Ear Gear!

A lot has been happening around here for Ben.   I think it will take a few posts to get everything updated.

Ben has worn hearing aids since he was 5 months old.  He often manages to pull them off (especially the one on the left).  For the last year or so we have used Critter Clips to attach them to his clothing to prevent them from getting lost.  However, the little elastic band on the Critter Clips became stretched, and wouldn’t reliably stay on the hearing aids anymore.

The last time we went to have new earmolds made for Ben, the audiologist mentioned Ear Gear to us.  Apparently they have been recommending these to more of their patients since they help to protect the hearing aids from humidity and sweat.  We decided to give them a try.

So far so good.  Ben seems to like them better, maybe because they’re a little softer against his skin.  He still pulls them off on occasion, but they stay safely attached to his clothing.  And I like the bright blue color we chose.

If only the Ear Gear people made something to convince him to keep his glasses on more!

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February 2010 Update

For a while I wondered if Iwas done with this blog altogether, but since it’s something I enjoy doing (and it helps keep my family in Trinidad up to date with what the kids are up to) I decided to start blogging again.  It has been so long since I last posted that I decided that I’d do another update.

Isaac is 9 and in 3rd grade.  He does GREAT academically, but if you ask him, he always says he hates school.  He loves video games, reading (especially manga and other graphic novels a.k.a. comic books), and playing the piano.  He doesn’t always enjoy the songs his piano teacher assigns, but often plays songs from the Legend of Zelda video game series just for fun.  Since I don’t play any instruments, I’m always impressed to hear him play the piano.  Isaac also plays soccer in the spring and fall because we make him.  He is a wonderful big brother to Ben and Nate (but just manages to fight and disagree with Jonathan on a daily basis!)

Jonathan is 6 and in the first grade.  He does fairly well in school, but is one of those kids who has trouble sitting quietly at a desk all day.  He does well with his schoolwork, however, and is an excellent reader.  He is an active kid who enjoys running around the house, playing video games, helping me cook desserts, and building with Legos and K’nex.  He is definitely a snuggler, and even now loves to sit on laps for hugs and kisses.  He talks non-stop at home (just like at school), and says such funny things sometimes.  I took the photo below after he asked me to give him a faux-hawk just like Ben’s.

Nate is 19 months old.  Wow.  I’d forgotten what it was like to have a “typical” toddler in the house.  Nate started walking at around 14 months, and since then we haven’t had a spare moment to ourselves it seems!   He is very sweet but manages to get into all sorts of mischief.  His favorite pastime lately is scattering things everywhere.

He enjoys emptying the contents of the dishwasher onto the floor.  He puts silverware into the trash.  He puts chalk into the bathtub.  He hurls toy cars and hard wooden blocks at our heads.  He sets the oven to self-clean.  He loves playing with DVD and video game cases, so we decided to get a cabinet that mounts on the wall.  Did that help?  Nope.

Thank goodness he has stopped splashing in the toilet for fun!

Nate says quite a few words as well, but still resorts to screaming when he’s frustrated or bored or tired or hungry.

Benji will be 4 at the end of April.  How time flies!  He still has a sweet, quiet, easygoing disposition and is such a joy to have around.  He loves playing with toys that spin, or anything long and skinny that he can hold in his “big” hand.  He weighs around 28 lbs and is in 2T clothing.  He has gained nicely in the last 6 months and is starting to look rather chubby!

Ben gets around by rolling or “army crawling”.  He can get from a lying to a sitting position by jamming his little feet under a heavy piece of furniture and sitting straight up with his strong abdominal muscles.   He can stand and use his arms for support on furniture, but he will throw himself backwards without warning, so he can’t be left in that position by himself yet.  He has been doing much better in his gait trainer, and finally seems to get the idea that he’s supposed to propel himself forward.  Nate also loves the gait trainer.

Ben still wears hearing aids and glasses, but is getting more opinionated about whether he wants to wear these or not.  I suspect that his glasses are a little uncomfortable these days because he’s grown so much in the past year and also because a certain little brother chewed the pieces that fit behind his ears.  In any case I think he’s due for a new pair even though his prescription hasn’t changed.

Ben is still g-tube fed, and is still very resistant to oral feeds.  Every so often, he changes his mind and willingly eats and tastes food that I’m feeding Nate, but that only happens once in blue moon.  We keep working with him, but it’s discouraging at times.

The biggest change that has happened with Ben over the past few months is that he has been attending preschool 3 afternoons a week!  We were so anxious about him going to school, but it has turned out to be wonderful for him.  He attends a local preschool for children with special needs.  The class is very small, and he has lots of one-on-one attention.  He loves going, and is full of giggles when Mark takes him in.  He has PT, OT, and ST at school, and they also work with oral feeds.  He also has circle time and playtime just as “typical” kids would in preschool.  He’s one of the smallest kids at school (if not the smallest), and everyone loves him!  I think I’ll have to do a post just about Ben’s preschool.

Ben continues to be wonderfully healthy, and we’re thankful for that.

Mark and I are doing very well, but we are tired all the time it seems.  I still work full time and Mark is home with the boys full time.  We still enjoy cooking together, and trying out new recipes.  “Santa” brought us a new TV and a PS3 this Christmas, and we’ve both been enjoying playing “Dragon Age Origins” after the kids go to bed.  We’d like to go to the CdLS conference in Dallas this year and are still working out the logistics of that.  We’re also planning a trip to Trinidad this summer…if we can get everyone’s passports organized!  We already struck out once; we got caught in a traffic jam on Friday afternoon and ended up not being able to get the boys’ done.  Maybe this week.

Hopefully I can keep this blog updated on a semi-regular basis.  We’ll see.

Snippets…

isaac-soccer-3

isaac-soccer-2

On Saturday, Isaac scored his very first goal since he started playing in the AYSO Under-10 division!   He really has been making a good effort, even though it has not been easy for him.  We were so proud, and so was he!

jonny-soccer

On Tuesday the weather finally cooperated and Jonathan actually got to play soccer!  He was so excited since his last two games were rained out.  He did great, had a blast, and scored a few goals.  When someone asked him if his team won, he replied, “There’s no winner.”  I’m glad that he enjoys the game at this stage without needing to keep score.  And we were thrilled that he was able to burn off some of that extra energy.

me-and-ben

Ben has had a few trips to our friendly tertiary care center.  He has been picking and pulling at his MIC-KEY button, so last week we saw his g-tube nurse.  We have determined that the tube size is appropriate, but we think he has a mild yeast infection at the site.  We are treating him with some Mycolog ointment, but I’m not so sure it’s doing much good…he succeeded at PULLING OUT HIS MIC-KEY BUTTON for the very first time a couple days ago.  For now we’re continuing the ointment and keeping his belly bound with an ACE wrap.  Poor Ben.  I hope he stops messing with it so he doesn’t have to sweat all summer.

Today we went to  have Ben’s hearing aids adjusted.  He got new molds, and I told the tech about the severe feedback (whistling) we were getting.  She had a neat device which actually was able to cancel most of the feedback (I’m not exactly sure how it works), but Ben will finally be able to wear his hearing aids again.

little-boys-soccer-game

Lately, Nate has been doing lots of new things.  He has begun teething, rolling over very well in both directions (finally catching up to big brother Ben with his motor skills), trying to crawl on hands and knees and really wants to learn how to pull to stand.  He has been learning how to feed himself and has been scarfing down those little Gerber fruit puffs like lightning.  But he has also been sooo needy these days and cries if you just stand up…before you even have a chance to leave the room!  He really loves Ben and enjoys playing with Ben’s face, hair, arms, feet, etc.  Ben usually tries to roll out of the way, but this week he really seems to be noticing Nate and interacting directly with him for the first time.

big-brother-little-brother

BTW, Mark found these neat shirts for the little boys at Toys ‘R’ Us to help everyone see that they are not twins.

ben-and-nate-hockey-stick

Ben turns three tomorrow, and Nate is 9 months old.  Right now Nate officially outweighs Ben.

I suppose it won’t be long before they won’t seem like twins anymore.

Ben’s Latest ABR

ben-in-van

Ben first got hearing aids at 5 months old based on results of an ABR.  When he was that little, the test was relatively easy to do.  We basically had to deprive him of sleep for several hours (although it was difficult to keep him awake during that last hour while driving to the audiologist!) and he would sleep peacefully during the entire test.  As he got older, a test like that harder to do since he seldom slept for long periods during the day.  So most of his subsequent hearing tests have been done by judging his responses to sound, but these have been somewhat unreliable.

After his last hearing test like this (shortly after Nate was born), his audiologist finally decided that he would need to have an ABR done again to get a more accurate result.  The only problem was that Ben would need to be put under general anesthesia to have the test.  Coordinating all of this was a little challenging, but Ben finally had his test a little over a week ago.   Ben is difficult to intubate, so the anesthesiologist decided to use an LMA for this procedure.

Everyone had to get up early.  The big boys went to school as usual on the bus.  Mark, Nate, Ben and I then drove an hour to our very favorite tertiary care center.  We fretted about being late, but it turns out that we actually misunderstood what time we were to be there, and we were actually 30 minutes early!   (Maybe they heard about our reputation for being late and misled us on purpose!)

ben-sleeping

Ben was in a great mood, but fell asleep while waiting for the procedure.  He looked so tiny in that great big gurney!  He woke up in time for them to wheel him back, and he laughed all the way to the room in which the test was to occur.

i-came-with-lots-to-do

So we waited and waited.  Nate actually behaved very well.  We brought lots of toys for him to play with.  He played, laughed, ate his yogurt, and slept.  The test went much longer than we expected.

natey-playing

Finally they called me back to see Ben in recovery.  He was unhappy when I got there, and his g-tube needed to be vented, but then he quickly settled down.

just-waking-up

im-ready-to-go-now

We were able to leave about 15 minutes later.

We didn’t get the results of the test until the next Thursday.  Ben’s hearing has deteriorated somewhat; he has moderate to severe hearing loss bilaterally (moderate for low frequencies, and severe at higher frequencies).  His hearing aids were adjusted, but I think we need to have them adjusted again.  They are giving him so much feedback (high-pitched squealing) that he’s afraid to move when he wears them!

And I was hoping that the test would show that he didn’t need hearing aids anymore.  Oh well.  I am very thankful that the hearing loss can be identified and treated.

abr-results

Ben’s Preschool Evaluation and First IEP

eval-table

Ben turns 3 at the end of April, so he will be transitioning from home-based early intervention to having his therapies in a preschool setting.  In our county, most kids with significant developmental or behavioral disabilities go to a designated “special needs school”.   I understand that a lot of parents and educators disagree with this approach, but we think it’s the right one for Ben at this time.

Earlier this month (the same week as our vehicular fiasco), he had a formal evaluation at the Center.  He first had his hearing and hearing aids checked briefly by their audiologist.  Ben is difficult to test using behavioral cues, so the audiologist was relieved to learn that he’ll be having a detailed ABR under general anesthesia tomorrow morning.

ben-rolling

Then we all went to a different room, and we met all the therapists that Ben would be working with in school, as well as the school psychologist.  The physical therapist went first, and she put Ben down on the mat to watch him roll, crawl, sit up and stand with support.  We were pleased that we’ve already met Ben’s therapist – she filled in for our usual physical therapist a little over a year ago when she was on maternity leave.  Ben did very well.

ben-at-table-1

Then they sat Ben in a little chair and tested how well he was able to manipulate objects with his hands and arms.  Ben sat very well and cooperated with all the tasks.   The school psychologist asked whether we wanted Ben’s IQ tested.  We consented, and she did her evaluation.  Through the entire process everyone asked us lots of questions about Ben’s routine, his likes/dislikes, special abilities, personality, and what our goals were for him.

ben-at-table-2

nate-and-me

We generated his IEP for the year, and read over and signed it.  Since the preschool operates year-round, Ben could technically start attending as soon as he turns three, but we all agreed to keep up home-based therapies a little longer; until August.  We asked questions about the preschool itself.  We learned that the classes are typically small (6-8 kids per teacher), kids work individually with the therapists at different times during the school day (or rather half-day), we are able to communicate back and forth with Ben’s teacher and therapists daily using a notebook, and at least once a month, his teacher will do a home visit to meet with us and discuss any concerns.  Ben will be continuing PT, OT (including working on oral feeds), ST, and will periodically meet with teachers for students with visual and hearing impairments.

ben-koosh1

The prospect of sending Ben to school fills us with anxiety, but at the moment we feel a little reassured after our IEP meeting.   For now it does appear that his educational needs will be met in this setting; we’ll see how things actually work in a few short months.

Some Doctor Visits…

mark-karen-ben-nate

We’ve had a few of these for both Nate and Ben in the last month or so:

Ben had a follow-up-tube-feed visit with his pediatrician.  He weighed just under 20 lbs and was 30 inches tall. His doc says that he is growing very well, and we can continue what we’re doing with his tube feedings.  Also, we seem to be doing OK with managing his constipation.

bens-checkup

Ben will need to have an ABR done under general anesthesia next month to adjust his hearing aids, so we recently had a “preop” visit with the anesthesia clinic earlier this month.  It took a VERY LONG TIME, but it went well, and Ben actually weighed 21lbs at that visit.  Hopefully Ben will have his test and will recover quickly from the anesthesia, and be able to come home right after the test.

nate-6-month-checkup

Nate had his 6  month well child visit.  He weighed 19 lbs 12 oz, and is doing well.  He had a cold at the time of the visit (which eventually required some amoxicillin since it lingered for weeks), and is on target in terms of his development.  He still has eczema which we manage with moisturizers and triamcinolone cream.  He got 4 shots (Pentacel, Prevnar, Hep B#3, Influenza), and one oral vaccine (Rotarix).

Both Ben and Nate will have well-child visits at the end of April/early May.  Right now they are both healthy, and I hope they both stay that way so that we don’t need to see the doc before then.

Ben’s New Glasses

church

We all love how Ben looks in them!  Doesn’t he look cute?  The photo above was taken in our church nursery yesterday morning.  I think he’s finally starting to look more like a little boy than a baby.

As I mentioned on my post about Ben’s last ophthomology appointment; we were told that his eyesight had deteriorated considerably over the previous year.  He had become quite nearsighted and would need glasses.  A little over a week ago, we finally got around to taking him to the optometrist to choose some frames.    This optometrist, a very nice lady, specializes in pediatric and special needs eyewear, and is about 45 minutes from our home.  The big boys were in school, and Nate came along.  Ben wasn’t too happy with having several frames put on and taken off in rapid succession, but he was a trooper.

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number-2

number-3

It was a tough decision, but we found some that we liked.  Nate was unusually fussy that day, and when we came home we found he was running a fever.  Fortunately, he ran a temperature for only 3 days, and he seems fine now.

This Saturday we made the trek to pick up his new glasses.  This time we had all 4 boys with us.  It turns out that the optometrist is very busy on Saturdays, so we had to wait a bit.  The boys occupied themselves with the toys…

toys

jonny-sphere

…and Nate and I just hung out on the couch.  Ben’s glasses needed some final adjustments (the earpieces had to be molded to ensure a snug fit), we fit his hearing aids over them, and finally we were done.

much-better

Afterwards, we went out for lunch, went to the mall for a bit:

double-stroller

Ben was VERY interested in looking around at EVERYTHING.  (Yes, Nate was missing a sock so we bought him some new ones!)  When we were sure we had tired everyone out, we came home.  All four boys fell asleep in the car.

So far, Ben’s response to his glasses has been overwhelmingly positive.  He has left them on, and he has been so much more interested in looking at more distant objects.  He even seems to make better eye contact.  I guess his poor vision was more of an impairment than we realized, and it makes us feel a little guilty for not acting on this before.

I really hope he tolerates his glasses for the long haul.