2014-2015 Easter Seals of the Birmingham Area Pediatric Ambassadors
Ambassador Asa Ricks
Asa has been an overall bundle of joy and has made me laugh every day of his life since he has been able to talk. He is bright and highly social in most circumstances. He was more high maintenance as a baby and toddler than his sister, especially at bed and naptime, and he’s had issues with digestion and a very sensitive gag reflux resulting in vomit on a regular basis but doctors never told me to adjust his food in any way. I did not notice any major problems with his behavior or learning until the last couple of years and I became highly concerned when a couple simple commands for a seven year old should have not been a problem and it also became apparent that he was not reading at all, he had been memorizing everything it turns out. I held him back in first grade and homeschooled him again but he continued to struggle in reading and writing and social interaction at times. He excels in math and is excellent at any video game but could not read or handle any tasks, especially when given multiple things to do! He was a hot mess. His attention span was small, he zoned out during school and he was not socializing properly. Asa needed strong vestibular input. His auditory is hypersensitive. He had extreme over reactions to loud sounds and sensitivity to some. He could not be still many times. He has had issues with his tags in his shirts for years. He avoided eye contact. He was and still is at times highly resistant to change!!!!
Asa tried to avoid school activities he did not like. I.e.: writing, reading, coloring. Worksheets were very over stimulating. He preferred a controlled touch as opposed to touch that comes unexpectedly or is out of his control. He doesn’t understand abstract language ie: sarcasm, jokes, etc. He is always asking what things mean. He was not and still is not like his sister and I did not know how to deal with him. He is such a unique boy in every way. I cried, prayed and after much research, tons of books read, time and money spent on various things, Asa was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and Learning Disorders. His IQ when tested was borderline genius but his processing was borderline deficient. The evidence is clear that children, especially in European countries, who practice holistic therapies and natural remedies, are curing themselves of this epidemic condition call Autism and other neurological issues so my quest began.
My personal experience in helping my son Asa, with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and some learning disabilities (LD) to excel in his environment on a holistic nutritious diet and Occupational Therapy will forever be one of my greatest challenges as a person and especially a mom. Thanks to the excellent Occupational Therapy at Easter Seals by Miss Gretchen, a complete nutrition overhaul and a sensory diet at home on a regular basis, he is now reading on level and thriving as an active eight year old boy who loves to act, dance and cook and is one of the flying monkeys and munchkins in the upcoming Wizard of Oz musical at Samford.
He is a true success story! He does not meet a stranger and is one outgoing kid. He can focus now, he is on task most of the time, he can handle most every day chores and duties with ease and he is learning at a rapid pace. And, Asa no longer throws up on a regular basis. I suspect he had some sort of gluten and/or dairy allergen that was so mild it went undetected but I found it due to our detox of his body. So what did we do to help Asa? He’s been seeing Miss Gretchen, his OT, for about a year and prior to that we had another OT for about six months. We jump on an indoor and outdoor trampoline daily, we spin, we swing, we do yoga, and we bounce on an exercise ball. He does some sort of activity before sitting down to do school work. Asa’s diet is sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, GMO free, no processed foods and very healthy organic, alkaline fruits, veggies for the most part. We did brushing and joint compressions on him for six months at home every two hours in addition to his weekly OT appointments. It was extremely hard on us emotionally in the beginning. But in the end, was what we did worth it? Absolutely, every single minute! I never once had the thought to put my son on any kind of medicine. I believe many of our children are sick – their bodies are overloaded with toxins, processed foods, sugar, wheat and hormone filled dairy that can be removed if we as parents are given the right tools and have the right foods in our pantry. I’m not a doctor but I can tell you the things we implemented as a family is allowing my son to thrive not just survive. We basically detoxed him, gave him some tools and helped him get back to the basics. He is a true success story in every way. I’m just a mother with God given intuition loaded with information and research. I have been applying my knowledge and common sense on our road to recovery!
Every day for the past year and a half, I have also been giving my son a cocktail of supplements in an Arbonne organic, vegan protein shake he drinks at least once a day as “his smoothie” with almond milk and pineapples, bananas or berries. He eats handfuls of almonds, our homemade protein bars and healthy alkaline meals with whole foods on a daily basis. We do not do drive thru and fast food. It is processed junk! Other things that help him are our spray B12 vitamin, immunity boosters, and occasional fizzies (containing ginseng, guarana and green tea, b12 vitamins and rhodiola) for focus and detox tea in the nutritional line (containing chamomile). In addition to the elimination of acidic foods and introduction of nutritional supplements, we took away television and video games unless it was a reward and then it was extremely limited to about twenty minutes a few times a week. His brain cannot handle the overstimulation of these activities and I make sure he gets plenty of sleep because he needs a lot! We also use a healthy organic non-toxic body products from Arbonne including Seasource Sea Mud Face and Body Mask on his body, Detox Purifying Sea Soak plus 2 pumps of 5 in 1 massage oil after he rinses off in shower and wash hair with Detoxifying Rescue wash and the FC5 line. After he is dried off we put on lotion and/or gelee with spirulina and I spray his pillow with unwind body mist to help him calm down. You might be telling yourself WOW that is a lot of stuff and a whole lot of work and yes it is. But it’s working! His progress is amazing! He is now more calm, relaxed and focused. He’s responding to people around him in a normal manor that typical children do. I’m not losing my mind with him anymore! What I’m doing is working and it is very exciting! Our entire family embraced a holistic lifestyle and this is our daily regime. Unless you have an autistic child or a child with SPD, ADD, ADHD and/or learning disabilities, you can’t possibly relate to the sense of helplessness one feels when your child is spiraling out of control, staring into space stoned from the sugar he ate and hyperactive activity beyond belief complaining that his clothes itch. This regimen might seem overwhelming, but in reality it gives a parent a sense of empowerment that is often lost after the diagnoses.
I am most thankful for the role Arbonne has played in this. Four years ago when I started my business I would have never dreamed that it would play such a significant role is my family’s life. Not only has it allowed me to be a stay at home mom and a home school mom with the income opportunity, but it has also played a significant role in my son’s healing. Can there be a greater gift than this? I am enormously grateful that God saw fit to bring this incredible company into my life. I am forever thankful that my husband embraced this lifestyle in order to help Asa. And, I am so very proud of my ten year old daughter, Alexandra, who helped with brushing and joint compressions when I was not with them, who helped him read and has been a great inspiration to him to tell him how good he’s doing. She’s a great big sister! And, I am beyond grateful for the role Easter Seals and Miss Gretchen have played in Asa’s ultimate healing. He is a stronger, bolder, more confident child because he now reads independently and I am forever thankful for the desire God placed on me as his mom to not accept status quo, to say no to medicine and do my own research! It would be my privilege and honor to help anyone struggling with something similar! I am so very proud of my son, Asa, for his hard work, dedication, perseverance and commitment to allowing me to guide him and trusting me every step of the way! Thanks for reading our story and sharing in his success!
Ambassador Cooper Jack Hutchings
We officially found out that Cooper would be one of those lucky few that had an extra 2st chromosome when I was 18 weeks pregnant with him. It seemed like every ultra sound we had showed something else “not right” with my baby… And I was scared and heartbroken.
Looking back now, it’s funny because I was really just scared of the unknown. Turned out Cooper was a fairly healthy little boy. He had to stay in the hospital a little longer than me (only 5 days) but just because he wasn’t holding his temperature enough. He has had several procedures, more than I would like him to go through, but nothing too serious. He has had a ton of Upper GIs and swallow studies due to his high acid reflux. He already on his 3rd set of tubes for his ears and his tonsils out. He has tried to do a sleep study but didn’t make it through.
Cooper is also a stubborn, sweet, amazing little 3 year old. I call him a “game changer”. I don’t know how to explain it but he has this way about him that affects people. Every child in the large daycare knows Cooper and wants to be around Cooper. It’s amazing to watch them flock to him. I can’t tell you how many parents come up to me and tell me how their child talks about Cooper all the time. It is an absolute joy to watch him interact.
The amazing thing is that Cooper isn’t quite verbal yet. He tries so hard to talk but due to the low tone in his mouth he can’t quite form the words. Which brought us to Easter Seals about a year ago. Due to his lack of communication Cooper would bang his head on the ground to get attention or voice concerns. He has worked so hard at Easter Seals the last year that a large part of the head banging has been knocked out.
We are so proud of him and know that the light inside Cooper will only get stronger. He makes the people around him better. He has taught me so much and makes me a much better person. He is and always be my SUPER COOPER MAN!
Ambassador Kyler McNaught-Sutton
Kyler was born November 11th, 2009 with big beautiful brown eyes & a head full of dark thick hair. By 3 months of age, he had his first of many ear infections, acid reflux, and allergies. During his 4 month check-up his pediatrician noticed a head tilt (caused from the muscle on one side of the neck developing more so than the other) and recommended that he see a pediatric physical therapist to correct it. This is when we found Stacia, at Easter Seals. Kyler went through neck stretching and different exercises and after approximately 3 months, he was released. For the next 8 months he was meeting all of his developmental milestones. He started foods, he crawled, he walked, his language skills were on target for a child his age. But we were still battling chronic ear infections and allergies. Then on Easter Sunday 2011, we took him to the ER because he was hiding under the kitchen table, banging his head and crying. It was another ear infection and another round of antibiotics. 6 days later, it was April 27th, 2011, the day that the tornado’s devastated Tuscaloosa and downtown Birmingham. The antibiotics weren’t working. Our air conditioner was broken, and we were taking cover in our bathtub. Kyler was screaming in pain and banging his head on the tub. Another round of different antibiotics and the infection went away. It was about 1 month later, when he was 18 months old that everything changed.
Kyler’s language skills regressed. It was getting more difficult to get him to eat, much less try new things. He was shy with people that he didn’t know well. And he began to hum and pace back and forth. He did, and still does have problems sleeping. He became overly sensitive to certain sounds. And his idea of “playing” was to knock things over and dump whatever he could find. He then started to walk on his toes and his hands began to turn while he was pacing. He started W sitting. He loved certain textures, liked to play rough, loved banging into people and things. Jumping, spinning, etc. It was at this point that family members started to question us as to whether or not we thought Kyler had Autism. A question that no parent wants to hear. Immediately we became defensive. Being faced with the idea that something was going on that we couldn’t “fix” was difficult. And Kyler not being able to communicate with us made it even more difficult. As a parent of a toddler who’s whole life is ahead of him, you automatically wonder about what his future will be like. Especially when faced with the idea that something may be out of the “norm”. But somewhere down the line we realized that we had to take it day by day. That this wasn’t a quick fix. And that there really is no limit on what we would do or what we could handle when it comes to our child. All we wanted, and still want for him is to be happy, confident & know he is loved. Everything else will fall into place. Lucky for us we had already had an exceptional experience with Easter Seals and knew that they would be able to help. But it was during the holidays and they wouldn’t be able to get us in for an evaluation until after the New Year. Thankfully, we also have a close friend in Atlanta who is an OT, and owns a school that was specifically created to meet the needs of children that are unable to adapt to a typical school setting. We immediately contacted her, took Kyler to her so she could observe, and came back home with a wealth of information and several recommendations.
She spoke to us about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Explained to us what it means to be a sensory seeker, which he is. Educated us on what type of inputs Kylers body was craving. And agreed that contacting Easter Seals for speech and OT was a good start. His first evaluation was for speech and this is when we met Kandice. Who we adored. She did an amazing job at teaching us the best ways to work with him at home. And soon after, his language really started to develop. By the time he was evaluated again, a year later, he had exceeded some areas based on his age. Articulation however has remained a consistent challenge for him. Needless to say, our search for an OT that we felt comfortable with started slowly to say the least. We did try other facilities, but one therapist wanted us to start ADD meds at age 2! One gave us the evaluation and you could easily tell that it had been copied and pasted from another child’s. The entire evaluation was written using the pronoun “she” instead of “he”. And there were things written that didn’t even pertain to him. This same OT also “diagnosed” him as having PDD/NOS after 2 sessions, which she is unqualified to do. One other thing that our friend in Atlanta spoke to us about was a type of therapy that we had never heard of before, Stanley Greenspan’s Dir/Floor time Model. A type of cognitive therapy that basically teaches the adult(s) how to place his/herself on the same developmental level as the child. It focuses less on the childs skills and more on social, emotional, and intellectual development through play. She thought that Kyler would really benefit from this. However, finding someone in the area that specialized in this type of therapy was difficult. After about 4 months, she located one for us and he was evaluated. THIS is when things started to turn around and we started to see improvements.
During this time, we realized that certain things would over stimulate him. All of the things that he loves. TV, movies, computers, loud toys etc. We learned that the humming and pacing is his body’s way of regulating. Whether he is excited, nervous, frustrated, or just wants to feel good. After a year, he was released from the Floor time therapy, knowing that we could continue the therapy ourselves at home. This put us back in search of an OT to address the regulation concerns, and to help him calm and organize his thoughts. This is when we returned to Easter Seals for OT. He has been seeing Jennifer for speech and LaDonna and Gretchen for OT once a week ever since. The older he gets, and the more that he can communicate, the easier it’s becoming to understand his need to stim (humming & pacing). He has become a lot more regulated & able to stay on task for longer periods of time. He is thriving in his pre-k class & loving every minute of it. We are extremely grateful for the therapists that he has seen at Easter Seals. Some have moved on and others are still there. But each one has impacted his growth. They have not only helped Kyler but they have helped us immensely.
We have never officially taken Kyler to be diagnosed and probably never will, for the treatment would be the same. It wouldn’t change anything either way for us anyway. He is incredibly bright, compassionate, funny, outgoing, empathetic, and stubborn. A well-rounded 4 year old that loves animals and dinosaurs. Our little house has been full of indoor and outdoor trampolines (we are on our 3rd indoor one), indoor and outdoor swings, weighted blankets, pillow fights, jumping on the sofas and coffee table, beanbag chairs, medicine balls, exercise balls etc. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Ambassador Rowan Moses
Our journey began at our 24 week OB appointment. The doctor had reviewed our anatomy ultrasound and revealed that our daughter had a cleft lip. We were referred to a MFM specialist who confirmed the diagnosis. They then set us up an appointment with the head of the team of doctors who would be a large part of our daughter’s first year.
At Rowan’s birth, we discovered it was much more than just a cleft lip. She also had a cleft palate, fused toes, small ear canals and other abnormal physical features. We still didn’t know the extent of her anomalies and we are still finding things out 3.5 years later. Even though they haven’t been able to find an abnormal gene yet, her geneticist isn’t giving up. He said it is possible she has something that hasn’t even been discovered.
It was a challenge learning how to feed Rowan since she couldn’t latch on. She had to use special bottles for cleft palate babies. Even then, she would spit up often after eating because she had terrible reflux and would swallow a lot of air. Therefore, she struggled to gain weight during her first year and was diagnosed failure to thrive.
Since she is unusually small, she had full body x-rays done. They found out that her femurs and humeri are smaller than normal and that her femur heads are flat instead of round. Its amazing that she is able to fully rotate her legs and hips despite the shape of the bone. As she continues to grow, we will have to closely monitor the bones and hips.
Rowan has been through several procedures. She had her lip repair at 7 months and her palate repair at 11 months. She has also had 2 sets of ear tubes placed. Her palate repair was by far the hardest. She hardly ate or drank anything for the first 2 weeks of recovery. It was so painful that she didn’t want anything near her mouth.
She still has a long way to go. She will need to have a nose revision sometime in the next few years. She will also have to have a bone graft taken from her hip and placed in her gum line when she gets older.
We started therapy at Easter Seals just over a year ago. When we first started, she was very hard to understand. She has made wonderful progress with her speech therapist. Rowan loves going to therapy and playing with her SLP.