very poor attention span and very poor frustration tolerance. She’s a brat, if there’s not a better term. She’s very oppositional. She wants what she wants, when she wants it. And she’s also needy. She always wants attention. She loves negative attention the best. It’s like she’s an addict, and her drug is being yelled at or being scared. She should eventually be a skydiver because she loves that high. She likes this more than positive attention. More than: “Hooray!” She’s really good with language, and has a really good memory. But she behaves like a two-year old. Except that a two year old goes and destroys something because they don't know better; she will destroy something because she wants to get a reaction. She’ll rip her book. She’ll grab a plant. We have to baby-proof the house. Knives can’t be out. She’ll grab one… She did it twice yesterday, because my brother made the mistake of leaving one on the island in the kitchen.
poor frustration tolerance observed