Caring friends who know Jasper’s history sometimes ask, So, Jasper's Ok now? Usually these are friends who have grown used to seeing photos on facebook of a happy, laughing, smiling Jasper, beautiful boy. Their query is difficult to answer. When a child has issues - in Jasper’s case, brain damage from infant stroke - there is no magic recovery date. Or if there is one, it is unknown. Kids with issues have different milestones, and make their own schedules, which they keep to themselves. Will Jasper draw pictures for his mommy, will Jasper be able to run without falling, will Jasper ride a bike... I want to respond, Yes.
So, Jasper is Ok now... Except that we won’t know the impact of stroke on his vision for years to come. Meanwhile I guess at what he can see. When your child is delayed, you no longer casually observe his behavior. How does he hold toys? Does he rotate the toy in his hands? Can he use both hands? Does he have color preferences or difficulties? Will he respond to objects to his left? I don’t even know when casual observation ended, or if it ever existed. I watch Jasper play with toys, reach for them, push ‘em around, stack them. His crawl is efficacious - he speeds toward his toys and avoids ramming into walls, doors, cabinets etc. I give him visual tests (and try to understand when he does not “pass.” Instead I mark him, “needs improvement”). Sitting in his rear facing car seat, can he see me when I open the back of the station wagon? Or when I silently, carefully make funny faces at him? Or can I simply get him to look me in the eye for any length of time?
Jasper is delayed. Officially, he is “significantly” delayed in his cognitive and motor skills. He needs to be more focused. He doesn’t always play with toys “functionally,” preferring to make up his own games. He is active and mobile but prefers crawling, standing up, cruising along anything he can, and exploring, to sitting and playing with toys for long periods of time. He crawls, but when standing, he is often tippy toed. Jasper is not walking yet (at a recent 15 month check up, his pediatrician gently informed me this is still ok). These are the things that concern his therapists. My fear is that the behaviors I find most precious, endearing, sweet will be labelled “concerning”.
Jasper began working with his first therapist, a vision educator, at three months old. At a recent therapy session, she reminded me, “You still don’t know what you’re dealing with,” when I made reference to Jasper’s development a year ago. It was this kind of blunt honesty that I appreciated most about her and will miss. As Jasper lags behind his typically developing peers, we move on to something new - new therapists, new structure, re-newed hope.
Jasper will be Ok.