It feels odd to write a success story when you’re still on the journey but this is certainly a story of many successes and massive gains, improved quality and enjoyment of life, the ability to function in life and school, and wonderful communication gains for my son -Ethan- and a whole arsenal of tools, techniques, exercises and practices for us to help support him.
We also gained a whole new vocabulary of language with terms like aversions, sensory processing, core strength, cross-body coordination, visual- integration, over stimulation, seeker, avoider, sensory diet, listening therapy, interactive metronome, fight or flight reflexes, Willbarger brushing protocol, weighted blankets, etc..
For the past several years our son has been coming to Creative Health Solutions where we worked to address so many things like gross motor delays, fine motor delays, sound sensitivity and intolerance, sensory overload, texture aversion and a profound communication and social communication delay. What I can say from day 1 is that we were first given hope, secondly given a solid overview of what needed to be addressed after their thorough assessment period, and a whole person action plan to begin the work.
What really made the difference was Creative’s child-led, whole person approach and amazing group of talented therapists. Having both Occupational and Speech therapy at the same office allowed for greater coordination of services that I believe made a big difference in our gains. Each session was creative, engaging, focused on play or things my son wanted to do, he was never bored and looked forward to his sessions each week and this helped so that he didn’t spend time avoiding them or in meltdown. This was a big difference compared to other places we did trial sessions with.
Ethan was overwhelmed in typical child and life settings, he would cover his ears, try to hide, had massive social anxiety to be around other children and wasn’t able to speak. He would stim constantly by jumping up and down or running in circles, couldn’t sit for circle time, would only play with trains watching them go in circles or lining them up in rows. He wouldn’t touch playdoh, didn’t want anything on his hands, didn’t want his feet to touch the ground or anything barefoot, would never walk on grass without shoes on, was afraid of snow etc. He was afraid to walk down the steps of our home and afraid to climb up even the smallest of children’s slides. Bounce houses and most kids play places were overwhelming and frightening for him.
He couldn’t hold a crayon and avoided all fine motor tasks, couldn’t string beads like other kids in his preschool class, had difficulty self-feeding with a spoon or fork or holding a cup, found it very hard to self-dress, put on or take off shoes, and manipulate his hands for many basic functions. He was just so overwhelmed by the world and was avoiding eye contact to the point that he would avoid face to face contact and started looking at things from the corner of his eyes with his face turned away. He would have massive anxiety attacks or become overwhelmed easily. Noises irritated him and seemed to hurt him, even people talking, singing, just loud noise being out in the world, too many sounds at once etc.. He always seemed exhausted and even when he did play would tire out so quickly. There were many times we would get in the car to go somewhere and one of us would end up sitting in the car with him or we’d end up going back home.
So, where are we today after 3 + years of OT and Speech therapy later as well as other interventions. Ethan plays, climbs, bounces, slides, talks, plays with a wide range of toys in creative ways, has friends, goes to parties and for the first time this year had a big birthday party that he wanted to have with lots of friends, noise and loud singing. He even got mad that we didn’t turn the lights out when we sang. Ethan runs, jumps, goes to kids play places, goes trick or treating, hikes and explores, swims and splashes, can sit through family moving outings in a theatre, goes to school social activities, likes going out to eat, going shopping, exploring new places, going to festivals and fairs, riding rides, riding a tricycle, playing amusement park games, going to the zoo, and does a youth running program and even rode a camel.
Ethan went from not doing any fine motor tasks and not being willing to engage in them because they were hard to writing and drawing every day. He plays with Play Doh, slime, kinetic sand and all kinds of sticky things. He handles most of his self-care independently and doesn’t want help, including taking his shoes on and off, dressing, drinking and eating preferred foods.
Ethan is doing well in school participating fully and is enjoying learning, including a new language…Spanish. He went from not being able to engage in social activities with other kids to wanting to be included in everything. He may not always be able to handle each situation, but he does want to try and with his amazingly improved communications skills he will let us know if it’s too much and he can’t handle the situation or needs to leave or try something different without getting to meltdown or escape mode. He doesn’t try to escape each situation now but tries to find solutions with us and trusts us to help him.
Ethan and our family have such an improved quality of life and joy. He is a very happy and much-loved boy. We hope that by sharing our story other families will have hope but know it takes a lot of hard work. His progress took time, persistence, love, patience and lots of therapy at the clinic, at home and out in the world.
ETHAN RIDING the 180 FEET HIGH CAPITAL FERRIS WHEEL OVER THE POTOMAC RIVER – It was his request to ride it.