Monday, February 25, 2008

Update on Ethan

As we approach four months since we adopted Ethan in China I cannot help but look back to guage how far he has come. I really wanted to do this; not only so we that we could tell you all about how is he is doing now but so that we can see it more clearly ourselves.

  • When we received Ethan, he could not stand up for very long without being wobbly and fall to the ground. Now he is walking well and even running. He does not fall to the ground at all unless he loses balance or trips. When we were in China and would have both kiddos on the bed with us to play he would try to crawl towards us and just face plant immediately. It was the saddest thing. He could not even turn over on his own. He still has a way to go with his balance and strength but he sure has come a long way. He can do everything that he could not in China. Another huge problem that we detected is that Ethan did not have a startle reflex which is the protective reflex which throws out your arms and hands instinctively to break your fall. His was lost during the long months in his orphanage and in the hospital where he was left on his back in the crib far too long. The occupational therapist is helping us to retrain his brain to execute this lifesaving instinct. He is making progress with this as well. The OT is thrilled with his progress and feels that he should be done with therapy in a couple of months and that anything further that he may need we can accomplish at home.
  • Ethan had no language whatsoever. He would sometimes scream out in a very primitive way to get his needs met. That is if he screamed at all. He would often cry or just stay mute and not even ask. He would be sadly satisfied to sit where ever you placed him and watch the world. Now, that is absolutely not the case. He is our little Double M (mischief man) and he is constantly looking for ways both verbally and non verbally to make his needs known. He is in speech therapy twice a week and his vocabulary is getting better and better. He can put two words together. His fav is "all done" when he is finished with something he is tired of and just this morning as he was leaving the house with Marc he ran to me to say goodbye and as he walked out the door he looked back and said the three sweetest words a mother can hear "I Love You" I screamed with joy. He also knows several sign language signs to supplement his verbal repertoire. His receptive language is amazing and has been from very early on. He is smart as a tack and is very observant. He watches everything that we do so we have to be very careful what we do in front of him lest he go back and get himself into trouble.
  • Eating was the area that we were most concerned about when we brought him home and that is saying a lot considering that there were many areas of concern. When we received him at 2.4 years old he was on five bottles of formula a day and even though the orphanage director told us that he was eating mashed foods there was certainly no evidence of it. He acted like solid food in any form were completely foreign to him other than a cracker like cookie that he basically mouthed upon us receiving him. His teeth and palate showed the damage of a bottle being propped in his mouth much of the time. Ethan was diagnosed upon our return as failure to thrive and we immediately sought help both privately through an Occupational Therapist (OT) that specialized in sensory integration disorder and through the county early intervention program. At first we supplemented the formula with Pediasure and cereal to maintain his low weight. We began to use the strategies that were given to us by the OT and the early intervention personnel to get him to eat and we came up with a few of our own and I am proud to report that Ethan is doing amazingly well. We had him off the bottle within 6 weeks and started him at stage one baby foods; fast forward to the present where he is eating three squares a day, begs us for "Nacks" (snacks), uses a sippy cup along with a regular cup at meal time and has gained about 4 lbs. If you can believe it he is out-eating his sister who was an amazing eater before Ethan's arrival. We are having to deal with the dynamic of her jealousy over the huge amount of attention that his eating focused on him. Now we are having to baby her a bit to get her to eat which is just fine with us. They are babies for such a short time and this regression is definitely an area that we can help her with.
  • Socially, he was extremely delayed. He did not seem to have had much contact with other children in any type of playful way. When Katie or a play object would come close to him he would kick at her or the item almost as if he was testing it's relation to himself. That was a very scary reaction for us to see and I must admit that I felt quite overwhelmed when I experienced it. He also was a big crier and he still is to some extent when he does not get his way or he has something taken from him. His cry is very sad and we think that this was the only way that he got anything at all in the orphanage. We also think that it may have worked against him in some situations as most likely his caretakers tired of the cries and let him cry alone. This was the thoughts of our pediatrician who is from China and deals with many children who are internationally adopted. She stated that he had the kind of cry that would make a caretaker who did not love him want to walk away. Way too sad for us to think about. He now reacts to his environment like any other toddler although he is still socially a few months behind his age. That will just take time and interaction with other children which we find lots of opportunities to do with him. Also, since Katie is in preschool for three mornings a week we use that time to give him lots of one on one attention. He goes to Music Together once a week, has four therapies a week and lots of play dates with friends children. He is naturally a very social little boy. He is not shy in the least bit and is very happy go lucky.
  • His health is improving along with his overall development. He is subject to getting respiratory ailments a bit quicker than the rest of us due to his underdeveloped trachea. Other than that we feel very fortunate that his heart was repaired so well and that he should live a completely normal life.
  • We are still working on helping him adjust to life in our crazy family. He is quite attached and loving with both Marc and I although he is still a bit too social to my liking with others and does not have much, if any stranger anxiety. Sounds great to the layperson but to one that understands attachment we still have a ways to go. I know that it is a process and I am much more comfortable with how long true attachment really takes than I was the first time around with Katie. Ethan is also becoming very attached to his sister and brother. As far as Katie goes I am very happy to report that although they squabble like any two 2 year olds would they are quite devoted to each other and do not like it when they are apart for too long. Katie loves her alone time at school but talks constantly to the teachers about Ethan. That just melts our hearts and makes all of the tough and challenging moments so worthwhile.

Ethan is a very strong and resilient child and the addition of him into our family has completed us. We look forward to the months and years ahead as we see Ethan and Katie grow to be productive members of society and reach whatever their potential is just as their brother Justin is now doing. Isn't that what all of us really want for our children?

October 2007

February 2008


Tammie said...

Goodness. I can't believe that Ethan has been home only 4 months. He really has come a long way. You, Marc, Justin & Katie Starr have really done wonders with helping Ethan to grow & adjust. I have to say that Ethan doesn't seem to suffer from failure to thrive anymore. Rather he is growing & glowing due to the love & support his family gives him.

Vivian M said...

Lori, you always find a way to make me cry! But these are happy tears now. I have always been in awe of the strength and resiliance our children have.
I am so happy to hear that Ethan is improving by leaps and pounds, lol. And the pictures say it all.
I look forward to the day I can come visit, be prepared for a hug fest!

kira said...

It's so amazing how much the love and support of a family can help a child. You guys are doing an incredible job.

Barbara said...

I don't even know how I navigated to your site but I LOVE the before and after pictures of your son!! I have 4 kids whom I adopted from China. My 2nd daughter was non special needs but came extremely developmentally delayed and physically weak. She was 14 lbs at 18 months old! I have always just adored her and never shed a tear about her challenges. She started speech (apraxia), OT (sensory integration and oral motor) and special ed when she was 2. She's almost 8 now and in a regular classroom with speech and resource room support - her speech is totally understandable and her sensory integration issues are not a problem anymore. You'll be amazed what a difference early services will make on your son's life.

Kathryn said...

How wonderful Ethan is doing. I am a pediatric PT in early intervention in New York. I'm sure Ethan's OT must be so pleased with his progress. Nothing feels better as a therapist than when your kids improve by leaps and bounds!!!!!!!!!! Does the heart a world of good!!!!!!!!!

Kelley said...

Such awesome progress!! I loved reading all of your info...and I have to admit I'm teary-eyed, too!

Kim :) said...

Lori... Wow. I have read about Katie and Ethan weekly but seeing the two pictures side by side is more than all of the words! Ethan now looks like a healthy LOVED little boy!! Katie just looks like a "star" - more beautiful in each picture. Thanks for sharing your children... it makes our long wait a little easier...