Saturday, March 16, 2013

Small Victory! He Can Move His Right Arm!

It's been a long time since I posted, but it's been very busy here.  Perhaps the best news is that Dear Son continues to improve.  As I mentioned previously, his new blenderized diet has improved his dystonia (movement disorder) immensely. For the first time in 21 years, he is able to move his right arm on his own to help put on his t-shirt. I put the arm hole over his arm and he is able to move it slightly to push it through. He is really trying to do this and he's never had any real use of his arms/hands.
 I just took this picture the other day-he needs a shave but overall looks pretty good.
As a little boy, he had intense physical, occupational and speech therapy since he was three years old. Shortly thereafter, we had an evaluation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to determine what was wrong with his arms/hands but the intense thereapy never worked. We had additional outside therapy (outside of school) when he was around ten or so to try to get his arms and legs working better however nothing really worked.  He always used his mouth to operate things like his Barney (chewed on his hand to make him talk) or used his head to butt into an object to let you know he wanted that object or to make it work.
When he was in high school, his teacher had a water bottle that she rigged up to help him water the plants. She would place her hand under his forearm and when she felt a muscle move, she would squeeze the bottle (her hand on top of his hand) to help him water the plants. That was the most he could really do. He did enjoy putting his hands in the flour for dog biscuits but overall his arms/hands have never really been functional.
When he went to the transition program (it's a day program that they go to from ages 18-22), one of the goals I had was for them to do range of motion exercises for him for his arms and legs to keep them from getting contracted. At that time, he had just come home from the hospital after having the swine flu and he was not able to move his big toe, let alone a foot, a leg or his arms/hands.  I still felt it was important to do that to keep him from getting contracted because at that time, I had great difficulty in trying to get him to straighten his leg. I knew that couldn't be comfortable and I worried it was painful for him as well.

Since that time, they have continued to do his exercises however once he started his Now Foods Organic Coconut Oil regime (it's the ONLY brand that works for him) and new blenderized diet made from real food (I took him off of commercial formula via the g tube and  feed him a blenderized diet made from scratch and feed it through his feeding tube), his legs began to move (see ball kicking video where he kicked the ball 10 times) and now he is able to move his arms. The journey has been amazing: The first step was that he began to enjoy his arm exercises. Next, they noticed that he had more trouble moving his left arm than his right, because the dystonia was worse on the left side. Now the aide asks him if he's ready to move his left arm and he give her an eye blink for yes, to let her know when he's ready. Often times, it just takes him a few seconds (10-20 seconds) for him to be able to relax that arm to move it. Then he began to move his arm slightly which I had never seen him do before. And then, in the past two weeks, he started trying to lift his arm up for exercises and trying to move his right arm into his t-shirt.
Of the two arms, his right arm works much better/easier than the left. I have him lying on his bed when I get him dressed for school or when I change his diaper. I place the t-shirt over his head and then open up the right arm hole and place it over his hand. As he moves his hand to try to push it through, I pull the t-shirt down over his arm to help, lol.  He's only able to move his arm a few inches but that is a lot of progress in a short amount of time. He now looks forward to it.  I tell him how proud I am of him and I talked to him about how he should be proud of himself too!
It took months to get this far.  Just a few months ago, I noticed his dystonia was getting better and that he could move his arms better and I had a catch phrase that I used to reinforce it....I'd say that, "your arms move like but tah!". Positive reinforcement goes a long way with him. Now it's pretty rewarding to see him be able to move his arm in a more functional way.
I should also mention that his cognitive ability has improved dramatically as well.  Since December, he was having episodes where he didn't want to kick the ball. The aide, who works with him every day, mentioned it to his teacher and they decided to call in the physical therapist to take a look. He was having seizures at that time, so they rescheduled it. Anyway, the physical therapist came to evaluate him. The aide was explaining to her that he hasn't wanted to do his leg exercises and she wanted to know if there was something wrong with his legs or if it was just a matter that he didn't want to do them. Well, as she was explaining it to the therapist, he got a big smile on his face and started kicking his left leg and then kicked his right leg  to let them know that "could" move it but that he didn't want to.  The aide joked that he was showing off and that when it came time to do his exercises, that he wouldn't do them for her. Sure enough, when the therapist left and it came time to do them, he didn't want to do them. He just laughed when she teased him that he didn't want to do it. It was great knowing that he is able to make choices and he totally understood what they were saying. Everyone got a good laugh over that.  I did have a conversation with him about the importance of doing his exercises since exercise and moving his body is important with his progressive disease.
I think the best part is that it just goes to show that you are never to old to meet your goals. I never would have thought that he'd have any arm/hand movement and certainly would not have thought that he'd be able to do this after twenty some years. I realize that he's not going to be able to dress himself or operate a remote control or feed  himself or anything like that. But for him to be able to help to put on his t-shirt, for him to be able to let me know if his arm hurts and to let me know when he's ready, those are victories for sure.  I'll take a small victory any day.


Sharon said...

Wow!!! Am so excited to hear about the progress that Dear Son is showing. It must be wonderful for you and Dear Son to see this progress after so many years. It's nice to see this update. I check in regularly looking to see how you are both doing. :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations- that's great!

Anonymous said...

Dear dream mom,
You amaze me. My grandson is severely impacted with autism, ognitive disability, yadayada and when I found you I found such inspiration. Hooray for dear son and may he continue to improve. What a joy to see you post this message. Anonymous

Liz Martinez said...

So glad to see you posted again & especially glad to hear of your victories. You are an awesome dear mom. I enjoy the pics..dear son was a cutie and now a handsome young man. Oh how the years fly by. Take care & i look forward to more posts.

Dream Mom said...

Thanks everyone for such nice comments! They mean a lot to me.

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