Saturday, December 15, 2007

And In No Particular Order (Part 3)

This is Caleb.

How do you describe Caleb? How do you put the wind in a box?

Caleb is lively, unpredictable, funny, and sometimes a little volatile. But if you were to harness any of that- or put him in a box- he just wouldn't be Caleb any more.

When Cay was a baby- just 16 months old- his sister Elizabeth came along. Those two have been like peas and carrots ever since, cuz they's always together. She is his mouthpiece-or spokes girl, as it were- and he is her body guard. If you want to get to Libby you have to go through Cay.

Life for Caleb has always been a little more difficult than for most other people. He's one of those square pegs in a round hole world. Caleb didn't begin to speak until he was over three years old. He rarely looked at you when he spoke or was spoken to. He never volunteered any information, and he seldom responded with more than one word. More often than not he would do nothing if he was content, but scream and hit if he was upset.

I know you've just read that last paragraph and thought to yourself, "He's autistic." You might be right. I sometimes think that myself. However, I have chosen not to have him tested and diagnosed because if he is autistic, he is so high on the spectrum that it makes little difference. Also, because no matter what names and labels get attached to my children, they are all expected to grow into contributing members of society. I never want them to be excused from duty or responsibility, or passed over just because of a label.

When he started Kindergarten his poor brother had to drag him down the driveway to the school. Caleb would grab every upright object he could find to anchor himself to on the way. When Jesse picked him up from school he hit the door running and made it to the house before Jesse even left the building. (We live right next door to the school.) Much of the focus of Kindergarten was just getting him into the groove of going to school.

In first grade Caleb had a very "old school" teacher who presented us with some hard decisions. We had to decide on Special Services (Special Ed), medical intervention, or pulling him out of school. Caleb was already receiving Title I (reading) services since in first grade he could barely distinguish his letters. He couldn't write any words except for his name. The most troubling thing, though, was that he was easily frustrated/angered and spent a lot of time in self imposed isolation either in the hall or huddled in a corner of the room.

We finally decided that we would have Caleb put into speech therapy twice a week, and he would continue with Title I.

Also, I had long suspected that Cay was allergic to something. I decided it was time to take him to see the allergist/naturopath. As it turned out, Caleb was not allergic to something, he was allergic to everything. Almost everything that we considered food was making him sick. Beef. Pork. Dairy. Wheat. Corn. Rye. Barley. Citrus. All Processed Sweeteners. All Dyes. Mildly Eggs. Mildly Soy. We took Cay off all the offending foods with the exception of soy and eggs, because as the doctor said, he had to eat something! What did he eat? Rice, chicken, fish, fresh produce. That's about it. He was the only kid I knew who had a home cooked meal (very dinner-ish) in his lunch box at school. If you have ever read the ingredients on any of your favorite convenience foods very closely you would soon realize that all but the most specialized (read expensive) prepackaged foods were out! What a pain in my butt!

But how incredibly worth it! Within 2 months of totally rearranging our eating habits people were noticing major changes in my boy. He quit huddling in the hall and corner of the class room. He began to READ! He began to look at you when you spoke to him!

At Christmas that year I came into the kitchen at my parent's house to see my sister standing there with tears in her eyes. "I don't think he has ever spoken to Dave (her husband) before. They've been having a conversation for the last 5 minutes!" Wow. I knew he was getting better, but seeing him everyday I just didn't realize how much he had changed. She got to see the big change where I only got to see the little changes.

We kept Caleb on the specialized diet for a year. A year is a long time for a little guy. Caleb began to ask when he could start eating like a "normal kid" again. About this time I found a book called Enzymes for Autism and Other Neurological Conditions by Karen DiFelice. I immediately implemented the enzyme regime and eased him back into a "normal" diet- with the exception of sugars and dyes which still bring out his inner animal. So far, none of his teachers have noticed any change for the worse.

Caleb continues speech therapy this year at school, and probably next year too, but he has disqualified himself from reading services based on his ability.

I wouldn't want Caleb to be anything other than who God has designed him to be, but I am glad that the square edges seem to be getting rounded and shaped a little all the time.

Lest you think that Caleb's issues define him, let me tell you a funny story about Caleb humor. One night Cay came to the dinner table with a baseball cap on. Two rules: 1) wear a shirt 2) no hats. I told Caleb to take his hat off. He tugged at the hat a little but it didn't come off. He pulled harder at the hat, but it just pulled his head up with it. By the way, this hat is not adjustable and is about 3 sizes too big. His head was not stuck. At this point Caleb stood on his chair and pulled with all his might. Not budging. He yanked the hat sideways and it pulled him off the chair. He went flying through the air and rolled out of the dining room. We could hear a brief struggle and then he came back, hat in hand. "Finally." That was all he said. We, on the other hand were laughing so hard it took several minutes to compose ourselves for prayer. Caleb just sat there dead-pan as if nothing at all had happened.

Things I like about Caleb:

  • His sense of humor

  • He is fiercely independent- but still comes in for a "body check" (hugs and kisses) a few times a day.

  • He always protects the "little guy" or the under dog- he's very compassionate.

  • He is all about routine. He never leaves you guessing.

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