As I sit reading to Xander this afternoon, I suddenly felt like that “Little Engine that could” that I am reading about is me. There I am…reading this Watty Piper classic to my almost 2 year old son. It’s his favorite book. And I can understand why. In the story, the little train (which could be Marley) stops and cannot go another inch. The little train asks the passenger engine, the freight engine and the sad, old engine for help. But, they say, “I am a very important engine indeed. I won’t pull the likes of you!” or “I am so tired. I must rest my weary wheels. I can not. I can not.” Finally, the little train asks a little blue engine to pull them over the mountain into the city. “I’m not very big said the little blue engine. I have never been over the mountain.” “The very little engine looked up and saw the tears in the dolls’ eyes…..Then she said, I think can. I think I can. I think I can.” This is how a mom feels when she is determined to make the impossible happen.
After being turned away for any real help by neurologists, allergists, and psychiatrists, I knew it was me that would have to pull this train over the mountain. And pulled I did….for years. I pulled that little train with medical interventions, treatment of her damaged GI tract, detoxification of her little body, nourishing her with special diets and healthy foods, hyperbaric oxygen treatments and the standard Speech and Occupational therapy. Yes, I got tired, but never lost my drive and desire to pull this sweet little train over that mountain into the city where all the children lived.
Just this past week, my little train made it to the summit. I had a meeting with Marley’s IEP team at her elementary school. Her meeting was comprised of her special education teacher, her mainstream teacher, her speech therapist for this year, her speech therapist for next year, the autism integration specialist, the occupational therapist, a resource room teacher and Marley’s case manager. The meeting began with introductions.
“Kelly, we would like you to meet our Resource room teacher and our speech therapist who handles kids in the mainstream classes grades 3-5.” My mind was racing…does this mean what I think it means? The case manager when on…”The overwhelming consensus is that Marley be placed in a mainstream classroom full time for third grade. We will provide her with resource room help and an IEP, but we believe she is fully capable of being mainstreamed at this point.” I swear, I almost cried. This was it…the culmination of all Marley’s hard work at Brain Balance this year. I knew she was ready…but the fact that they saw it too was wonderful.
Just this morning, Marley’s speech therapist told me “I am very happy for Marley. Usually, if kids are placed in a self-contained class, it’s very hard for them to get out.” And I know she is right. Simple inertia takes over and kids get used to a certain set of rules and expectations and to change those rules years into their education is difficult. But my goal had always been to get her mainstreamed using non-pharmaceutical interventions. This year, our saving grace was Brain Balance. A program designed for kids with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and the like. It works by strengthening the weaker side of the brain so it can work cohesively with the stronger side. For over six months, we did this grueling, labor intensive program. And it delivered. At the end of the program, my little train made it to the top of the mountain.
Then her speech therapist said to me, “I remember when she started at this school…she was…” then she stopped. I looked at her and said it. “Severe.” “Yes”, she said. “Severe.” My memory flashed back to her at age 5 when I had to carry her into the school while she was kicking and screaming just to go and sit in a tent all day. Those were the toughest days. When my little train was sick and scared and I was fiercely motivated to get her well. I would have done anything. Anything.
Next fall, my little train will be over the mountain and in the city with all the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.
“Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine. ….Up, up, up. Faster and faster and faster and faster the little engine climbed, until at last they reached the top of the mountain. Down in the valley lay the city. “Hurray, Hurray” cried the funny little clown and all the dolls and toys. “The good little boys and girls in the city will be happy because you helped us, kind, Little Blue Engine.” And the Little Blue Engine smiled and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain. “I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”
*For more information on Marley’s experience with the Brain Balance program, you can read my blog entry titled “Dream Big” at http://autismroadtorecovery.blogspot.com/2012/03/dream-big.html