By Ana Grosshauser
It is hard to believe that my involvement with NACD started back in 1992, over 25 years ago. With that said I have had the pleasure of watching many young children grow up to be highly capable adults. Some of these wonderful families are in regular contact while other times I am totally floored, when a voice from the past reaches out after many years. This last month, I heard from a wonderful Mom that I had lost contact with. I worked with her son and his brothers many years ago and am so pleased to hear that Christopher has such a wonderfully fulfilling adult life. For you moms that just need to hear that there is a wonderful future within reach, enjoy this article that Ana Grosshauser shares with us.
—Lyn Waldeck, NACD Developmentalist
What a miracle and wondrous gift to receive our firstborn child! As most new parents and family, we were thrilled! Here was a perfectly formed and beautiful child who seemed so content and peaceful.
Little did we know that this peacefulness and contentment would change so quickly.
From the second day he was born, Christopher cried almost constantly. It was difficult to console him. Breastfeeding was a challenge for him, and so was the bottle. At three weeks of age, he was diagnosed with his first ear infection. This was the beginning of three and a half years of back to back ear infections and antibiotics. Christopher was constantly fussy and crying. He never slept through the night, nor would he nap during the day. Besides the ear infections, Christopher often had bronchitis and pneumonia. He would want to be held, but then felt uncomfortable being held. It was not easy to console him. He usually had to be marched before he would settle down.
Additionally, the vaccinations seemed to make things worse. He reacted with high fever and rashes, and he cried incessantly. As a precaution, his pediatrician decided to give him a second round of vaccinations. This wreaked enormous havoc on his little body. Christopher was miserable and very sick and continued to cry incessantly. As a new mother, my heart was broken; it seemed almost impossible to make our little one smile.
The first few years passed. He babbled and said few words. At three years of age, he had a minimal vocabulary. By the time he was four years of age, the ear infections and the bronchitis/pneumonia episodes finally began to diminish. But now there were learning issues to address.
At age three, Christopher was placed in Project Launch and later, the Early Childhood programs of the school district. He was mainstreamed in the first and second grades with special aides, but there were obvious difficulties in learning, especially with the open classrooms, and the decision was made to homeschool him.
Various evaluators within the school district diagnosed Christopher as having Pervasive Developmental Disorder. In the meantime, Christopher was also taken to an independent neuropsychologist and audiologist who disputed the PDD label, and claimed instead that the difficulty in learning was the result of all the years of ear infections. She gave him a different label of ADHD and pointed me in the direction of an allergist.
Christopher was then taken to several doctors to evaluate him for allergies. Eventually he went to a Chinese doctor and homeopath for several years to treat him for candida, vaccinations, lead poisoning, allergies, and for over-usage of antibiotics.
Christopher was also taken to a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) nutritionist who put him on a strict diet. He also prescribed chelation.
At around age 7, Christopher began having facial tics. These began with the mouth. Later on, they became eye tics. Several years later, the self-stimming became more prominent. There was a lot of spinning, finger and hand flapping, and arm waving. The loud clapping began; often times it would be done right next to my ears! He made up a word and said it a million times a day. He’d “scribble” in the air with his finger. The stimming would change from one thing to another, and they included mouth noises, snapping till his fingers bled, talking to himself, and so forth. At this age, Christopher seemed to almost never get sick. But it was obvious that other things were going wrong.
The OCD developed. Christopher developed an obsession with the computer and his games. He could never go anywhere without caring a container full of computer game boxes. He had the same obsession with photographs. He would line them up and cover the entire family room floor with photos.
In the meantime, the homeschooling continued, but there were constant problems with inattentiveness, hyperactivity, poor short-term memory, auditory processing, sensory integration dysfunction, and manipulative behavior, among other things. The biggest challenge was that Christopher seemed to have very little curiosity or desire to learn about the world around him.
And then, one day, all of this turned around when one of the specialists seeing Christopher recommended that we look into NACD.
After researching their website, I eagerly made an appointment to take Christopher in for an evaluation. Words cannot express the excitement that I felt to FINALLY be given a ray of hope for our child. After trying so many different avenues of doctors and therapies, we were able to implement something that made complete and total sense!
With great fascination, I learned all about the neurological organization of the brain. What a relief to have the support of an astonishingly intelligent and caring group of individuals, and to know that they truly cared, along with his parents, about our child’s success! Following the program meant an enormous amount of commitment on my part, and I found it to be a huge blessing to be able to include this in our homeschooling program. This simply became such a wonderful way of life for us.
We learned so much!! How exciting it was to know that we were working towards building new connections for the brain cells! How encouraging to realize that sensory and motor pathways could be created with the proper stimulation of frequency, intensity, and duration! It made a lot more sense to me to be able to do this within the home every day instead of driving all over creation to visit various doctors and therapists.
One of the most important details that I learned was to do away with the labels and diagnoses. I personally had received about five different diagnoses for Christopher from as many well-meaning professionals. The leaders of NACD reminded me that these diagnoses didn’t matter. What was most important was building up strengths in all the different areas of development. It didn’t matter if a child had special needs, developmental delays, or special gifts. Each one had the ability to grow by leaps and bounds.
I was ecstatic to receive the support of NACD. For many years I had gone round and round in circles and felt frequently overwhelmed. It was so encouraging to feel so understood, and to have their support in writing up the program and lesson plans.
It took months and years of hard work, and we knew that Christopher’s brain was going through many positive changes. He eventually was able to establish his natural dominance. He could be touched without screaming with pain. He was able to master long digit spans easily. He became more pleased with himself and proud of his newfound abilities.
Where once he had great difficulty focusing, he was able to listen more, remembering details, as with directions. His stimming behavior diminished and eventually disappeared completely.
Discovering and learning the NACD philosophy, and then implementing it within our family was the pivotal, most important event in our lives. It has had such a tremendous and positive impact on me and my entire family. I am extremely grateful to this organization, and I carry enormous respect and gratitude for the caring individuals who help run it.
Today, Christopher is a wonderful, well-adjusted 29-year-old young man. He lives a simple life, still at home with his mom, and works part-time at Randall’s. He has an immense love for music and carries close to 50,000 songs on his iPod. Those who know him describe him as extremely friendly and talkative. He is pure joy and love. He has enormous confidence in himself and is almost always happy. He is a beautiful soul.
One day recently, his father had taken him out to eat. Christopher was in his usual happy-go-lucky mood, and his dad was having a bad day. Curiously, his father asked him, “Son, why is it you are ALWAYS so happy??” Christopher looked at him with a smile and simply said, “Because I CHOOSE to be happy!”
We are convinced that he has been sent here to teach all of us around him about love and compassion, patience and tolerance, and happiness! This, to us, his family, is the greatest measure of success.