When The Boy was a year old I mentioned to his pediatrician that he couldn't swallow a cheerio. He would put it in his mouth and chew and then it would fall right out of his mouth. My pediatrician immediately got us into a therapy service where we started dealing with his suck/chew/swallow issues. One day while undergoing regular "food therapy" his therapist called someone else in who watched how he sat in the chair, and watched how he moved. I remember her taking her hands and squeezing his calves and then his thighs and then looking over at his regular therapist and saying, "as you suspected...severe muscle tone issues." I had no clue at the time what that actually meant because I was in the middle of being traumatized that my son could not swallow anything that wasn't pureed.
Fast forward about a year and the feeding issues had basically been dealt with and, of course, those issues had translated into speech issues, which was at the forefront of what I was dealing with at the time. That, and trying to make up for my son not growing at all for an entire year. Oh and that little thing they like to call, "failure to thrive." You know, those types of things. But since he was "in the system," he was constantly being evaluated on all sorts of fronts. And that's when our muscle tone issues came back up. He had essentially no core strength. And so now we weren't only dealing with speech issues, we were now in OT as well. This was during the period of time where The Ex and I were trying to work things out (we all know how that ended) and really I remember this period of my life as one of the darker ones. It was tough. And when The Ex finally moved out for good, financially things took a turn for the dark side as well. And I had to make a tough decision. I couldn't afford to do both speech and OT so I had to make a choice. And I chose speech. It was more important at the time, and I don't regret that decision. I signed him up for Little Gym in an attempt to make up for taking him out of OT, but that didn't work out the way I wanted it to. He spent most of his time during Little Gym telling the instructor, "No thanks, I watch," and then doing his own thing. Although, of course, his own thing didn't involved actually building muscle. And that is basically where things stood for a long time. I knew he wasn't as strong as the other kids, and I knew that we needed to work on it, but he was doing all the things all the other kids were doing and I never saw anything major that I felt showed me we needed to do anything different. I never really made a huge effort where his core strength was concerned. I assumed it would work itself out. (Insert HUGE guilt right about here please...)
So now that The Boy is 5 it is becoming hugely apparent how many things his friends were doing that he was not. When he took soccer last summer he lagged behind the kids every single time they did anything. He would prefer to lay on the grass and pick a flower for me (how sweet is he?) than kick the ball. Nearing the end of soccer I asked him if he enjoyed it and if he wanted to do it again and he said, "Well I really like the water breaks, but I'm not so sure about the kicking part." Go figure. Then I saw all his friends riding bikes. He has never had the leg strength to actually pedal his weight. If you remember, over Christmas, "Santa" bought him a balance bike because I thought that might encourage the actual riding of the bike without the pressure of pedaling. It worked to some extent. He loves his little bike, but again, not much muscle building going on.
And then recently, you know how something so innocent and small in the general scheme of life seems to somehow become a neon arrow pointing at something? That is what happened. An innocent text of a good friend's son riding his bike without training wheels...me picking The Boy up from school early one day and watching him play with his friends for a few minutes before he noticed me. They were all running and playing together until one of them said, "Let's get the soccer ball!" and they all yelled YAY and went in another direction. And I saw my son quietly slow down and drift off and go in another direction, away from his friends to go sit quietly with his favorite teacher. And then one night while playing with the kids in the living room, my daughter went over to a big clear container filled with Thomas the Trains and said, "I wanna pay choo choo..." and then she straight picked up that container. It is FULL with trains (The Boy was obsessed with Thomas so we literally have them all) and is damn heavy. She picked that sucker up, carried it over to me and said, "Wow. Dat heavy." And then set it down. Holy crap. The Boy could NEVER carry that thing, and here was his 22 month sister trucking it around the living room. And then later that night, when reading books, The Boy went to get a reef book out of his bookshelf. It is a relatively thick book and kind of heavy so when he slid it off the bookshelf a couple of smaller books came off underneath it. I told him to pick up the books he dropped and he said sure and went to pick them up. And for reference, these were two very thin, very small books. He went to pick them up and he was at a bit of an angle but when he picked them up, he literally toppled over the back of his chair. The weight of the books was too much for him and it made him fall over. Two small books. All of sudden, like a movie montage playing in my head, all of the above examples came flooding into my head. The other kids riding the bikes, the disengaging from his friends at school, his sister being far and away stronger than he has ever been at less than half his age...and I knew something was wrong.
I called my mom and said that I thought it was time to get him evaluated for OT again. Something was just telling me to do it. I told her about all the things leading up to my decision and, of course, she agreed. She said, "I'm sure it's nothing major, but yes, it can't hurt to have him evaluated. Maybe they'll come back and say that although he isn't the strongest boy in the world, he is fine for his age." "Maybe," I answered back. But in the back of my head, I just knew that wasn't going to be what they told me.
The next morning I called and scheduled the eval for where he gets his speech therapy each week. And we scheduled it for Friday morning. Although The Boy is sick with a yucky cold, we went on Friday morning. And the results? Well let's just say they certainly didn't say, "He's fine for his age."
This is already ridiculously long, so we'll continue tomorrow...