Trial by Zack

Like a great many people I knew that being a parent it wouldn’t be without its challenges, but I never imagined how exactly challenging it would be.

Our oldest boy “Zack” (now four years old), has always had his share of challenges. When he was born Z was severely jaundiced and after just a few days home, had to be admitted to the hospital to spend a week under special lights to reduce his bilirubin levels. Then when he was seven weeks old, while visiting family in California, he had to be air lifted to Sacramento and hospitalized for a week due to what turned out to be severe acid reflux.

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As a new parent, it was hard to feel so powerless to help out someone you care so much about but couldn’t directly do anything for.

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Since then Zack has had problems with his health and has been diagnosed with a “learning delay”. Specifically he’s a bit behind in his speech & social skills and has a slight sensory disorder. Granted, all things considered, he is doing pretty good now and with some work will eventually catch up with the other kids his age, but it can get more than a bit frustrating at times.

Being our first child, at first we didn’t recognize the issues he was having. Folks had warned us about kids having tantrums and being fussy, but Zack’s were off the scale in comparison to what they described. Every night he seemed to reach “overload” and just couldn’t process the world around him. Because of his delays he didn’t have the skills to communicate what was wrong, and his own frustration boiled over into screaming for hours.

I’ve had other parents not relate to our plight. They think I’m making a fuss. They shrug their shoulders and tell me that he is just a “slow talker” and there is nothing to worry about. This is usually followed up by them relating a story about another child “Little Vicky didn’t talk until she was five and she turned out just fine”.

One thing about me, I’ll be the first to admit when I’m in over my head. Although I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember, I’m not too proud to ask for help. After doing some research Kat and I discovered the Washington State Department of Early Learning and got Zack tested. Thankfully Zack qualified and I was able to enroll him in their Birth to Three program which meant that I took him to playgroup once a week to be with other kids facing the same challenges and he also received in home speech therapy every other week. We also found a great resource in South Sound Parent to Parent which is a support group for parents with kids that have challenges.

At three years old Zack entered the school system and now attends preschool four days a week (with speech therapy every Tuesday). He has made great strides in his communication and coping skills. While loud noises still send him running, he has learned that if we warn him ahead of time, he can hide out in his room “to be safe from the noisies” and the vacuum no longer cause hours of crying fits. I’ve also picked up on a few tricks to help desensitize him to loud sounds and let him know that he’ll be fine despite the noises he doesn’t like.

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There are still plenty of times that he tries to tell us something and we have no clue what he is saying, but it’s getting fewer and fewer.

One the positive side, Zack has always had an incredible knack for problem solving. He loves puzzles (and has managed to defeat every attempt I’ve ever made and child proofing our home). His mechanical abilities are remarkable. As a downside for his little brother Josh (who has none of his brother’s challenges), whenever he tries to throw a fit, it’s downright cute compared to what Zack had already put us through.

Zack is an amazing little boy. I love him just the way he is and I wouldn’t trade him for all the money in the world. I just wanted to let other parents out there that may be concerned about their own kids to know, it’s okay to ask for help, and it does get better.

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