Wednesday, August 13, 2008

He Said he loves me!

I was in the kitchen the other day when Philip ran through and asked if he could go to the neighbors' to play. "Sure," I said. He happily ran out the door and shouted over his shoulder, "I love you Mom!" I stopped what I was doing and looked directly at him. "What did you say?" "I said I love you Mom."

He's never said that to me before. Well, he has but I had to ask him to stop years ago because he would only say it when he was being blatantly manipulative. But this was different. It was a spontaneous expression of his pleasure at being allowed to be just like the other boys for just a moment. It was nothing short of a miracle.

Philip was 2 years and 4 months old when he came to us from Korea. Being an international adoption, it was a long and tedious process to get him here. He had been identified as a child with special needs from the get-go and we were told that besides a cleft lip and palate, he also had a host of other physical issues. He had been extremely delayed in his gross and fine motor function and there was some question about whether he would ever be able to run, play, or keep up with the crowd. He was completely non-verbal which concerned me. Three times before we agreed to bring him home, I asked (a complicated process in itself) if there were cognitive delays and three times I was told unequivocally no. So we were quite prepared to deal with a toddler who may have a life-time of physical challenges to handle. We were not prepared for the child who actually came off that plane.

Philip's walking was very shaky when he got here. He was escorted off the airplane in a stroller since he was not able to walk more than a couple of steps without stumbling over his own feet. He has very poor muscle tone and looked...well, floppy. That, in fact, is the way medical personnel refer to his tone - but this was the part we expected. He was not able to communicate with us at all. Besides the language barrier, he was non-verbal and had never spoken any words, neither Korean nor English. He would simply point and whine for anything that he wanted but he couldn't even seem to figure out what he wanted. He had never been fed anything but formula and he was malnourished.

As the weeks, months, years progressed we realized we had a much larger project on our hands than we had ever anticipated. Philip could not make eye contact with anybody, he had a lot of perseverative behaviors, he threw constant temper tantrums and he remained unable to communicate with the spoken word. He could not follow basic directions and he did not know how to relate to others - he seemed to be in a world of his own and deeply resented those of us who could not crawl into that world and anticipate his needs. To say he was not cognitively delayed was either a blatant lie or gross malpractice.

We have since come to understand a lot more about Philip. He has mild mental retardation, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (I hate this diagnosis - obviously he has pervasive developmental delays - the diagnosis tells us nothing - except that doctors don't like to call autism when they see it), mixed expressive-receptive language disorder (he has trouble understanding and expressing words), dyscalcula and possibly undiagnosed OCD, and ADD. I, for one, did not sign up for this and I believe God knew that had we heard the word Autism before we adopted Philip we probably would have cut the whole thing off before it started. But God wanted us to learn a few things.

The battle has been long, tedious and often marked with bitterness to help Philip get to a place where he is as "normalized" as possible. Now at age 11 he functions about at the level of a 5 or 6 year old yet, since he cannot interpret social cues, he thinks he is functioning on par with his peers. Ironically enough, he is too high functioning to realize how low functioning he is. He is basically a happy child, oblivious to the frustrations he causes to those around him (someday maybe I'll offer my review of The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night).

The key to what success we have gained in getting Philip to where he can relate to others a bit better has been diet, particularly yogurt, which his father faithfully makes for him and serves to him each day at breakfast. As long as Philip has his yogurt each morning he is able to make good eye contact, keep his perseverations and obsessive behaviors to a minimum and relate better to others in general. In fact, many are surprised to hear that he has autism since, as long as he follows his diet, he does not exhibit many of the classic signs. But we know. We know all too well because we relate to him moment by moment - he is never far from my side and I know his every quirk. I can predict his thoughts and anticipate his responses. His rigidity in thought and emotion are still classic markers of his many underlying problems. So when he turned to me and said just this once, "I love you Mom" I knew I had to grab a hold of those words, the look on his face, the whole wonderfulness of it all and hide it away in my heart. It may be many more years before I hear it again.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Again, and again, and again, glory to God for parents like you!

Patti S. (from FG) said...

That made me cry. Yes, store it away, and bring it out when things get tough. God is good, all the time; sometimes, when we least expect it and most need it, He sends a gentle or blatant reminder that He knows what he is doing, He planned it all along, and the plan was good.

Don said...

Glory to God!

I remember the first time David actually told me he loved me. Prior to that, I'd tell him I loved him at bedtime, and he responded with "Okay."

It's a huge moment, and worth savoring as one of those little rewards that comes when you least expect it.

LucisMomma said...

O, Pure JOY!!!

I completely believe that Korea just wanted him to go where he could be helped better (along with any God-lesson He planned), and so hid any diagnosis. When we got Luci, the kids all go through an official checkup. You wouldn't believe it--to check her ears, they squeaked a toy and if she made any movement whatsoever, they counted that as "whole." They even held the squeaky toy where she could SEE it. They took temp, had me lift her shirt so they could see her skin and listened to her heart (for a whole 2 seconds)--yup it's beating, get her to your country as fast as you can. ( That's the feeling all of us moms got at that physical.) Each step was done by someone different, no "medical" personnel saw this child for more than 5 seconds total. Luci had a fever (ear infection, I think) but they didn't mark it down.

Gina said...

I have so enjoyed browsing your two blogs this morning. Came here via Orrologion. I had just read something that made the world seem out of kilter, and you helped put it right.

I see you're reading a Patrick O'Brian book and one by Temple Grandin- I'm a fan of both- but goodness, when do you get time to read? :)

Mairs said...

What you didn't see, then, is how long both of those books have been on that list at the bottom of my blog....many moons now...I wondered the same thing about you when I went to your blog?!