This past month has been extremely busy and full of appointments. Before I explain all the appointments, let me back up…
About 2 years ago, Snowflake had a small bout of constipation. It caused one painful stool and that day it seemed he basically decided he was never going to poop again. After about 4 (maybe 6) weeks of issues, we went to the doctor and she prescribed miralax. She told us to start slow but to give up to 2 TBSPs a day (a double strength adult dose). Well, after about 6 months on the double adult dose, it wasn’t helping. He was still fighting (holding) every bowel movement. I did some research and switched him to natural calm a little over a year ago. It works better than miralax and without the side effects, but he was still holding. We consulted with his doctor again and she said because of his age (still only 3.5 years) and being a preemie, it was more than likely a phase and to give him time. So we kept working with him.
Throughout this time, we were experiencing increasingly intense behavioral issues. Things most parents of toddlers/preschoolers experience, except on a much higher level of intensity and frequency: Hitting, kicking, throwing things, running away, getting out of his car seat, biting, pushing, hair pulling, and retaliating. The hours (days) when he is actively holding are even more intense. We punish him for the bad choices, but he seemingly goes into a fight or flight response and consequences have little effect. This is not to say he’s a bad kid or always like this. On his good days he’s awesome but the bad days make me want to curl up and cry. And the really bad days often mean changing our plans; we’ve had to skip church (although our church has AWESOME workers in the kids program who are more than willing to help us, sometimes we can’t bear leave him in childcare when he’s actively holding nor can he be in the sanctuary), I’ve stayed home from mom’s bible studies, we’ve kept him home for family small group, we’ve cancelled play dates, changed plans, and had our life revolve around his pooping. Deep down, my mommy gut was saying there’s more to this than just a phase, but I listened to his doctor because, until he turned 4, I knew he was still within developmental range for potty training. I also knew that at only 2.5-4 years old, if it was a mental issue and not a physical one, there wasn’t much anyone could do.
Around his 4th birthday, we started some behavioral modification techniques. It was a one step forward, two steps back kind of thing. And the only gain was more Chuggington trains added to his collection. 🙄 Once we returned from vacation, in mid-March, I knew it was time to pursue help. I started by making an appt with a pediatric gastroenterologist but they couldn’t get us in until May. His behavior was increasingly declining and my patience was thin, so we also made an appointment with a pediatric counselor. She got us in the following week and at the intake appointment, based on all we explained, she diagnosed him with anxiety. We saw her for 2 more visits, at which time we decided to switch to a new therapist for various reasons.
His new therapist has been a perfect fit. She agreed with the first therapist’s anxiety diagnosis. She also wanted him to get an evaluation for sensory processing disorder. I knew his former speech therapy office also did occupational therapy, so I called the next day and they worked us in their schedule the next week, but first we had to go to our family doctor for the official referral. (Are you keeping track of all our appointments?!)
The OT eval went well and he was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder; specifically he’s sensory seeking in vestibular and proprioception (hence his constant motion) and sensory avoiding in tactile, auditory, and visual. He also has some behavioral delays due to anxiety. At that eval, she pulled a speech therapist in for a quick evaluation and it was determined (as I suspected) that his speech has not progressed as much as it should have progressed. So before we left, we scheduled a full speech eval along with his first OT appt. (Thankfully, my mommy gut told me to request a speech referral when we were at the doctor a few days before, so that was on hand.)
At the end of May, we finally had the GI appointment I had scheduled way back in March. The doctor basically told us what we already suspected, this is not a physical issue. Meaning there is nothing physically preventing him from pooping, he’s just incredibly strong-willed and holding it (sometimes for days). We do have a follow-up in 2 months at which point they may do some testing but more than likely, they’re not going to find anything.
Most recently, he had his speech eval and again, as suspected he is speech delayed again. A year ago he graduated from speech therapy because he’d caught up to his same aged peers. Since then, he’s fallen behind. He has issues with articulation, understanding concepts/questions, use of pronouns, and use of tense. Let me just say that I learned a lot during this eval about why some parts of home schooling him have been so tough!
Now that the evaluations are all complete, we are settling into a new routine. Every Monday we can be found at speech and OT. Every Friday, we are at his counseling. And in between it all, we are working on the homework each person has assigned. We still fit school time in as we are able but for now, it has kind of taken a back seat to his therapies. Fitting, since it’s now summertime. 😊
So, suffice to say it’s been a busy and difficult month. It’s never easy to hear your child is not “normal”. However, we’ve had so many questions answered, so many concerns validated, and now we know why life has been so difficult for the past 2 years. I’m thankful the issues were caught and he’s going to get the help he needs. And more than that, I’m thankful he’s not worse off. Overall, these issues, while challenging and frustrating, are minor. More than likely, his preemie status caught up to him. All of these issues (anxiety, speech delays, and SPD) are common in preemies. It is also possible they are hereditary but due to the nature of his adoption, we may never know for certain. It could also just be “luck of the draw”… Who knows. What is important is that he’s getting help and soon will be a better version of the Snowflake we already know and love!