Last November I started a post about all the reasons I was thankful for my foodblog in 2010—rediscovering the inspiration of the farmer’s market with my son; committing myself to cooking real, whole, and traditional foods; exploring online communities through Facebook, Foodbuzz, and a host of others; learning about gardening and my own neighborhood through the SESNA community garden; and making some important discoveries about sensory needs and eating, for both myself and my son.
I never had a chance to finish writing that post. The month of November marked the beginning of my son’s journey with speech and occupational therapy; we were still holding our breath and waiting in line for a diagnosis from the Childhood Development and Research Center at OHSU. Once that happened in January, we were faced with an extremely hard decision: whether to stay in Oregon up to our eyeballs in hospital bills while our son failed to receive the early intervention he so clearly needed, or separate the family on a temporary basis so that Nolan could have better therapy options, Medicaid to help pay for it, and my parents’ assistance for respite. Clearly, I selected the second option and moved with my son to Colorado, at least for the next few years.
2011 has been a rough year in many ways, full of changes and growing pains. This year, our November days have been packed with preschool, OT and speech, learning how to play appropriately with toys at home and running through the greenbelt to gather leaves and kick at snowdrifts, with plans to get even more training for me and therapy for Nolan in the future. While Nolan is otherwise occupied, I frantically knit gifts for our therapists, make sets of Christmas cards for sale, cook meals, fight off colds, and alternate my workouts between circuit training and jogging, the better to keep up with my kinetic child. In other words, we hardly have time to stop and breathe, much less reflect upon our many blessings. But I don’t want to let another year pass without acknowledging how fortunate we are in so many ways, especially since my natural tendency is to look around enviously at all the families with normally developing children.
I am so incredibly grateful for Nolan’s extended support system. Raising a child with special needs truly does require a village, and I probably would have torn out all of my hair by now if it weren’t for the continual assistance of my parents. Not only have they been willing to open their home up to the chaos of a three-year old’s world—with toys thrown down the stairs, under the sofa cushions, in every drawer and on every shelf, Sesame Street monopolizing the television—they have helped to financially support our physical and therapeutic needs, chauffeured us all around town to therapy, and offered to watch Nolan when I have to get some work done or just need a break before I explode.
We are so lucky to have almost more therapy options in the Denver metro area than we can squeeze into Nolan’s schedule. Last year at this time, we had almost no choices due to limited transportation, worthless insurance, and minimal public and private options for intervention. Now we are blessed to qualify for Medicaid, which allows us to attend therapy at least four times a week. We are currently considering adding hippotherapy with a PT, listening therapy with a certified OT, Hanen training for me, and/or neuro-developmental delay remediation. The therapists we already work with are uniformly excellent, and have given me so many ideas to extend the intervention to our home program. And Nolan’s preschool teachers, therapists and aides have made school a safe, fun place that Nolan can’t wait to get to! With all this hard work, Nolan is definitely beginning to make real progress, although he admittedly has quite a trek ahead of him in terms of catching up to his peers.
All of this hard work with my son leads me to my next big reason for gratitude: it has been a great learning experience for me. Not only am I getting well-versed in therapy jargon, techniques and exercises, hand signs, and appropriate language patterns to use with Nolan, I have learned so much about myself. Beyond being a picky eater, I have had a whole host of sensory-motor issues from birth, and many of the techniques I use with Nolan could potentially apply to myself as well—everything from the Wilbarger protocol for therapeutic brushing, to sensory feeding techniques, to exercises designed to inhibit the primitive Moro reflex. And there is so much more to learn! I will never lack for reading matter. 🙂
I have also learned many more reasons to pursue a traditional foods diet for my family, even though it has gotten harder to do due to lack of time and parents who are way more willing to run to the store than wait an extra few hours for bread. Soaking and sprouting nuts, grains and beans can give me a way to boost the nutritional content of the few foods my son will actually eat. We are blessed to have year-round access to raw, grass-fed dairy and beef, pastured eggs, and space to grow our own organic vegetables and fruits. I may not have the refrigerator space or cold storage to ferment everything, but we did loads of canning and drying this year also, and are so fortunate to have found an excellent price on a stand-alone freezer to further expand our preservation options. I am even branching out into more natural care for our skin, hair and teeth these days; but that is a post yet to come! I am so grateful to be learning about all of these things because they are ways that I can nourish my family today and invest in their future health.
Finally, I am so very grateful to be busy. It is not an easy thing to be raising a special needs child with my spouse in another state, and as appreciative as I am of my parents’ help, the ability to fill my little free time with projects and goals helps this time apart go that much faster for me. When I’m not cooking for my family, taking photos and writing for the blog, or researching interventions for Nolan, I fill the quiet of the evening with knitting (Christmas gifts at present!), making my whimsical monoprint cards, and exercising. I’ve been a knitter for 10 years, but haven’t had any time for it until recently; it is such a blessing for my tactile needs and fidgety hands! The card business, Scribbles by Sparks, is an awesome non-toxic outlet for my creativity that provides me with the occasional income while raising awareness of autism and other childhood neurological disorders. And my running and circuit training goals, while small, feel so much more achievable whenever I consider that Nolan will only get bigger and stronger and faster. I owe it to him to keep myself strong and healthy as long as possible, to keep up with my perpetual motion machine of a son and help him for however long he needs me. So I am very thankful to have a deeper motivation for fitness than just fitting into a smaller pant size (although that certainly didn’t hurt)—I need that extra push to keep myself from slacking off!
I could probably go on and on in this vein, but there is an organic turkey waiting to slip into the oven and oyster stuffing to prepare. Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope you all (Americans, anyway!) have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! More on our menu tomorrow, providing I am not still in a turkey coma…