Never. Ever. Underestimate. Someone's. Abilities.
That was the lesson that my wife and I received early in October. The person delivering that message? My seven year old son, Ryan.
On an otherwise calm October 11, that "calm" was shattered when Ryan's grandmother -- my 78 year old mother -- fell at her home next door while cooking dinner, hit her head on the kitchen cabinets, and was unconscious. My 15 year old niece ran over to our house, crying and telling my wife that Grandma had fallen, and there was blood everywhere, and she wasn't waking up.
Now, my wife and I have the same occupation. We're both respiratory therapists, just at different hospitals. We are quite accustomed to dealing with emergency situations. As for me ... I was at work at a small hospital 40 miles away. My wife was at home, with the kids (Ryan and Lexi), cleaning the house.
Quickly, my wife asked if anyone had called 911, as she quickly put on some different clothes other than the ragged ones she was wearing to clean the house. Hearing this, and unbeknownst to anyone else, Ryan picked up the phone and called 911 himself, for his grandmother.
Now is where it gets even more interesting. Ryan has been a member of Cub Scouts for a little over a year now. He has the "rank" of a Bobcat Cub Scout. At his den meeting, they had JUST learned what to do in an emergency situation -- less than two weeks prior! His quick thinking and quick actions helped get emergency personnel to his grandmother's assistance quickly.
To understand why this is even more amazing, you have to know some things about Ryan. See, Ryan has been diagnosed with high functioning, low level autism. His mom and I are still not entirely convinced of this "diagnosis"; we were pressured into getting him tested, as so many parents are these days. The "definition" for autism was expanded several years ago, and then a few years later, all the experts went, "Oh! Look at all the new autism cases!" DUH! You just expanded the definition for autism so that it encompasses nearly everyone! We resisted the testing because we didn't want someone to just slap a label on Ryan. But, pressured as we were, we relented and got him tested. Our initial fears were confirmed: they just wanted to place a label on him. We received no further help, whatsoever. It was as if once the label was applied, we were set adrift in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean in a rowboat, not a parcel of land anywhere in sight, with no oars, sails, or provisions. No help in dealing with this new "diagnosis" has ever materialized, despite repeatedly asking for help.
Ryan also has a trio of communication problems. He sees a speech and language pathologist every week, both at the school he attends, and with an exceptional outside professional speech and language pathologist that we found. This is his second one; the one we saw previously that was connected to a large, esteemed children's hospital in Kansas City was awful, and did absolutely NOTHING to help him. After 24 visits (which is ALL they would allow), the only thing we have to show for it is a $6,000 bill that we've agreed to pay on at $50 per month. To illustrate, in less than six visits with his current speech and language pathologist, we (his mom and I) saw HUGE improvements in his speech and language skills.
His outside speech and language pathologist has diagnosed him with childhood apraxia of speech, expressive language disorder, and auditory processing disorder. She has even mentioned that he seems to have all the signs of something that is called Einstein Syndrome. With the exception of not being left handed (he's right handed), he has ALL the signs and symptoms. Every. Single. One. As his speech and language pathologist has stated, Ryan is a very complicated case.
Despite being "late" with virtually every childhood development "landmark," his mom and I KNOW how bright Ryan is. When he was 14 months old, and right after he started walking independently, he saw the can of Pringles on the kitchen table that he wanted. Except, they were behind a heavy spice rack. He knew he couldn't pick up the spice rack, so he proceeded to take every jar out of the spice rack, and gently set them on the floor. Once he had all the spices off of the spice rack, he could then remove the rack as an obstacle by gently setting it on the floor, gaining access to the Pringles behind it. He then gently set the Pringles can on the floor, and replaced first the spice rack, and then all of the spices, one by one. I don't think I would have believed it had I not sat back and witnessed it myself, with my own eyes.
Today, Ryan has discovered the joys of drawing. After avoiding anything to do with a pencil, pen or other drawing instrument for so long, he now draws his favorite Transformers, dogs, houses, movie characters, etc. His speech has progressed so, so far. His speech and language pathologist is very proud of the progress he has made. His mom and I are extremely proud of the progress he has made. Even his first grade teacher has commented in a recent parent-teacher progress report (via a Zoom call, due to the pandemic) just how much progress he has made since she first met him in July, during summer school.
As for my mom, she is doing well. Due to the hypertensive crisis she was experiencing, she spent one night in the intensive care unit of our local hospital for close monitoring. She ended up with a small subdural hematoma, and they wanted to make sure the hypertensive crisis didn't make it worse (it didn't). She got to come back home the next day, when her CT scan showed that the subdural hematoma had actually shrunk in size overnight.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Around here, our hero is a little seven year old boy. He won't overwhelm you with long speeches and elegant prose, but he's a hero, nonetheless.
Never. Ever. Underestimate. Someone's. Abilities.
This month's cover image celebrates the Fall season, in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway. The image is from Pixabay, and was done by user jplenio.
Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, good health, serenity, and prosperity.