22 March 2010

Sinking in...

Failure to thrive?  I understand the name but I really think they (whoever "they" are) should come up with a better name for the ailment that is keeping my 2 year old from growing.  I find it hard to look at my running, happy, chatterbox of a two year old as failing to thrive, but that is the diagnosis he has and has been undergoing testing for since February.

The doctor became concerned at Harold's 2 year well check, which did not happen until he was 26 months old.  Our family definitely does not have great height genes, but our oldest son, Zack, has growth hormone deficiency, so I just assumed that might also be the cause of Harold's issues.  As it turns out, though, his weight is the bigger issue.

This fact really surprised and puzzled me.  In my eyes, Harold was perfectly proportioned.  I love his little limbs and tiny belly but now that the doctors have impressed their concern upon me, I can see that he lacks the normal toddler squeezable chubbiness.  He is still squeezable, but the pudge isn't there.

Now that I see it, it feels horrible, as a mother, to have not noticed it before.  But I realize that this is like many other problems our kids have.  As parents, we don't want to see the problems of our perfect offspring.  We don't want to hear that something is wrong and can't even see it until we are ready.  Often, outsiders can see the problems before we, as parents, can.

My oldest son had speech delay as a two year old.  He had started saying a few words around age 1 but stopped talking and I had him evaluated at 19 months.  The first speech therapist who evaluated him at age 2 suggested he might have pervasive developmental disorder (PDD).

I immediately went to the internet and researched and came to the conclusion that my baby did not have PDD.  He was fine, he just had speech issues, but I went ahead and met with a counselor and went through the process of filling out all the surveys for the evaluation.  This process is severely flawed, though.  A parent can see things much differently than the counselor and interpret them differently.  What I saw as a great attention span for playing with a toy car, actually was an early sign of autism but I couldn't see it.   I filled out the parent questionnaires accordingly and Zack went without a diagnosis for 8 more years.  After all, Zack started reading at age 3, could tell time and multiply and divide at age 5, and memorize pages of text in one reading.  How could he have learning disabilities?

But, Zack continued to struggle.  While he is a charismatic and charming kid with adults, he has trouble identifying with and interacting with his peers.  He would sit with his nose in a book and then spew facts about snakes or dinosaurs and though he had the aptitude for the work, homework would often overwhelm him to the point of near panic.

Over time, I came to the realization that it was very likely he had PDD or ASD but didn't want to take him for an evaluation because I did not want him labeled.  I finally took Zack for an educational psychology evaluation when he was 10 years old so that I could have a name for what was causing his daily struggles.  I knew in my heart that he had some form of autism but having a name from a professional would help us get help for him.  After three sessions of several hours of testing, Zack was diagnosed with mild autism/PDD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and anxiety disorder.

When I told certain people about Zack's diagnosis, such as his speech therapist from ages 3 to 5, and a former neighbor who is a special education teacher, they said they suspected it years ago.  I realize that an outsider can't make a parent see more clearly by pointing out their suspicions outright, but I think that friends and educators can gently help guide the parent toward seeing what is there.  If nothing else, it can ease the transition once the diagnosis is made.

In second grade, a speech therapist at Zack's school suggested that Zack had characteristics of aspergers syndrome.  Again, I went straight to the internet and did not see that Zack had aspergers.  Yes, I could see similarities in Zack and the symptoms but did not think he really had it.  Yet, as time went on, I could see signs pointing toward aspergers or some other type of autism and eventually took the step of getting Zack tested.

Once we got names for things causing him problems, we could get him better help, both at home and at school.  I had to get over MY problem of not wanting to see, then not wanting a label, for him to be able to get help.

Now I find myself in the midst of a challenge again.  I did not want to put Harold through invasive medical tests when, in my mind, his issue was similar to Zack's growth hormone deficiency, which could be detected by less invasive blood tests.  It took an email from the chief of pediatric endocrinology at a major children's hospital, saying Harold's problem was less in his height and that he is "quite underweight" for me to see how very skinny Harold is.  What I saw, before, as adorably tiny limbs, I can now see as sadly skinny toddler limbs and am eager to do whatever tests are necessary to find the cause of his "failure to thrive" and make him better.  Harold is scheduled for endoscopy and sigmoidoscopy tests and a biopsy on May 14.  I hate the thought of him being under anesthesia but I am now eager to find what is causing his problem and get him well.

Overlooking our children's flaws is good but overlooking struggles that we can help them overcome is not.  It is a challenge, but as parents we have to see our kids more clearly to help them grow, no matter how we get there or how long it takes.

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