We have been blessed to have the same incredible team of therapists working with Curren since he was 9 months old. This was first covered through Florida's Early Intervention program, Early Steps, which offers services to eligible infants and toddlers (birth to thirty-six months) with significant delays or a condition likely to result in a developmental delay. When Curren turned 3, we were able to get medical coverage through Florida’s Children’s Medical Services (CMS Title 21), a Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plan for children with special health care needs, which continued to cover Curren's 9 hours of weekly PT, OT, and ST. Curren's CMS coverage was critical to maintaining his therapy services at Ability Plus, since our private insurance through Cigna will not cover his services there. We are devastated to share that this is Curren's last week at Ability Plus due to loss of coverage, and despite intense efforts to appeal, Curren will not be able to continue seeing the therapists that have worked with him for almost 3 years now. There is no program in the state of Florida to provide the medical and therapeutic services that medically complex kids need (and private insurance will not provide) once they turn 3 if their families are found financially ineligible. These programs are not only necessary for assisting families with financial need, but also imperative for allowing access to services needed during a critical time of development when left otherwise without access.
To our caring and loving speech therapist - you were the first friendly face we saw when we walked through the door at Ability Plus with our 9 month old squishy baby. You taught Curren how to eat, and before your help, he could not swallow without gagging, choking, and crying. He was struggling with failure to thrive, and you helped him succeed during a time when his GI doctor was recommending a feeding tube. I remember worrying about Curren having a cake to smash at his 1st birthday, in fear that he would choke and cry and scare everyone. But he learned to chew and swallow, and Curren's first birthday party was magical. You have taught Curren how to express himself in his own way, and he is so much happier in life because of that. You have taught me not settle on expectations, and that we should be shooting for the stars. Curren is much more capable than he is often given credit for. Thank you for your commitment and investment in my son.
To our incredibly talented occupational therapist - you have such a unique ability to push Curren to work hard, but still all the while making everything fun. When Curren was little, he loved getting big squeeze hugs from you. You taught him so much, and opened our eyes to the world of spio suits, listening therapy, therapeutic brushing, and joint compressions. You cared so much that you even attended hours of Curren's first IEP meeting, to advocate for his services in the public school district. He lights up at home when we say your name, and almost always claps or blows kisses. He certainly has a special place for you in his heart. You have taught Curren how to play, how to feed himself, how to drink from a cup, and how to point - all things easily taken for granted, but are incredible gains that took years of patience and dedication. Thank you for your passion and determination to open difficult doors for Curren.
To our phenomenal physical therapist - you have changed the game for Curren. When we started coming to Ability Plus for OT and ST, I saw the impressive PT gym, and knew this was where Curren needed to be. When he first started seeing you, he was incredibly static, but through your guidance has now gained the strength and confidence to roll, push, creep, pull, step, and move to get from here to there. You always went above and beyond to get Curren everything that could help him - from hand making his own thera-tog suit (since insurance wouldn't cover it), to personal aqua therapy sessions in our pool. You were tough, yet encouraging, and pulled every ounce of energy Curren had into training his body to move, and most recently, helped him to really "find his feet". Thank you for giving the gift of mobility to Curren. He will only be going onward and upward from here.
To our intensive physical therapists - thank you for your rigor and determination. Spending 3 hours a day every day for 3 weeks with Curren has really changed the way he senses and uses his body. These programs were gigantic jumpstarts to take Curren to the next level. We will be walking sooner thanks to you!
We wouldn't have been able to start on this path without the support from our amazing case manager at Early Steps. You listened to me, and helped me to get all the services Curren needed. We are blessed to have been under your care, and you made a bumpy and unsure road feel much less daunting. Thank you for making Curren's early years filled with the best possible opportunities for him to learn and grow.
This team has been on this journey with us from the very beginning, and has provided so much love and support to Curren, from the office staff to the therapists. It is incredibly difficult to think about saying goodbye. Thank you all for making a difference in Curren's life.
Tomorrow my blog will be 1 year old, how exciting is that? I started this blog searching for answers, and ironically we received a diagnosis within the first month. But moving from the past and on to the present - we have been involved in so many new and amazing things over the past 6 weeks. It's hard to believe we have jam packed all this excitement in such a short period of time. Curren went to New York to see our new incredible doctor who is actively researching HIVEP2, he was on national television as part of the Beyond the Diagnosis art exhibit, he completed a 3-week intensive therapy program sponsored by the Cove Merchants Association from the Canaveral Mac Attack tournament, he turned 3 years old, and he started an early exceptional learning program at a local public school. We are all pooped, but this is a marathon and not a sprint - so we keep on going!
Our trip to New York was wonderful. We stayed in a small beach town in New Jersey with good friends for a few days, and our friends Ryann and Heather came into town and met us (Ryann has the same diagnosis as Curren). We went into the city for Curren's appointment at New York Presbyterian Children's Hospital, and visited the Guggenheim, the Cooper Hewitt, Central Park, and the Seaglass Carousel at Battery Park. The appointment with Dr Chung and her team was wonderful, and we are working together to plan a virtual family conference for all the families with a HIVEP2 diagnosis.
Once we got home from our trip, we found out that Curren was going to be included in a nationally televised program on a traveling art installation call Beyond the Diagnosis. We are so honored to be included in the collection and to help put a face on rare disease. Curren's portrait was completed just before the program aired, so his painting wasn't included in the segment, but he had a little photo cameo at the introduction to the story. Curren's painting is an incredible watercolor that beautifully captures his essence, and it is possibly one of the kindest gifts anyone could give us! His artist is a very accomplished retired neuroscientist in England. We have also already been contacted by a genetics professor who saw the exhibit, and her students will be doing a project on HIVEP2 and interviewing us! We can't wait to see where Curren's portrait travels and how his painting will raise awareness for HIVEP2 disorder and rare diseases.
Curren had the opportunity to complete a 3-week intensive physical therapy program at Ability Plus using a therasuit compression body orthosis, thanks to the proceeds from the Canaveral Mac Attack and the Cove Merchants Association. He went to therapy from 9:00-12:00 every day for 3 weeks. The therasuit helps to stabilize movement, improves body awareness, provides dynamic correction, and supports weak muscles. When used intensively, it accelerates gross and fine motor skill development. We saw a huge improvement in Curren's mobility, strength, and coordination throughout the program. I feel that he accomplished in 3 weeks what would typically take him 3-4 months. The biggest improvement is that Curren is initiating steps now (with upper body support). His lower body has always been much weaker that his upper body and it wonderful to see those feet starting to work! It wasn't easy to do that much physical therapy every day, and we are so proud of Curren for sticking it out and making it all the way through each day!
Curren also had a birthday last month. We had a sweet puppy party, and there were 4 dogs in attendance. We also went to Animal Kingdom to celebrate.
Since Curren turned three last month, he aged out of Space Coast Early Steps (so sad!) and started an early exceptional learning program at a local public school. He attends school 3 days a week, and will continue to go to Ability Plus for PT, OT, and ST the other 2 days. I have been nervous about this transition for over a year, so you can imagine my relief when we realized his teacher and assistant are so kind and caring and very experienced. Curren will also get PT, OT, and ST at school, as well as adaptive PE, aqua therapy in an indoor heated pool, circle time, and more. We are so excited for Curren to get this much enrichment throughout the week and look forward to watching him learn and grow in this environment!
The past 3 weeks have brought lots of new and exciting changes. We did intensive movement therapy last weekend, and are now seeing a very noticeable difference in Curren's motivation to move. He went to the Connectivity Center in Melbourne for Anat Baniel Movement Therapy (ABM therapy) in the morning and afternoon for 3 days. The therapy was different than anything else we have tried - it was very much on his terms. So he decided what he wanted to do, and the therapist helped facilitate the movement. The philosophy is that the movement becomes more hard-wired in his brain if he is the one that initiates it. So overall, lots of kneeling, reaching, rolling, and scooting through play - with an emphasis on posture and body placement. Curren worked so hard and we are very proud of him! For the first time, he is now consistently pushing up from his tummy to hands and knees, and the sitting down. This is huge, as he had always been stuck on his tummy (which caused lots of frustration!)
Curren is also making great progress with his goals in his traditional therapies. He is making new sounds at speech and becoming really fantastic at mimicking. He has been working in the spider suit, which is a belt and bungee system that provides enough support for Curren to stand and bounce. He has been working on various activities in the spider suit with a rope in front of him - unclipping clothespins, throwing a ball over the rope, and hanging on for support while jumping. He was also trying to say "up" when he was throwing the ball. Working on PT, OT, and ST all at once!
We also just started new therapy at the Scott Center. It's called Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, and we are going to focus on communication, expression of wants/needs, reducing distractions, and overall socialization. His therapists seem very sweet, and Curren really seems to like them a lot. His weeks are pretty jam packed with activities now, but all of these services seem to be making gains in forward progress, and we are so thankful for all of the help that Curren gets.
It was almost 3 weeks ago when we went to Kennedy Krieger and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (And I am so glad we're not up there right now in a bliazzard!) It was a super busy trip - we stayed in 3 different hotels over 4 days. Curren was a rock star the whole trip. He was so happy, and loved everything - the plane, the elevators, the hospitals, and the arctic-freezing cold air. The best part about the trip was the wonderful people we visited with. There is only one other child in the US currently known to have a HIVEP2 mutation, and we were so fortunate to meet her and her sweet mother. It was helpful for me to find another on this journey that feels overall rather lonely. In the context of things, our children are one in a billion, and it's not easy to spark medical interest with those odds. Needless to say, the visits with the doctors were not what I had hoped for. I was impressed by the effort Kennedy Krieger put forward. At one point, there were 5 doctors in our room, listening to me trying to summarize a medical record that is thousands of pages long in 15 minutes. We found out there are structural abnormalities in Curren's brain they observed by reading his MRI from when he was 9 months old. He has a thinning corpus callosum, which connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and delayed myelination (immaturity of the plasma membrane that allows nerve impulses to move quickly). This was really about the extent of the beneficial medical information we got from our trip.
The other really wonderful part of our trip was a visit with a very old family friend in Philadelphia. We visited with a beautiful soul who played an important part in my childhood, and I haven't seen her in over 20 years. It is so great to have those people in life where decades can go by, and yet it feels like time has stood still when reunited. It was truly amazing to see our old friend.
The director of clinical genetics at CHOP told me something that put things into context. She said that Curren is a pioneer, and is just writing the beginning of the story. When we got a diagnosis 3 months ago, I started a crazy midnight googling effort. I have reached out to over 50 different doctors, hospitals, research programs, and clinical studies. We got appointments with 2. We have been rejected time and time and time again. When I got some interest from someone followed by a rejection, it shattered me each time. I had hopes that there was some type of medical intervention that I didn't know about that would improve Curren's life. I am realizing now that there is just incredibly limited information available about this gene and the effects when it doesn't work properly. A rare or orphan disease is defined by a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. Right now, HIVEP2 mutations affect 2. We are dealing with an ultra-ultra-ultra rare disease, and there is simply a lack of information available. It's not the answer that I hoped for, but I am at peace with it (and that was not easy). I am going to focus my energy on what I do have control over - providing quality therapies, feeding this baby uber-nutritional food, living in the present, and celebrating the awesomeness that Curren is!. Love this boy!
Curren was spectacular at therapy today. There have been days that we have questioned if our intensive efforts are paying off, but today was not one of those days. And I have to say that Curren's therapists are truly spectacular, too. His physical therapist actually made him a unique suit that resembles a TheraTogs wearble therapy garment from neoprene and strong velcro straps. The suit promotes trunk and joint stability, provides sensory input, and corrects alignment and posture. And he took off with it! Curren crawled reciprocally with minimal prompting and support for the first time, and he went about 6 feet! I am disappointed that I missed it, but am so thrilled that dad was there to cheer him on!
Curren's Monday's are really action packed. He has speech therapy at 8:00, where he works on feeding skills, receptive language skills, and expressive communication through speech, signing, gestures, and imitation. At 9:00 he goes to occupational therapy, where he focuses on fine motor, gross motor, and visual motor development. He also does lots of sensory integration exercises, such as listening therapy, spio compression suit therapy, therapeutic brushing, and joint compressions. And at 10:00, he ends the morning with physical therapy, where he's been kneeling, rolling, army crawling, and working on mobility with adaptive equipment.
Therapy is such a critical part of Curren's daily routine. We learn so much from his therapists, and replicate their work at home. We receive therapy through Early Steps, Florida's Early Intervention Program and are so grateful for the services he receives.
Early Steps is Florida's Early Intervention system that offers services to eligible infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years old) with significant delays or a condition likely to result in a developmental delay. Early Intervention is provided to support families and caregivers in developing the competence and confidence to help their child learn and develop. If you are interested in learning more about your state's Early Intervention Program, please check out the link below and search for your state:
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I am a mother, architect, wife, and a lover (not a fighter) - with a thirst for knowledge. My journey been recently refocused, as my family navigates through the world of medical and developmental uncertainty in hopes of providing every opportunity for my son to be his personal best in life.