Here is a letter submitted by Michelle Lindberg, the mother of a child who was helped by the staff of Northwest AEA. The photo was also submitted by Michelle, which shows a happy Cooper and his parents.
I may be biased but ours is a remarkable story, and I believe we would never have gotten where we are today without all the help we had from the AEA. They all care deeply for children and the jobs they do, and that makes them exceptional at it.
Cooper has had eating problems from a very young age. When he was five weeks old, he vomited then aspirated on breast milk. We had to call 911 and he went to the emergency room because he stopped breathing. After that, he vomited a lot when eating.
When it was time to transition to pureed foods at around eight months, he did great at first. He would try just about anything I put in front of him, but within a few months he started refusing to try or eat most foods. He was also starting to gag and vomit on certain types and sizes of bites.
Every time we took him for a checkup at the doctor, we noticed that he was very low in his growth percentages, especially for weight. We started supplementing his diet with a multi-vitamin and Pediasure every day hoping to at least keep him from losing weight. By this time he was between two and three years old.
It was a constant worry for us that he would start to lose weight and that there was something physically wrong that needed to be addressed. We had an eating/swallowing test done during the summer of his fourth birthday and just before he entered preschool. The results were, at best, inconclusive in our eyes. We had a very hard time getting him to eat or drink anything during the test so the doctor could see him eat so as to assess whether there was something wrong. He told us he thought everything looked good but it was hard to accept that because it didn't give us any answers as to how to help Cooper.
We felt bad for Cooper because it seemed like there was something about food that made him scared or stressed or traumatized, and I had no idea how to get to the bottom of that and help him. It started to look to me like there was a way of thinking about food for him that made it a scary thing and that is what made him struggle so much. At this point Cooper's grandma, Sandra Lindberg, suggested we talk to and put us in contact with several people from AEA who might be able to help.
That summer, he also started going to a playgroup led by Sally Hartley, an early childhood consultant at the AEA. She talked to us a lot about Cooper and made many suggestions on how to help him improve and what she thought would be best for him. She got us in touch with Judy Jansen, an occupational therapist at the AEA, and Sylvia Berg who would end up being his preschool teacher that year. Judy started coming to visit Cooper. She watched him eat and worked closely with Sylvia who was very knowledgeable herself and had worked with many kids with similar issues with much success.
I am so thankful they were all there at the right time for us because we had gotten to a point where he was throwing up at almost every meal, and refusing to eat, except for four staples: Cheerios with milk, tapioca pudding, A&E vanilla yogurt and applesauce. Every meal and every bite was a huge fight, and we were very frustrated and felt stuck.
It seemed like within just a few months of preschool Judy and Sylvia had Cooper eating school meals and rarely throwing up, and by the end of that year, he hadn't thrown up in months. He would be more inclined to try and eat at family meal times and it was much less of a struggle. You could tell he was much less stressed about the prospect of food.
Today, we look at the school menu every month, and he gets to decide which days he will take his lunch and which days he will eat school food. There are more days he eats at school than he takes his lunch but it seems like a normal and enjoyable thing for him now. I couldn't be more grateful to all the people from the AEA who have played a part in Cooper's progress with food and could never thank them enough.