One of my friends posted THIS link to a blog about the things parents of special needs kids go through (how we're feeling, what we might need, etc.). I thought it was pretty good. Check it out. Ironic timing, really, as I was just getting ready to write this post about Bright. Sweet Bright.
When Bright came home at 20 months old he had recovered physically from near starvation. "Malnutrition" isn't a grave enough word. He was starving. Maybe 8 pounds at a year old. But he survived, my boy. And he was a fat butterball baby--even TOO fat at around 35 pounds but the length of a child in 6/9 month clothing! We had every hope that his mental recovery would go as well as his physical recovery. It didn't.
At around 3 years old there were little differences that we began to notice. Very small things that could easily be explained away. All three year olds hit. Lots of three year olds love sweet things to eat. Tons of kids get "lost" in front of the TV. Don't they? Constipation is common, but I suppose we always thought it wierd that he held "it" for 7-10 days, seemingly because he was scared to poop.
Then, 4 years. Then 5 years. Now 6 years.
Everything just continues to progress in the wrong direction. Bright is going to be 7 years old in 3 months--the unspoken divider between "little kid" and "big kid." A little kid can get away with fits in public to a certain age. They can do things that aren't socially acceptable and people will giggle it away. But at 7 years, no more. It's not okay. Actually, I think we're already there with Bright. It's already uncomfortable in public. I'm pretty positive people can see he's "different." It's not just us anymore.
Bright is my most affectionate child. He will cuddle me and kiss me all day long if I'll let him. He is the same with his dad. A few days ago I was watching Little House on the Prairie with Kendi and Bright wrapped in my arms. Across my lap both children intertwined their fingers and held hands. Best friends. Really, Kendi is Bright's only friend. He can be very affectionate with people he loves.
But the outside world? It's the world outside this family and this house that he doesn't deal with so well. If a stranger talks to him he buries his face in my bosom, or has an outright fit. He can't make friends with other children his age. There are 2 other boys on our street his age, but they knock on our door to play with our 10 year old son rather than Bright. On our recent vacation Bright turned into an absolute mess by the time we got home, having complete meltdowns several times a day for no reason we could figure out.
We KNOW that Bright deals with major trauma issues as a result of the extreme neglect he suffered his first year. We also know that he has cognitive impairment due to the starvation. That just doesn't seem to be every piece of the puzzle. Or is it? We're not sure. But for the first time we're considering whether he might be on the autism spectrum.
If you've met Bright, can you give me your honest opinion? What did you see in our little boy? What were your first impressions, being someone that doesn't know him intimately? Does he come across like a typical little boy? Or "just" a mentally impaired little boy? Or an autistic little boy? What would have been your best guess if you didn't know anything about him?
I'm NOT asking you to diagnose my son. That is for the work of professionals. As his mom, I can't step far enough back from the situation to see him as anything but Bright, my son. I can't imagine what others see when they meet him. It would help me to have some honest feed back. It won't break my heart to hear "bad" stuff. I just need TRUTH, whatever that is.
We've just heard word of a new doctor here in our area that works with kids who have a variety of issues like Bright has, so we're hopeful we may have a new resource for answers soon! Honestly, we're just so tired of not having answers. If he was diagnosed on the spectrum, fine. That would give me somewhere to go--something to work with to get him the help he needs. It's not knowing how to help him that is so very tiresome.
Below I'm posting two photos taken a moment apart, at the Akwaaba Gathering. The first photo is so great! I love it! His eyes seem to be connecting. He looks so "typical," right? The second photo is what Bright usually does in photos these days. He's somehow disconnected. He's looking sort of "through" the photo, or down, or away. I have to trick him to look AT the camera now. It doesn't come naturally to him. This is the perfect example of what has happened to him as a little boy. When he was a baby and a toddler, it was totally natural for him to smile at the camera and take photos. =-(