Tag Archives: IEP

November 2019 Update & Christmas Wishes

We are now 13 months post-onset and continuing to see improvement. Praise Jesus for His healing hands. Amen?

The photo above is a grab from the weekly report sent home from Annadelle’s resource team each week. Every day she is in the general education classroom, but sees two separate resource teachers for reading and math. On Thursdays, she goes to speech and on Mondays, she does in-school PT. In other words, she has a busy schedule! We are beyond blessed for Annadelle to be at the school she is at.

I was so excited to see this note that Annadelle is now in her walker twice a day. She is no longer using her Rifton wheeled stander so we will be returning it to CRS within the next week or so. It is quite the drive to Mobile so I’m working on scheduling a time to get over there and return the stander. Now that she has the walker, the IEP team met and we determined we needed to get her in the walker more. As you can see, she is now in it twice a day in just a few weeks time. She is really progressing wonderfully! Even now as I type this, she is scooting around on the living room floor cleaning up her toys. This is a huge improvement and is something she has been working on in therapy. She is also able to lay on her back and push her butt up off the ground much better than she could a few months ago. It makes it much easier when trying to get her dressed!

While at PT/OT at Encore, her therapists have been working with her on improving her core strength, having her use her left arm, and navigating her walker without the side brakes on. She’s not comfortable enough to be without the side brakes on all the time, but she is definitely improving. Last night we put up our Christmas tree (before Thanksgiving for the first time ever I think- I usually never win that fight, but this year Chris gave in) and Annadelle helped me to decorate it. I put her in her walker and she stood at the tree while I handed her ornaments to put on. If you’ve ever let a 6-year-old put ornaments on a tree, you know you likely have to go behind them and move them around so they are spread out. I did that a little bit, but she was good about moving her walker around the tree to space them out. She did all of that with no brakes on, even on our tile floor. Although, she did tell me when we started, “Mommy! I don’t have my brakes on!” “Yeah. I know,” I said. She looked at me with confusion then went on her merry way (pun intended).

Annadelle is still on a modified ketogenic diet (sugar free), although we have been a bit lax over the last few weeks. She hasn’t gained any weight, but she hasn’t lost any either. Mommy is struggling to stay on track, too. 🙂 We had family visit recently, and when they visit it has sort of become a tradition to visit The Yard in Gulf Shores. This place has amazing milkshakes, and all of them have a whole separate dessert on top. It is definitely not sugar free (but soooooo worth it)!

My mom and I recently saw where Jojo Siwa will be coming to Pensacola on Memorial Day weekend, so we are going to try to get tickets to see the show. Annadelle really wants to meet Jojo so I need to get to work on that. We had told her that she could meet Jojo when she started walking in the walker during the day without her chair and I have a feeling that time will be here sooner than later. She told me she wanted to meet Jojo for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas- I had the most heartbreaking conversation with Annadelle about Santa. She asked me, “Mommy, does Santa Claus grant wishes?” I thought for a moment and asked her, “Why? Do you have a wish you want granted?” She said she did and I asked her what it was. “To get to walking again,” she replied.

This was one of the first times Annadelle had specifically talked to me about walking, or rather wanting to walk. She will say, “When I get back to walking, can we go to OWA?” but she has never specifically said she wants to walk. She usually just talks about walking like it is for sure something that is going to happen. Chris and I believe that she will be walking alone in time, but convincing a 6-year-old of that can be difficult.

I told her no, Santa does not grant wishes like that, but Jesus would. All she has to do is ask Him. We talked about how to pray for things that we want- no material things, but for things like healing and later that night we prayed for that. I have prayed for her to walk every single night for 13 months now and whenever someone asks me how to pray for her, that is what I say. Of course I ask the same thing now. It was one thing when I wanted to walk, but now it is a whole other thing when she asks for it.

I wish I could tell you how heartbreaking it is not to be able to fix this kind of problem for your child, but it is a feeling even I don’t know how to describe.

November 1, 2019 Halloween, Red Ribbons, and New Therapies

This has been an exciting week for Annadelle. For the past year (literally), she has continued to talk about how much she was anticipating Halloween. While in the hospital last Halloween, Annadelle was in the hospital (in the PICU) and on a vent so she was not able to trick-or-treat (either at home or at the hospital). The doctors and nurses tried to make Halloween fun for her, especially nurse Christy who brought her a bucket of candy and asked the other nurss to come to Annadelle’s room to trick-or-treat. Unfortunately, Annadelle was just too upset about being in the hospital to enjoy it.

Annadelle dressed up as Princess Belle for a neighborhood cart-or-treat in Bear Point

Halloween has always been one of her favorite holidays besides Christmas because she loves to be able to dress up. Having to tell Annadelle she couldn’t participate like she wanted to broke my heart.

Needless to say, I put some effort into Halloween this year by ordering her a beautiful Princess Belle costume off of Amazon. I’m not a very “Pinteresty” mom and I’m usually last minute when it comes to buying a costume, but this year I deserve a cookie or something because this costume was awesome. I ordered her a size 7 since it was as large as was available, thinking that maybe since she has lost some weight it would fit. Well, I was right- it fit like a glove!

Annadelle at school dressed up as “Miss Jennifer” (her para professional)
Annadelle and her dad trick-or-treating in Captain’s Cove

Speaking of weight loss, Annadelle has lost close to 16 pounds since being on a sugar free diet. Some refer to it as a ketogenic diet or low carb diet, but her diet doesn’t fully fit in to either one of those categories. We just try to give her whole foods, little starchy carbs, and low glycemic fruits. We aren’t super strict with her diet because she often gets treats at school (example: birthday parties), but overall her diet has changed a good bit.

When we first started sugar-free, we caught a lot of flack from our friends and family. Some said it was “cruel” to keep the foods she loves away from her. I admit it was rough the first week or so, but after the initial shock of changing her diet she has adjusted to it well. Plus, it’s working and we have seen some amazing improvement since she has lost some weight, such as being able to pick herself up from her wheelchair and transfer to her walker by herself (with her KAFO). She can also hold “high knees” for extended periods of time, army crawl, and lift her left leg up completely. Chris and I are also following the same diet to try to make it easier for her. I’ve lost 13 pounds and I’m not sure how much Chris has lost, but he’s a skinny mini now. He’s started working out frequently and has built up quite a bit of muscle. He says he wanted to since he was lifting Annadelle so much, it makes it easier for him to take care of her.

Annadelle in her Crocodile walker during the 60 minutes she uses it at school (as a part of her IEP)

Annadelle has been loving the first grade! Chris and I recently met with the IEP team and tweaked her IEP after having her evaluated for PT and OT. Educational PT and OT is much different than outpatient PT and OT because the functional goals are often different, but it is important that AFM kiddos get as much PT and OT as humanly possible! She will now receive PT once a week at school which is wonderful.

We also adjusted her IEP to remove the use of the mobile stander and replace it with the Crocodile walker. Miss Jennifer (her wonderful para) or another member of the resource staff puts her in the walker everyday for at least 60 minutes. This means we send her to school wearing both her AFO and her KAFO to decrease the “setup” time for her to transfer to the walker. She has been doing very well wearing the braces all day and tells me it is much easier to stand to go to the bathroom. She says she holds on to the bar while Miss Jennifer helps her with her clothes, then transfers to the toilet.

Annadelle with her friend Grayce during PE at school
Annadelle with classmates and teacher before her school’s parade for Red Ribbon Week

Our next IEP goal will be to have Annadelle utilize her walker for the 60 minutes during resource and ALSO during PE. Our ultimate goal before the end of the school year is to be able to send her to school ONLY in the walker. I am beyond grateful that we have such a supportive school staff that is helping Annadelle to achieve her goals. It takes a village!

Annadelle with her friend Haley swinging in the park during cart-or-treat

Annadelle has continued to show improvement over the last several months, including improvement in her core strength. We noticed she has made significant improvement during the Bear Point cart-or-treat prior to Halloween when her dad put her on the swings with her friend, Haley. I took a picture from far off and couldn’t believe how well she was doing.

We believe she will continue to show improvement for years to come, not just because reports from AFM parents whose children were diagnosed years ago says so, but because we have faith that she will. Especially now that Annadelle has started therapy again at Encore Therapy in Foley, about a 25 minute drive from our house. It is much closer than the previous facility we were going to in Fairhope.

Today we visited Encore so that Annadelle could do her initial evaluation with PT and OT. Her new PT, Tina, and her new OT, Sophia, said they were excited to be treating her. Sophia said she had done some training at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta and had treated several AFM patients while there, so she is very familiar with the disease and how to treat it! WHAT!? I couldn’t believe it!

We go back for her first therapy session on Monday after we visit Dr. Sharkey (chiropractor). I am beyond excited to see how she progresses and will be posting some videos after that session so that we can “see” how well she progresses in a few months.

As always, thanks for the continued support. ❤

October 20, 2019 Milestones

We’ve had a fun weekend with friends and family in town for fall break. Annadelle’s fall break was Friday-Monday the week before, but she didn’t really get to enjoy it because she had strep throat.

Annadelle at urgent care being treated for strep throat

She got some antibiotics and bounced back pretty quickly, though.

Annadelle and her friend, Kade, who lives with TSC- a rare disease causing tumors throughout the body

While our close friends Carrie and her son, Kade, were here, we took a trip to the Hangout in Gulf Shores only a few minutes from our house. Carrie wanted to get some photos of the big waves coming in from the approaching storm so we went to the public beach access at the Hangout because there is usually a wheelchair mat there that goes out to the beach. Unfortunately the mat has been removed from that location and I wasn’t able to find where it was moved to, if it was indeed moved. So Carrie and Kade walked out to the beach while Annadelle and I waited on the sidewalk. She was really bummed out that she didn’t get to go on the beach.

Annadelle was upset that the City of Gulf Shores removed the handicap accessible beach mat at the Hangout

After Carrie and Kade came back to the sidewalk, we ended up over inside the Hangout and caught the “foam party” they hold on the weekends every hour. Annadelle has always wanted to go do that, but we’ve been hesitant not to mess up her wheelchair. The smiles and giggles that came from her playing in that foam were well worth the cleanup.

Annadelle and Kade playing in the foam at the Hangout
The aftermath of the foam party

As you can probably tell from the photos, we have been practicing Annadelle wearing her KAFO brace on her left leg for long periods of time in anticipation of taking her walker to school on Monday. Last week we had another IEP meeting to modify her current IEP to include the evaluations from PT and OT. The team decided it would be best to discontinue using the mobile stander at school for an hour a day and just put her in the walker for that time period. The PT is also going to have her use her walker during P.E. one day a week.

She does well in her walker compared to a few months ago, but she has a lot of balance issues. She can’t walk in it without the side and back locks on because she leans to the left when walking. We are hoping the more she uses the walker the stronger she will get and the more balance she will have. I think a lot of it is just having confidence so we will see.

Today we took a trip to HomeGoods (my new favorite store, by the way) and didn’t take her wheelchair. She was able to walk into and around the store by herself (with the back and side locks on). It took forever but compared to a year ago at this time, she has made huge strides. Chris and I continue to be eternally grateful for the progress she has made and have faith that she will continue to recover. There is no doubt in my mind that she will one day walk with that walker with no problem at all, and no locks on.

Annadelle during her first WALKING trip out in public!

We have hit a recent problem with therapy, as we have not been able to find a facility locally that will accept her as a patient. We continue to be told she needs to see a spinal cord injury certified therapist, but we can’t do that without traveling a good ways. Our schedules just don’t allow for it and it isn’t beneficial to Annadelle to travel so far for a 45 minute appointment.

We thought we had a therapist locally who would accept her (because she had agreed to do so the week prior), but that therapist decided not to accept her after all. I’ve been livid over her decision and have spent a lot of time praying about it. Two nights ago I made the decision to send her an email that I had initially intended to be an ugly one, but the Holy Spirit grabbed me before I could let that evil come from my lips (or fingertips, in this case). I ended up just telling her how disappointed I was in her decision not to accept Annadelle as a patient and urged her to reconsider. I haven’t heard back from her and doubt I will, but I feel better knowing I plead my/Annadelle’s case and did all I could. If it doesn’t work out, I know that wasn’t God’s plan and there will be another therapist who will be willing to fight for Annadelle.

Annadelle showing off her book report

Annadelle is doing very well in school and made all A’s and B’s on her report card! She has been working so hard in at-home therapy and at school to catch up. We are so thankful to the care team at school who have been working to get her caught up. We really are blessed for that.

Annadelle’s first school photo- 1st grade

We received her school picture proof this past week and I cried like a baby. She looked so beautiful and I just kept thinking about all the things that AFM took away from us this past year, included her first school photo from kindergarten. It’s stupid stuff to some people, but when you don’t get to experience it, it’s like the entire world ripped from you. I think not being able to experience some important milestones for us has made us much more appreciative of what we are able to experience now.

I was telling my FIL this morning that I thought I would dread seeing the Facebook memories from a year ago because our time at USAWC hospital in Mobile was quite traumatic for all of us. I would be lying if I said I had not woken up in sweats and crying dreaming about those nights in the hospital. But as time has passed, I realize I am able to look back on those times and see how far she has come, not what she can no longer do. Of course I still have moments of great sadness, but mostly I am just so grateful to God for what we still have. She’s here with us. She’s thriving. She’s loving life. And she’s continue to defy odds like never before.

She’s truly a miracle, and for that I couldn’t thank God enough.

August 25, 2019

I feel like such an old lady. I missed church this morning because of my back, or more specifically, my right leg. I am in constant pain right now from what we believe is sciatica pain. I am unable to sit in an upright position for long periods of time, so unless Pastor Fred is okay with me sprawling out over several chairs, I missed today’s message. Praise Jesus I have another appointment with Dr. Sharkey tomorrow. Until then, I’m going to be flat on my back with an ice pack and a lot of prayers.

Annadelle in prone position after CPT.

Annadelle stayed home with me because she is fighting off a cold. She came home from school with a runny nose so I have been on high alert. I am constantly checking her O2 levels with a pulse oximeter, checking her temperature, loading her down with vitamin C, rubbing all kinds of oils over here, throwing together a blend in the diffuser (frankincense, lemon, and thieves), running the humidifier 24/7, putting her prone and doing some CPT, and following her around with tissues telling her to blow her nose. I have reached peak paranoid mom.

Annadelle at school (first grade)

Since going back to school, we haven’t been able to schedule her for any therapy in Fairhope. She is scheduled for a quick PT appointment tomorrow so we will know more about a future schedule after that. I sent a message to the special education director for Baldwin County schools this week asking when her PT and OT evals were going to be completed. She said she would forward my email on to someone else and that they would work on scheduling that.

I also asked about plans to make the playground accessible. This was a topic of conversation during all of the IEP meetings we had and I was assured it would be accessible for Annadelle. Her recess is toward the end of the day, so we have pulled up to get in the car rider line and noticed Annadelle away from the other kids under the awning with her wonderful para, Miss Jen (as Annadelle calls her). She has a very small tub with legos to play with. Meanwhile, other kids are on the playground or sitting at benches eating their snacks. I brought this up to Debbie, the director I emailed, because I had specifically asked that Annadelle not be isolated during recess and mentioned the “play box” idea that a few other AFM parents had recommended in the parent group.

I know this may seem petty to some readers, but schools are actually required to ensure a playground is accessible for children with special needs. In this case, it may be as easy as pouring a pad in the playground instead of having mulch, or installing a wheelchair swing, etc. I know Annadelle may be the only child needing this right now, but who is to say other students won’t need it in the future?

School is otherwise going wonderfully for Annadelle. She is understanding the homework pretty well and we are reading every night. I make her read along with me and say the words that she knows. We also practice ABC, number, and sight word flashcards quite a bit. It seems we may have finally gotten into a routine, although having the problems with my back/leg disappear would be fantastic.

I’ve been looking for a job. I’ve applied to approximately 873985738497589374587345897389475893745897348957 jobs and have yet to get a call back from one. I even applied at Target, a job well below my skillset, and got an email saying I didn’t meet their minimum criteria. Obviously, I’ve been feeling like a total failure and am extremely stressed about it.

I did manage to get accepted to Columbia Southern University. I’m trying to finish my bachelor’s, but I switched my major from Nursing to Information Technology & Cybersecurity. After being in the hospital for 5 months with Annadelle, I never want to step foot inside a medical facility again unless I have to. My heart races and I feel sweaty every time I walk into a hospital or doctor’s office, and I think it is safe to say I’m a bit traumatized from the entire experience.

When thinking about what I wanted to swap my major to, I chose IT because I have always had a knack for it and am obviously tech-savvy. Did you know I know HTML and can create databases from code in Microsoft Access? I am self-taught and did all that for fun, which apparently makes me a bit of a weirdo! And to think- my parents told me all that time in the basement on AOL wouldn’t do me a bit of good. 😉

Luckily, all of the classes are online. I have an option to do it at my own pace or enter the term classes. I believe I have 57 credits, but CSU may not accept all of those for an IT major. I’ve been applying for scholarships left and right, some with essays and some not. It’s a full time job just figuring out how to pay for the courses!

Last night I used the HealerTech FlexrGo! on Annadelle’s legs to see if there would be any response. It has been a while since I checked her left leg/foot, and I was unable to get a response on her anterior tibialis or gastrocnemius. I was so bummed because of all the people who had said she had been moving it, but it looks like nothing is there. I did manage to get a small response on her right quad. I am really praying her quad wakes up because she would have much better control in her walker with it. She is able to stand well in the walker (with braces only), but is slow to move around. She is starting to put weight on the left leg just barely. Basically, we have seen great gains from the waist up, but her legs are not making much progress at all.

This is Cami, part of our extended AFM family who was diagnosed in 2016.

I tried to encourage her yesterday by showing her videos of Cami, a little girl whose grandmother we know through the AFM parent page. Cami was diagnosed with AFM in 2016 as complete quadriplegic and has made miraculous progress over the years. She is now walking with a KAFO (no walker). Her story is so inspiring to me and I was hoping it would be for Annadelle, too.

I showed her videos of Cami at Disney World, dancing with her dad and grandmother. Annadelle loved the design on Cami’s KAFO and kept asking if we could fly out to meet her. “We can see Matthew, too!” she said.

Speaking of Matthew, he is undergoing nerve transfer surgery this week in St. Louis with Dr. Moore. Please keep our extended family (Frances, Mike, and Matthew) in your prayers!

I have actually been questioning whether or not we made the right decision to skip out on a nerve transfer. I don’t think her arms need it, as she is continually making great progress with both arms, but I think at least one leg needs some help. Chris is absolutely adamant that we do not proceed with a nerve transfer so the topic has been a source of conflict for us. Chris says that the research will say something like, “7 of 10 patients with nerve transfers showed progress”, but it won’t include any information about the other 3 patients or even progress of patients without nerve transfers. There was a series of podcasts from the TMA about nerve transfers that featured Dr. Amy Moore, the physician we consulted with about nerve transfers, but I did not listen to them. I felt like it would be a biased conversation and our experience with Dr. Moore’s office left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like we were just a number, and our decision not to do the surgery wasn’t even a second thought from their office. I guess had we at least received a call from Dr. Moore, we may have reconsidered, but overall we just did not feel comfortable with it at the time.

I have been reading on nerve decompression lately, but don’t know enough to really talk about it. It might be an option in the future. I would have to do more research to give more information.

Anyway, I say all that because I’m obviously struggling. Emotionally. Financially. Spiritually. I’m on the struggle bus. I could really use some prayers.

I’d also like to ask that you pray for Annadelle, for complete healing for her and for us to see progress in her legs.

May 23, 2019 A Snail’s Pace

Since the beginning of May, Annadelle has been in an intense day treatment therapy program at Thomas Hospital, one of only two hospitals (including Children’s) to offer such program in the state of Alabama. She goes to therapy every single day for 4 hours, although she rotates disciplines (meaning Monday, Wednesday, Friday is PT; Tuesday, Thursday is OT).

Her therapists- Lisa and Jessica- have been such a blessing to us during this time. It is so refreshing to know they have not given up on her. They take a proactive approach to her care and are doing a lot of research in to AFM.

At the beginning of the month, Annadelle was unable to use her quad muscles functionally. We could also not feel a contraction in either leg on those muscles. If you saw videos of her picking her legs up, it was the hip flexor muscles you saw working, not quads.

After working with Lisa and Jessica for almost a month daily, taking advantage of suspended treadmill exercises, the therasuit, and the therapy cage, Annadelle has shown progress. She is now able to use both of her quads functionally and we are also able to feel a contraction on both legs. This is a huge step for kiddos with AFM, as many may use the muscle functionally but be too weak to feel a contraction.

With that being said, Annadelle’s legs are still extremely weak. Her core muscles have improved and she is now able to sit herself up from a supine position. This means we are now able to put her in her room or in the floor for longer periods of time because if she falls over she can push herself back up. She still does not use her left arm for much weight bearing, but Chris and I are going to start constraint therapy at home for about an hour a day to see if that helps her left arm. Constraint therapy is where you block off one limb in order to help the other improve, essentially forcing the weaker limb to work harder. Because her right arm is much stronger, she often opts for the easiest way to do something and just lets her left arm dangle even though she is able to use it.

Her therapists have been working to strengthen Annadelle enough that she can crawl, which is a big milestone for her. Although she isn’t able to bear much weight on lefty yet, she still tries to crawl periodically. While I was cooking dinner the other night, I had put her in her room to play with her Barbie house. A few minutes later, I hear, “Help! Help!” I ran through to her room to find her with her legs crossed under her, face down. She had been trying to crawl closer to the Barbie house. She was laughing and said, “Well, I tried!!!” I wish I could express how proud I was of her for trying something so simple. I never imagined I would take crawling for granted when she was 6 years old, but when she gets to that point I can promise you I will never again take it for granted.

Annadelle after church on May 19th. She is sporting her new purple wheelchair from NuMotion. It is much lighter than her old wheelchair and she is able to push herself around fairly well.

This past Tuesday, I had a meeting with the school after I had requested a special education referral for an IEP. I don’t want to post too much about it because the situation is still ongoing, but I will say the meeting was not as bad as I expected it to be.

I ended up hiring a Special Education Advocate to help me through the process and I’m so glad I did. Our advocate, Deborah Jordan, has been a blessing in that she has helped us to navigate the crazy road of IEP. She attended the referral meeting with me via telephone and jumped in when she felt it was needed. She also helped to explain all the terminology after the meeting and what to expect moving forward.

If you are in a similar situation with IEP, I would highly recommend hiring an advocate.

Annadelle’s referral was accepted, so she is now going through several evaluations. Her speech, vision, and hearing screenings were done yesterday. I won’t know what the results of those are until our next IEP meeting where we will discuss eligibility.

Annadelle has also been visiting a chiropractor that came highly recommended to us. Above are some scans that were completed at the clinic because we had concerns Annadelle’s left leg was now shorter than her right. The left leg is the weaker leg and it is not unusual for kids with AFM to have limb length deficiencies after onset. We also spoke to an orthopedist about this and he suggested we have xrays completed to determine if there was actually a length difference or if her pelvis was twisted.

Thankfully, the problem is not a leg length deficiency- it is the position of her pelvis. Her left pelvis is rotated posteriorly and her right pelvis is rotated anteriorly. To combat this, we have been doing stretches with her and also taking her to see Dr. Alicia and Dr. Sharkey, the chiropractors, who seem to have taken a keen interest in her case. They believe that once her pelvis is properly aligned and her left side of her core has strengthened a bit, it will be much easier for her to walk. Right now we have 52 visits lined up and are going about 3 times a week on top of therapy.

We were also blessed recently with an order for a KAFO (knee ankle foot orthotic) for her left leg and an AFO (ankle foot orthotic) for her right leg. I took her to see Chad (the orthotist) last week so he could cast her legs for molds. He will make the orthotics at his office and call me when they are ready.

I am so stinkin’ excited for her to get her KAFO because I think it will definitely help to practice walking and help her strengthen her core muscles. I have basically been stalking pages of my friends whose kids have or had KAFOs and noticed almost all of them saw drastic improvements in core strength. The hope is that when she is standing with the KAFO locking her leg and providing her more stability underneath, she can focus a little more on the core to strengthen it.

We will see.

As usual, thank you for keeping up with my updates. I know they are few and far between now and there is a lot of information I didn’t include in order to keep the post relatively short, so if you have questions please feel free to ask.

Please continue to pray for our warrior princess, as we are moving at a snail’s pace with recovery. We are still believing and praying for complete restoration of her body.