On April 3rd, Alec had an interview and screening for Early Intervention. Early intervention is a service to help children reach age-appropriate growth and development if there is a concern of a delay in any area. We had been concerned about Alec’s speech for quite a while, so his pediatrician referred us to Early Intervention. The initial interview on April 3rd was just a series of questions about our concerns as well as an explanation of what services they provided; if Alec qualified. They also performed a hearing screening. All this took place in our home. The interview and questioning went really well. Then they did the hearing screening. He did great in his left ear, but failed the hearing test in his right ear. I was super surprised as it never seemed like he had any sort of hearing problem. Early Intervention referred us to an ENT to get his ears checked.
Part of me was super relieved that there was a possible explanation for his speech delay other than autism. Another part of me was really worried about his hearing. A hearing problem could explain all our concerns, not just the speech delay. He was still tip-toe walking, waking all through the night crying (some times as many as 8 times), very sensitive to other children in close proximity, and had strong separation anxiety. All of this could be related to issues with the ear.
On April 7th we got him in with an audiologist. The audiologist performed a more thorough hearing test, and he passed the hearing test in both ears. However, the tests also showed that he had negative pressure in both his ears which was pulling his eardrums inward. He suggested we have him checked for an ear infection.
I was able to get him in to the pediatrician that day. The pediatrician said both of his ears looked pink but not super infected, and he believed that the pink ears, coupled with his delays and our concerns, probably indicated that he had chronic ear infections, and he wasn’t symptomatic because he had had them so long and was probably just used to the pain. I was so sad for my boy! The pediatrician said “if this was my boy, I would get him ear tubes ASAP.” In hindsight, it seems like every time I took Alec in for a well check, the pediatrician would ask if he had recently been sick because his ears were always a little pink. That confirmed the idea that he was always suffering from ear infections.
On April 9th, Alec had a second more intense Early Intervention evaluation. He was super uncooperative and wanted nothing to do with the woman who came to evaluate him. She seemed to get what she needed from him though, and a week or so later we found out that his scoring was too high in all areas to qualify him for early intervention. I wasn’t too disappointed about this because I still felt like his ear issue might be the root of his delays.
On April 13 I got him into an ENT who confirmed the pink ears and the negative pressure. We discussed ear tub surgery or the possibility of waiting and watching. I felt really good about the surgery and felt like it was the answer we had been looking for. So we went ahead and scheduled the surgery.
Alec had the surgery on April 21st. The scheduled time was 9:15am. Alec wasn’t allowed to eat at all before the surgery and I felt bad that he had to skip breakfast that morning. I am sure he was a little hungry when we arrived at the hospital, but he was in good spirits. They got us back to our room and got him all prepped and then they told us that the surgeon was delayed and it would probably be an hour more. By this time Alec was super hungry and had no interest in staying in our little room. I decided not to cancel though and stuck it out. The delayed surgery time came and went and we were still waiting. At 11 they told us it would be another hour at least. Alec was so grumpy but I decided to not cancel because for all I knew this could just happen the next time we came in and I just wanted it over with. So we stuck it out. They did let us walk around the hospital though and told us they would call when they were ready. Adam brought Jane and Norine to come hang out with us for an hour and then finally they called and said they were ready.
At about 12:30 they finally took him away for surgery. I waited in the waiting room, less concerned about the actual surgery then I was about getting Alec some food as soon as I could. The surgery only took about 20 minutes, and then the surgeon came out and talked to me. He said everything went great and that there was A LOT of fluid built up in his left ear so it was a good choice to do the surgery. His other ear also had fluid, but not as much. About 10 minutes later they called me back and I was with Alec again. He wasn’t crying or anything and was very calm. I gave him the car I had bought for him, and he watched Mickey Mouse clubhouse. They had juice for him and he downed all the the snacks I brought for him. We were all good and headed home before 2.
I had thought Alec would be exhausted that day, but he was his same old self; running and playing and happy as could be. At his next check up on May 5th, everything looked great and the ear tubes are doing their job.
It might be wishful thinking, but Adam and I both felt like his speech started to improve immediately. He had been saying so many more words. He still has a long way to go, but he is definitely saying more words than ever before. He is also a lot less sensitive and is so much happier around other children. He rarely wakes in the night, and when he does it’s only once each night. I am very hopeful that this is the answer to all our concerns with him.