Shelley came to us at age 4 months. She was barely alive and because of her heart condition she came straight to us from where she was taken. She was in a crack house and had been just left to lay. Her head was flat, her color was gray, and she just laid there and looked at you. When you tried to hold her she was stiff as a board. She weighed 8' 2 oz at birth and was 11 pounds at almost four months. She was so paper-thin my husband was afraid to hold her. She looked like she would break in pieces. She didn't smile or cry or anything.
That first night was our longest night ever. We were so terrified because the doctor said this baby was on her way to checking out, but it was because she had lost the will to live. Her little body was so thin that when she would take a breath the leads would pull away from her body and set the alarm off. My husband and I looked like the Tom and Jerry cartoons where the cat had his claws in the ceiling. It took us awhile to get used to that piercing sound. But, eventually as she began to get a little weight on her they weren't quite as often. It was the ones that documented as real that scared us.
As time went on Shelley began to improve and grow. She had quite a bit of medical problems, but oddly enough they were associated with visits with her mother. She had her first visit after we had her for two weeks. That was the first time we heard her cry. She never cried when she woke up or anything, we would just have to go to the crib and find her awake. We held her constantly, wrapped her in blankets to cuddle her. The little thing was hardly ever put down. The first cry was when they took her to her mother. The social worker said she just started screaming. They cut the visit short, but let the mother come with her to bring Shelley back to our house. She started crying as soon as she saw us and that was the first time she tried to cuddle back. In a way, we made some headway there. But, that night we were in the ER because she shut herself down. After every visit she would get sick. The doctor said she just shuts herself down. They cut the visits down to once a month and she started gaining ground.
Shelley's physical side suffered from everything. She had a problem with blood in her kidneys all the time, her respiratory system was weak and a heart condition. She had pneumonia about three times a year. We did breathing treatments around the clock with her. But, with all the medical issues, we did start getting somewhere with her. It was fun to see the way she was pulling out. She started moving around and talking. By the time she was 8 months old she was walking and saying quite a few words. We were so excited. Her physical ability was gaining too, because we had done constant exercises with her to get her mobility back in her arms and legs and it paid off. Her asthma was pretty bad, and her heart problem was supposed to only get worse, but God saw a different plan with that.
Things were going great with Shelley until one day when she was about 18 months old, she was playing in the living room and all of a sudden she started screaming. She fell into the floor and started banging her head and wouldn't stop screaming. I though she must have some kind of headache. When I couldn't get her to stop I called the doctor and headed to Springfield. She screamed the entire 45 minute drive and continued in the office. They never could figure out what was wrong. We started going through what took place and a few days before she had her immunizations and got sick from those and had an asthma attack. The doctor looked at the script the on call physician had given her and had given her too large a dose for her weight. So, they could never determine if it was the immunizations or the steroid. But, through all that, we never had our little girl again.
After that episode, Shelley lost her language, and wasn't the same little girl anymore. Nobody could touch her without her screaming. She would go into fits that would last hours. Her head would be bruised from constant banging on the floors and walls, and she had pulled almost all of her hair out. She was almost bald with a few strands of hair for her 2nd birthday. When a visit would come about she would get even worse. We had Shelley in foster care long enough that we were able to get a lawyer and fight for custody ourselves. So we did and had a bit of a battle, but won, and by the time she was three she was our Shelley Kellai Antle. We still thought things would get better, but it didn't.
When Shelley was evaluated they gave her diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (which is in the autism realm), Severe Sensory Integration Disorder (being both hyper and hypo sensitive), Langauge disorder, Apraxia, severe asthma, seizures, and a qt prolapse in her heart. This was not really what we planned on when we decided to adopt, but God gave her to us for a reason and she has been the greatest blessing ever.
Shelley started showing major improvements after we took her to Seaworld where she was able to see the whales. She had a toy whale that made the whale sound and she just loved it. When it had broken I tried to find a replacement and couldn't. I tried to find it through Seaworld and that is how we met Deb who is the closest thing to family ever. She took Shelley to the whales and for the first time Shelley allowed somebody else besides her daddy and I to touch her. Shelley responded! We were so excited.
What really thrilled us was when we got back home and her first day in therapy. They asked Shelley about her trip and she talked in clear sentences and spoke of "Free Willy" and "Her Debbie" who is now "Aunt Debbie". Her next visit was to her doctor and she did the same thing. The doctor was so impressed and said he has never seen a child respond like this and recommends it as part of her therapy. So that's what we do.
We have made that trip for over 10 years now. Each year there is more progress in Shelley.
The key is to look for anything that works and go with it. Discipline and consistency is so important to kids like Shelley. Communicate your child's needs to your social worker to get the proper help you must have in order to find the success in these "special" kids. Never give up. You will find it to be the most rewarding experience ever.
Julie is in the beginning stages of working from home after being in the education field over 22 years. Her experience in teaching and being the parent of special needs children have contributed to her success in life. Her desire is to help others manage the behavior of their special needs children when they are at their rope's end as she was.
You can learn more about Julie by following her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1021803483&sk=info