Dakota's accident happened when he was 2 years and 3 months old. A lot of kids aren't SUPER verbal at this age but Dakota man was a talker! He was saying complete sentences at this age and had entered into that super funny talking stage where you never know what might come out! I was LOVING having a 2 year old little boy!!
To go from a VERY verbal child to a COMPLETELY non-verbal child has probably been THE hardest of all the adjustments we have had to make in this house. Not being able to really communicate and understand Dakota is by far harder then having to carry his 38 lbs around. Nothing is more frustrating for Zach and I AND Dakota, then when Dakota just cries and whines and we can't seem to find the right answer.
Right after Dakota's accident when we returned home we were able to have in-home therapy with a program called Up to 3. We had physical, occupational (hands and fine motor), and speech therapists that would come about once a week. They brought a big round button into our home and attached it to toys that would move or play music when the button was pushed. They were hoping this would entice him to learn to push the button. At that point in time Dakota had pretty much no movement going on so hitting a button just wasn't happening.
Dakota has come a LONG way in his physical movements although I still wouldn't say he has a lot of coordination but he definitely is beginning to have more and more purpose behind his movements.
A couple months ago Dakota was going through a REALLY weird routine at bedtime. Out of nowhere he just started SCREAMING...not crying...SCREAMING when we put him to bed. It was like clockwork. We would lay him down and within 2 minutes he was screaming crying, inconsolable, out of control. When he gets really mad his whole body gets stiff as a board, so even holding him was impossible. It had gone on for a couple weeks and both Zach and I were clueless as to what to do...we had tried EVERYTHING that normally works and had gotten nowhere! For a couple nights playing some church hymns off Pandora worked but then he went right back to screaming.
Zach and I were both SO frustrated! Not sure if these cries were from pain, hunger, uncomfortable, boredom, or just a 6 year old throwing a fit about having to go to bed. When you don't know what it is it is hard to provide the right solution. I can only imagine how frustrated Dakota was as well that we weren't connecting. We all just ended each night upset and frustrated!! Every night I prayed with Dakota and on my own to help know what to do!!!
I went to parent teacher conference around that time and the teacher was telling me about how they were working with the "buttons" in the classroom. They had even had me record my voice talking to Dakota that he could push and listen to at school. As I talked with his teacher...the spirit whispered to my mind...we needed a button for bedtime! I told the teacher the situation and wondered if we could borrow a button to use at home. I had no idea if this idea that had popped into my head would even work but I thought ANYTHING was worth a shot at this point! She made it happen and I recorded on the button, "Mom, I need you!"
I thought maybe just maybe, if I could practice and practice with Dakota he could learn the power this button could hold for him. Maybe just maybe he could learn to push this button when he needed or wanted us, instead of screaming and crying. I figured it would take days, weeks, or even months for him to learn the concept behind the button.
The first night I laid the button next to him in bed and pushed it and let him hear it. I explained to him that ANY time he needed something that he could push this button and I would come. I told him when he wakes up in the morning I wanted him to push it so that I would know he was awake and I would come and get him. As I explained it all to him he looked at that red button and I wondered how much he REALLY understood. I practiced with him before I left and helped him bring his hand over and push the button. Then we tucked him into bed and called it a night.
That night he still cried but each time I would go in I would remind him...you don't need to cry...just push the button...and I would help him push the button. I didn't know if he would ever get it but there was hope in my heart. The next morning he proved me wrong.
6:20 a.m. I hear on the monitor, "Mom, I need you!" I immediately wake up and look at the monitor and I watch Dakota glance at the button. I had a feeling he had "accidentally" hit the button but I didn't care a ran into his room and praised and praised him for pushing the button. He looked up at me and gave me THE SWEETEST grin that said so clearly, "I did it AND it worked!"
6:20 is a little early for him to get up so I changed his diaper like I do and adjusted him in bed and told him it wasn't quite time to get up yet so he needed to try and go back to sleep. I was too excited to sleep, so instead I decided to watch him on the video monitor to see what he would do. I watched the miracle unfold as he worked and worked to roll his little body onto his side and swing and swing his arm over and over until he hit that red button again! I ran into his room again and as soon as I opened the door that same sweet, innocent, proud, angelic smile was on his face like, "I DID IT AGAIN AND IT WORKED!" I could tell 100% that this kid got it! He understood EVERYTHING that I had told him about this button and he had worked SO hard to make it work!!! I was SO happy, proud, and excited that I had to let him get up out of bed...even if it was 6:30 in the morning.
Since that day...Dakota has become quite the little expert at utilizing his button. He has used his smart little brain some nights to use it as a game. He went through about a 1 week phase of staying up till 11/11:30 at night pushing and pushing the button instead of going to bed...just to get a visit from his mom or dad. Just like all kids he wanted an excuse to stay up and not go to bed. I would even move it farther and farther away from him so that he couldn't press it so easily and he would wiggle and wiggle until he either hit it or knocked it off the bed. Almost every morning I now wake up to, "Mom, I need you!" instead of crying and it is a beautiful thing...even if the voice I hear is my own voice and not Dakota's...it is communication nonetheless...and I will take it!!
This is just a tiny little step in our communication journey but it is a miracle and proof that this boy understands! It proves that he has SO much to say but that he just needs an avenue with which to say it. It is my hope and prayer that this is only the beginning of a great future ahead!!
15 hours ago