Tag Archives: opportunity

23 Months In One Year

20 Apr

April 20 – Miracle cure: Write a news-style article on a miracle cure. What’s the cure? How do you get the cure? Be sure to include a disclaimer.

Try as I might, I was not able to get this prompt to work for me. Therefore, I decided to use one of the bonus prompts that were provided at the beginning of this challenge.

Best doctor’s visit or hospital stay: What made it the best? The news you got? The nurse/doctor/surgeon you saw? The results?

On a cool Spring day in 2010, my husband and I drove George, then six and a half, to an appointment with a psychiatrist. The purpose of the visit was to get the results of the assessment that had been done six weeks previously.

The anxiety we felt went beyond normal parental angst. We were both remembering the assessment that had been done a year previously. It had not gone well. George had been agitated and distracted. He hadn’t settled, refusing even to take his coat off. Throughout the assessment he had underperformed on just about every task. In the next room, I had answered questionnaires, checking the “never” or “rarely” box to almost every question about George’s capabilities.

It had been a dismal experience, and the results had shown severe deficits. Now we were back, one year later, to see what quantifiable effects his first year of IBI therapy had had. He had shown almost no anxiety during the assessment this time, and the specialists had emerged smiling from the room, but we knew that we just had to wait and see the numbers.

When she greeted us, the psychiatrist was as charming and soothing as always. She ushered us into her office and gave George some markers so he could follow his favourite pursuit of scribbling on her white board. He surprised us all by writing lists of words instead.

The psychiatrist could tell that we were nervous, and she was kind enough to dispense with that beat-around-the-bush suspense thing that so many doctors seem to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in. She cut right to the chase.

“George has made phenomenal progress,” she told us.

She showed us reports and charts showing gains in almost every area: cognitive, language, fine motor, gross motor, emotional regulation, behavioural, daily living skills… What this child had achieved in the last year was off the charts.

It was literally off the charts. The psychiatrist showed us a graph showing percentiles of progress after one year of IBI therapy, and sure enough, George’s accomplishments went way beyond the right margin of the page.

In his first year of IBI – in a single twelve-month period – George  had made no less than 23 months worth of gains.

That was phenomenal. Far from following the usual model in which autistics develop relatively slower than typically developing children, thereby falling relatively further behind, George had developed at almost double the usual rate. He was still behind other kids of his age, but he was far less behind than he had been, and in some mathematical areas, he had actually started outperforming typical kids.

It’s like starting far back in the pack at a race and being way, way, way behind the leaders. And then, while the leaders maintain the same pace they started with, you put on a hell of a sprint. You probably won’t cross the finish line first, but instead of being twenty minutes behind the guy who wins, you’re only ten minutes behind.

Before getting these results, we had seen changes in George. Progress like that cannot go unnoticed. But it was wonderful to see it in numbers, to see visual proof of what our boy had achieved.

That day, my husband and I truly started to see possibilities for the future, and we made a promise there and then to help our son reach the stars.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

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Redemption: Guest Post by Margie Bryant

6 Jan

In October 2002, I experienced the heartbreak of a pregnancy loss in the second trimester. I was not given an explanation as to what had gone wrong, but the pregnancy had been riddled with problems from the start. It was devastating. As devastating as it was, though, that loss paved the way for tremendous blessings. If we had not lost that precious baby, we would not have our son George. And I would not have had my life enriched by the friendship of an incredible woman named Margie Bryant.

When George was born, I suffered from the same angst faced by most women who have had a pregnancy or infant loss. I was paranoid about every single little thing. I feared losing my child like I had feared nothing else, and my mind read every minor problem as a sign of impending disaster. Fortunately, there was an Internet group for people like me – women who are parenting children after a pregnancy or infant loss. It is through this group that I got to know Margie.

A few years ago, Margie went through a major turning point in her life. Today, she tells us about her experiences, and how they motivated her to change her life completely. She is truly one of the strongest, most inspirational people I have ever known. She has turned her life around in a spectacular fashion. If anyone is in doubt that they will be able to improve their lives, they need look no further than Margie to know that the sky is the limit.

I can still remember the exact moment that I exited the white bricked Receiving and Discharge building, wearing commissary purchased gray shorts, short sleeved shirt and white Reeboks. In my arms, I carried the cardboard box taken from my last kitchen shift and it was filled with my possession of the last seven months: a crocheted purple and white blanket, two Bibles, the few paperback books that I didn’t leave behind and the multitude of letters that had sustained my sanity. The sun was already beaming a warm Texas ray on my pale skin and I could feel my face perspiring under the borrowed cosmetics. My thick strawberry blond curls were pulled tightly into a corkscrew bundle with just a tendril framing my face. It felt odd to be “pretty” again after months of a bare face and ponytail existence.

It was surreal that this hell was finally over; the worst experience of my thirty four years had come to an end. There would be no more sleepless nights in the frigid tiny room that contained two sets of metal bunk beds with thin mattresses that made your bones ache, four tall metal lockers, a small desk and chair, a roof that poured rain from eight holes in the ceiling and the lone window that looked over the razor wire fence. I would no longer have to take eighteen steps up the stairs in my black, ten pound steel toe boots, just to get to the cramped space that I shared with three women.

As I walked toward the green sedan where my Dad and step-mom sat waiting to drive the five hundred miles home, it felt almost surreal to be leaving this enormous, overcrowded encampment. A quiet, empty home was waiting for me, with a private bathroom and a large, comfortable queen size sleigh bed. There would be no more monitored phone calls, I would not have to dress in the drab khaki uniforms worn by one thousand others and I had eaten my last bland, overly starched meal served on a heavy plastic tray. I was free to be myself again, not merely a last name and a nine digit number.

After placing the box in the trunk of the car and waving my final goodbye, I climbed into the back of the sedan and my Dad steered us out of the parking lot. I will never be the person I was before I left the Texas federal prison camp on a steamy and humid July day. As we drove past the security gate and onto the street that would take me home, I did not look back. Sinking into the comfort of the seat, I relaxed and allowed the joy of freedom to stream down my face.

Four and a half years later, my redemption has been paved with a loving family and generous friends who never gave up on me.  Prior to my incarceration, my low self esteem and emptiness were filled with drugs, alcohol and numerous worthless men. Literally, I had to learn the truth in the cliché about loving myself first and sobriety made that possible.

Simply, I finally stopped running from myself. I was able to look into the face of my children and know that I had the capability to be an outstanding mother. It still makes me emotional to remember my oldest son, who tried to have the strength of an adult, breaking down and crying on the morning that I left for prison. The constant ache of missing them and not seeing them for seven months is a memory that still causes physical pain. My redemption has not been about me; it is about my children.

It amazes me on an extremely regular basis that my life is full of such joy and pure happiness now. No, things are not always easy (I will be paying a monthly bill to the United States government for the rest of my life. Literally. ) but I have far more than I expected after almost losing everything. In the last four years: I went back to school (will graduate with a Bachelors degree next December), worked my way up to a well paying position in the field of my study, have a closer relationship that ever before with my family and more importantly, my children.

And….

At long last, I found love. True, functional, healthy, romantic, laughter filled, passionate love. I met him two week after I came home from prison and last weekend, on Christmas Eve, in front of my family, he asked me to be his wife. My heart and my home are finally complete.

As I said though, my life isn’t a carefree romp down Easy Street. My self esteem is daily work and something that I must continually improve upon. I wake up every day and have to make a choice to continue in a new and better direction. The problem with old, lifelong habits is that they die painfully slow. However, when times are extremely hard, I think back to those seven months in 2007 and know that very few things could be that dreadful again.

Throughout my journey over the last four and a half years, here is what I have learned to be true: change for the better is extremely difficult and takes constant work. However, once you start making positive changes, life starts to become incredibly astounding.

(Photo credit: Dave Hopton)