Sunday, January 9, 2011


Over the past several weeks, the water pressure in our house has gradually declined. This was especially noticeable every night when running the tub for Alex’s bath began to take longer and longer. Since his nightly bath is a routine that Alex eagerly anticipates, having to wait more time than he expected seemed to create some anxiety as he would pace in the bathroom and become agitated that it was taking so long for the water to fill the bathtub. After our local water company assured us that the pressure coming into the house was fine, a call to the plumber offered insight as to the cause of our water problem. He suggested that the filter on our water softener unit was likely clogged with sediment and told us to switch the unit to bypass. If switching the unit to bypass improved the water pressure, we had found the problem, but we’d also probably need to replace the water softener unit. With a simple flip of the bypass switch, our water pressure immediately and significantly improved, just as the plumber had predicted. The rush of water was welcome relief that we didn’t have a more serious problem, such as an undiscovered leak or pipes clogged with residue, and Alex was pleased that his bath water took much less time to be ready.

Some of the progress we’ve seen with Alex has been like that flip of the bypass switch. After dealing with some issue for a while, suddenly a switch figuratively turned on, and we saw immediate progress, much like that rush of water. While some of those sudden improvements were rather significant, others were minor, yet welcome nonetheless. For example, I tried to teach Alex how to use a drinking straw for years. No matter how many times I explained to him that how the straw worked and modeled for him how to use one, he would continually blow air into a straw instead of sucking up the drink in the glass. I had heard that you can teach children how to use a straw by taking them directly from the baby bottle to a straw, but I had missed that window of opportunity. Finally, I decided that using a straw would just be something he couldn’t do, and it really wasn’t important that he master this skill. About that time, I left sitting on the kitchen table a paper cup of cola with a lid and straw that I’d brought home from a fast food restaurant. A few minutes later, when I returned to get the drink, I found Alex sitting there, drinking down my cola happily, using the straw with ease. Suddenly, he had figured out how to do it on his own. Apparently, his desire to polish off my drink motivated him enough to use a straw. A similar sudden change occurred when we were able to solve his sleeping problems by putting him on the supplement melatonin. As I described in an earlier blog entry, “Sleep,” Alex had been a very good sleeper as a baby and toddler, but when he was five, he began having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. After dealing with his wandering around the house, turning on television to entertain himself in the middle of the night, and moving from bed to bed looking for a place to sleep, we began giving him melatonin under his doctor’s supervision. Melatonin is simply a natural hormone that regulates sleep cycles. Unfortunately, some children do not produce enough melatonin in their own systems, causing sleep difficulties. Once they are given these safe supplements, their sleep usually improves dramatically. We found this to be true with Alex. The first night we gave him melatonin about a half hour before bedtime, we watched him get drowsy, and that night was the first night in several weeks that he slept peacefully through the night. Suddenly, a simple solution to the problem meant that all of us could get a good night’s rest. Thankfully, he continues to this day to sleep well with the help of melatonin supplements.

A similar quick fix to a problem came in the form of visual therapy. Alex had some balance issues when he was younger, and we’d notice that he would often tilt his head to look at things. Going up and down stairs was a major issue for him, and we’d often have to carry him on staircases because he was frightened to go up or down. On the recommendation of our family optometrist, we went to another optometrist who specializes in visual training. He put Alex in glasses that had prism lenses and gave him eye exercises to do to train his eyes to track together properly. After wearing the glasses and working on the exercises with their therapists as well as with him ourselves at home for a few months, Alex made rapid improvements. He no longer had difficulty navigating stairs or curbs, and he stopped tilting his head. The eye doctor agreed that Alex had made significant progress in a very short amount of time and told us that he no longer needed to wear the glasses or do the eye exercises. Even without these aids, Alex continued to maintain his balance and have his eyes work together properly, and we were pleased that this brief intervention made such a difference in his motor movements. Another issue that suddenly seemed to resolve itself after many years of trying was toilet training. In my blog entry “Toilet Training,” I described the myriad of methods we unsuccessfully used over several years to help Alex learn to toilet independently. However, within two weeks of starting methyl vitamin B12 injections, Alex finally was able to stay clean and dry around the clock using the toilet without any prompting from us. I truly believe that the B12 healed some damaged nerves and allowed him to experience the feeling of needing to use the bathroom so that he could go when he felt that urge. The mastery of this skill was such a blessing because we had agonized over it for years. Whenever I get discouraged that Alex hasn’t mastered certain skills, I try to reflect on these accomplishments and remember that progress isn’t always gradual. Sometimes God surprises us with sudden improvements that please us and remind us how powerful His healing touch is.

“Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of His coming was like the roar of rushing waters and the whole landscape shone with His glory.” Ezekiel 43:2

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