I was recently going through our Lithuania pictures of John-Patrik and I couldn’t believe the transformation. I’ve been wanting to do a side by side for a while. He went from.... a blah, little lump of boy, to this spunky little firecracker today. The picture on the left he looks depressed, the one on the right he looks content. Not only has he grown tremendously on a developmental level, but also physically. When we met him on Nov. 25, 2014 he was 25 lbs and 32 inches tall. Now he is 34lbs and 35.5 inches tall! And we’ve only been home for just over 4 months!
As a few of you know, in Feb. he had surgery; he had tubes put in his ears, a tonsillectomy, and a circumcision, as well as a hearing test. After they cleaned out the foul gunk out of his ear canals (that made even the seasoned surgeon gag) they found that he has perfect hearing! A huge praise! Unfortunately, immediately following the surgery he was hospitalized for pneumonia. That was an awful, very long, week. We realized that he had to have had the pneumonia before the surgery based on his oxygen saturation before surgery and after he was healthy.
Since then we have started him in Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy. He is making great strides in all three areas! Now that he can hear clearly he is making new sounds literally everyday. Both consonant and vowel sounds, sometimes together, making word sounds and in context! “Alga”... all gone. “Dadad”... clear as a bell when Rich walks in the room. (of course, no “mama” yet) “Getgetget”... when the dogs are playing or when he’s wrestling with his brother, Dax. And, I could swear he said something resembling “stinky” when I asked if he was stinky. He chatters all day and always finds his [loud] voice every time we go to Sam’s Club. He is also signing several words that make understanding his needs a lot easier. If he doesn’t do the sign himself he pushes and pulls my hands to make me do the sign, which cracks me up. He follows one-step directions fairly well if it’s basic, “Put it in.” or “On top” for putting toys away or stacking blocks. He adores his speech therapist, Alix!
As far as walking, he isn’t as driven to try as much as he is with the other therapies. He gets around fine crawling, so he thinks, and when he’s not crawling I’m holding him. I’m sure your first thought is stop holding him so much and he’d probably learn to walk sooner, right? Well, in the adoption scenario it’s not that simple. Right now, attachment is everything; it trumps all other things. He’ll learn to walk eventually (because I do work with him everyday on top of Wednesdays at 2pm for PT) but right now, just after arrival to his new home, it’s pivotal for attachment and being held is one of the best ways to connect and instill security. He is gaining muscle mass and core strength... just ask any nurse who has tried to give him a shot! His fine motor skills are also developing very well.
In his Occupational Therapy we are working on his sensory development more so than his everyday self-tending areas like feeding or dressing himself. Again, attachment trumps everything and like being held instills safety & confidence, the activity of being fed creates trust. Especially making eye contact while sharing food, which I do with him every day, always making sure to give him the last bite to reinforce trust and a sense of priority & importance. Given his orphanage life he will probably always have food issues in one form or another, one of which is waiting for a meal. In the orphanage the food was brought to their room where they were already at a table, bibbed and ready to eat as soon as he smelled it. But, in our home, like most homes, the food starts smelling like food very early in the cooking process. So, when he starts smelling it he thinks it’s time to eat. The total bummer is that when he keeps smelling it and he’s still not sitting at the table eating it, (because it’s not ready yet) he thinks he’s missed the meal and he gets very sad. Like, his whole body sags and he gets the most pathetic look on his face. It kills me!
His little personality is coming out more and more! Recently he started copying me in my morning routine, which is eating graham crackers with my morning coffee. (Alternately) He would normally have graham crackers with me but he was getting his bottle of milk after. But he would watch me take a drink of coffee after each bite; studying me. Just a few days ago he started wanting his milk with his crackers so that he could drink it at the same time too. It’s very cute… and messy. There are dozens of little experiences like this that just warm my heart.
It not all sunshine and roses though. There are days that are very hard. These usually involve him pinching and scratching himself. We are starting to gain some ground on this. The more we identify his sensory needs the more we are meeting them through the therapy swing in OT, deep pressure, massaging his palms, and using essential oils. The palms thing works instantly for anyone out there that is looking for a quick calming strategy for your worked-up kiddo. These tools have saved my sanity on several occasions.
This has been an amazing journey so far and we’ve really only just begun. Our reliance on Jesus and the peace that can only be found in Him is the only reason we’re functional. We see Him working all the time in and through our family…
Always refining, always developing, and always, always loving.
(That picture always cracks me up!)