Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Little About Me

My perspective is definitely different from that of many other folks—and it is definitely the product of my life experiences. I am really grateful for this gift of perspective, and by sharing “a little about me”, I hope you will be able to appreciate and benefit from my journey as well.

One of the first blessings bestowed upon me by my Creator was that I was born in Texas! Yes, I am one of those proud Texans that wears Texas on various items of clothing, loves George Strait and Willie Nelson, knows all the words to “The Eyes of Texas”, goes crazy over high school football, and considers the Alamo sacred ground. I depart from most of my fellow Texans because I don’t drink beer or iced tea—but still believe there is no good Tex-Mex food north of the Red River. I married a fellow Texan, not a native, but still a Bluebonnet-loving, cowboy-boot-owning Texan.

That said, hubby and I have both traveled a little and love people and places from all around the world. Our grown children are now traveling to places far beyond our comfortable borders, and we are so blessed to get to love people from more remote corners of the globe. But I guess that is also Texan—loving people—and we do.

My husband and I are the proud parents of eight children. Clark 25, Katy 23, Preston 20, Annie 18, Kent 16, Callie 13, Carson 11 and Dawson 9. They are the eight finest children I’ve ever known. I am such a better person because I have the privilege of being their mother. They are often the conduit through which God chooses to teach me. You can tell how much I had to learn by how many children were sent to help get the message across! Through this blog, I’ll share as much of what I’ve learned, and what I continue to learn, as possible. Today’s post will just set the stage.

The geography of the land of Bateman had a drastic change on February 1, 2000. Our youngest son, Dawson, was born with a severe brain injury. He tied a true hand-over-hand knot in the umbilical cord, suffering periodic prenatal anoxia. This knot had to be tied by three months gestation because after that time, babies are just too big to do that kind of swimming. I knew something wasn’t right before Dawson was born, but didn’t make any fuss about it—hoping it was just a “different” pregnancy. I knew within hours of delivery that he wasn’t nursing like the other seven babies had, he didn’t sleep the same either. Something was wrong. By six days of age, I was CERTAIN something was wrong and dashed to my beloved pediatrician for help. After examining Dawson, he was pronounced perfectly healthy, I was told to get more rest, and sent packing.

At the four-month well check, I was all of a sudden correct in my “hunches”. Something was VERY wrong. Dawson had nystagmus and alternating convergent strabismus. The combination of these two conditions usually results in cortical visual suppression or impairment—in other words, blindness. This condition (CVI) is often accompanied by mobility issues and cognitive impairment. This is often called global developmental delay or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Not only was something wrong, the news got worse—there was nothing I could do about it. Remembering what a proud and stubborn Texan I am, you can imagine I wasn’t about to take that news lying down. I left the pediatrician’s office with a tear-stained face and more determination than usually fits inside one body.

Within just a few days, God brought a wonderful woman into my life—Cindy Dees. Cindy had a daughter who’d had similar issues and she introduced me to a program where parents receive training and become therapists for their children with neurological difficulties. Her daughter was doing spectacularly well, and so I listened. She taught me why Dawson’s vision problem was NOT in his eyes, but in his brain. She taught me some basic information about how to help my son and what we could do to get started. We didn’t wait, we jumped right in and our family went to work right away.

That is the beginning of the change. The change that taught me to seek out the root cause of problems, not just chase the symptoms. The change that taught me that parents are the best teachers and therapists in the world. The change that taught me to stay the course and work hard to get the desired improvements. The change that taught me the brain is a spectacular organ and is one of the final frontiers of anatomy understanding. The change that lit an unquenchable fire that drives me to learn and then share with other parents how they can help their precious child.

Dawson is now nine years old. He is doing amazingly well. His biggest concern in life is that he isn’t finishing his schoolwork on time. He reads, he does math, he has his first crush on a little girl in his class, he plays with his friends on the playground. He’s never qualified for special education or any other “services.” His work is all at grade level. He isn’t at 100% of expected neurological function yet—about 85%. But what started as a severe injury is now mild. Thank goodness we know what to do, how to do it and to hang in there because sometimes changes take time.

Every child in my family has benefited from my knowledge about child brain development. We’ve solved many problems that we see other families “coping” with. Because of the success I’ve experienced and my Texan nature, I determined to become trained so I could help other parents in an organized way. I couldn’t bear to see one more mother suffer the heartbreak of thinking her child could never (fill in the blank). I believe in every child’s potential to be well and I see children every day who are becoming just that—-well! Even though their peers continue to struggle with the same challenges. Even though the doctors or teachers or therapists said they would never be able to go beyond certain boundaries. Even though the odds were stacked against them.

So every day, I get to do what I love. I love teaching about brain development in terms that everyone can understand. I love putting parents in the driver’s seat of their child’s development. I love empowering families to help every precious child realize their full potential. And you’ll love understanding your child and knowing how to help them progress!