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TEAM EFFORT HELPS BRING SPECIAL BOY OUT OF HIS SHELL

My pregnancy started out like most others. My husband and I had been married nearly two years when we learned I was pregnant. We were nervous and excited at the thought of becoming parents. Early on, I developed severe "morning sickness" that lasted all day and night. My caring doctor tried to assure me that I would be all right by the end of my first trimester.

Unfortunately for me, that didn't happen. I became increasingly ill and couldn't keep a thing down. I spent the duration of my pregnancy receiving nourishment and anti-nausea medication intravenously. My doctor determined that I had a condition known as hyperemesis gravidum.

I never imagined in my wildest dreams that having a baby would entail being hooked up to a machine for nourishment. Even on the IV, I was still extremely sick. The baby continued to grow despite my inability to eat. I felt as though I were terminally ill rather than expecting a baby.

I was very fortunate to have an extremely supportive husband, devoted mother and network of family and friends. They took turns visiting and caring for me. My dog never left my side, and my parents and in-laws faithfully delivered me fries and chocolate shakes. For some reason, that combination worked! Having this baby was definitely a team effort. We were rewarded the day after Easter, when I gave birth to a beautiful boy.

Shortly after Tyler was born, we noticed that he cried a lot and was hard to soothe. When he neared age 2, he began having frequent tantrums, was distractible and uninterested in other children. We thought maybe he needed more socialization, so we enrolled him a few days a week at the Buffalo State Child Care Center.

After giving him almost a year, our worst fears were realized. Even with the comforting of his teachers, he still was not adjusting. I remember all too well my meeting with Dan, the director of the center. He said something like, "I think we all know something just isn't right. We want to help you."

I knew Ty wasn't like the other children. He was distant and excitable, and didn't like being held. Dan put us in touch with the county coordinator for pre-K children with disabilities. Ty received an evaluation, and was soon placed in a program for children with disabilities.

We were then referred to Robert Warner Rehab. There, Ty was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, with speech and fine motor skill delays. Through the diligent efforts of some hardworking and supportive teachers, aides, doctors, and speech and occupational therapists, our little boy began to emerge. He started to look us in the eye, use his words, enjoy the company of others and appreciate a hug.

With continued therapy and medication, he has grown into a happy, intelligent and healthy 6-year-old. He just enjoyed his first movie at the theater, had his first birthday party "with friends" and learned how to ride his new bike. He is a big brother, animal lover and kind-hearted person. He's now in a special-education kindergarten class in our district, and is doing very well.

Tyler's outlook is bright. His care is still a team effort. From the onset, Tyler has defied the odds. I never thought my husband and I would be given such a special boy to care for, but now I know why. He makes us treasure the little things in life and teaches us to be more compassionate for others. He makes us realize that compared to many others, we don't have it so bad. He has made us better people and parents, and we thank God for him every day. Parents, help is out there, just don't give up.

ELENA FLEETWOOD works at the Center for Health and Social Research at Buffalo State College, and is chairwoman of the college's Child Care Center board of directors.

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