Friday, March 25, 2011

Walking Tall

Wednesday we met with a new doctor for Daniel, a pediatric physiatrist at UNF, and got her input on his  AFO's (leg braces). On hand was his hippotherapy PT, aka the Queen of AFO's. I'm so glad we did this, because they were able to spend a lot of time with him, watching him walk, debating on the best brace for him, and also checking for any tightness in his muscles (he has very little, and treating it would most likely make him crumple over).

The verdict is that he needs a more flexible AFO. The Queen says his current ones are like ski boots. They don't allow him the movement he needs when he's walking. Both she and the doc also want to see him using his walker more, but we need an updated model since the one we have is seven years old and way too small for him. We haven't bothered with a new one because our PT at school transitioned him to hand-held walking several years ago. The problem is, he has way too much of a drunken swagger at times.

Since he was casted and measured just a couple of weeks ago by the orthotist who visits the school, I had to race to see if I could change the prescription before the new AFO's were made. In a rare stroke of perfect timing, I arrived at 4 p.m. while they were still open and available to recast him and make the changes to the script. We scored!

This is a parade of the AFO's he's had over the years. Our new PT, the Queen, feels that he might even be able to walk with a pair that end at the ankle. We're going to try some off-the-shelf shorter ones that we can buy reasonably cheap. Go Dan!

This is a video taken last June when he graduated from fifth grade. He's doing pretty well with the hand-held walking, here. He often tends to pull down on our arm when he walks like this, though. I think he knows better than to try that with his aide!

Another cool thing about this visit was that the physiatrist mentioned how much he resembles someone with Rett Syndrome. That's always been the closest diagnosis I could come up with to match Daniel's list of characteristics. Years ago he tested negative for it, which isn't surprising since it mostly affects girls, and boys with the deletion generally don't live long. I'm wondering if the missing piece of his genetic puzzle lies somewhere close to the MCEP gene, just not exactly the same as the one that causes Retts. We see our geneticist next summer, so maybe we'll get some insights there.

All in all, a good visit, good connections with new people, and hopes for improved mobility for my boy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Another First

Until very recently we haven't had any outside help with Daniel's care. My parents are like a second mom and dad, but they live 900 miles away and we only get to see them twice a year. Daniel was placed on the Florida Medwaiver waitlist in the spring of 2003, and finally stopped waiting in September 2010. He only earned his rightful place through a crisis waiver after I was in a car accident and my lifting was curtailed.

The most important services we have now are respite and personal care for Daniel. This is huge. I usually get him up and out of bed, dressed, fed and ready for school before I leave for work at 7:20. After that my husband takes over and puts the finishing touches on his hair, brushes his teeth and gets his afo's on before transferring him into his wheelchair and rolling him out to the bus.

Today, Miss Rita came at 6:30 to help. We had coffee together until Daniel woke up, then I kissed him and got a few of his early morning smiles. I told him she'd help him a little more slowly than mom usually does. He's used to her because she's been coming over to provide respite since November, and even stayed two nights with him while I went out of town to celebrate my birthday. This was the first time I've been replaced for the morning school routine, though.

I love taking care of him, dressing him, feeding him. To me, it's a privilege to be that close to someone this far along in their lives. He's twelve, after all. But the whole point of the home and community based waiver is to give me enough help so that I don't have to turn to any sort of institution when it comes to his care. I'm forty-nine. I want to preserve my back muscles as long as possible so that I can do what I love, which is take care of my son.

My husband, his step-father, is able to get him to do things that I can't, like nod his head for yes. Daniel and I have had our own unspoken language for so long that he sees no need for that with me. So, Rich works and plays with him in the morning after I'm gone. He talks, Daniel listens. They have a great rapport. Rich broke his back in 1994, and lifting is difficult for him. So, we have a system where I have him up so that the only heavy lifting he does is transferring him into his chair.

To me this is a big step towards independence for all of us. It's time for me to share!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Looking Back

Since I'm now blogging for free, I'm going through the old website and making sure I have a hard copy of things before I shut it down permanently. I won't miss spending the yearly fee to keep it going, especially since it hasn't been "going" for several years.

I had to open the site builder to view pages that aren't published anymore, and I read Melody's poems (all two of them, she now tells me she HATES poetry--how is it we're related, again??) I love the picture we took for her editorial section.

There she is, writing one of her two poems, Mystical Magic:
Mystical Magic
I love the day
I love the nite
I love how the lake sparkles
I love the mist in the morning when I wake up for school
I love when the rain comes down
I love when it is nite and the flame of a candle shines
I love the first day of school

By Melody Murray, age 7

Here's the other of the two poems she wrote, this one for Daniel:

Angel of Love
by Melody Murray 2003

I love the way he smiles
I love the way he sleeps
I love the way he giggles
I love the way he sees
He always sees beautifully
He is cute and cuddly
He is my baby

I took the poetry sections down several years ago, so I'm going to have to do a lot of printing to save them. It's kinda bitter sweet taking the site apart. It was a great outlet for me for a long time. It helped me connect with other moms way before Facebook. I write more than I talk, so it was therapeutic and fun. The blogging forum is more immediate and less formal, though, and I'm looking forward to diving in.

I'm grateful Daniel was born in the computer age. It would have been very lonely without the micro listserv, the first that I joined when he was only a few months old. Later there was Angelbabymoms, and then Molehill Moms. I've met some incredible people through the internet, learned a whole lot that helps me navigate through the disability world, and just been able to be a more social version of my introverted self without having to leave home.

Here's to change!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


This is my first blog. For a few years I kept up a website,, and wrote essays and interviewed other parents of kids with special needs for a section I called, appropriately, Parent Profiles. My last note was in May 2007 when I wrote about trying to get a communication program going for Daniel. It's hard to believe that four years have passed, and even harder to imagine that he's twelve years old!
In true synchronistic timing, I started this blog the day that Daniel's first communication book came home from school with him. I don't know why it took so long. Between workshops on communication techniques, many emails between myself and assistive technology, SLPs and teachers, there has been a lot of communicating about communication. We finally have what is essentially a picture exchange system (PECS).

Looks like both Daniel and I will be communicating differently. I'm finally moving over to the blogosphere, and he has a handy dandy workbook. We're in sync, at least!