COUNTING THEIR BLESSINGS
Against all hope, one mum is doing all she can to help her preemie twins – who have a host of developmental challenges – shine. She shares her story with EVELINE GAN.
Against all hopes, one mum is doing all she can to help her preemie twins – who have a host of developmental challenges – shine.
Enter the Perez home and the ﬁrst thing you will notice are its walls, almost all of which are covered with children’s drawings.
The ﬂoor-to-ceiling homemade collage might be nothing more than just a bunch of kiddy doodles to most people. But for Christian Perez – or Chris as she is known to family and friends – they are a precious reminder of her 12-year-old daughter Amor’s developmental progress over the last few years.
Amor suffers from multiple developmental delays, which have affected her coordination and motor skills. Chris, 42, recalls how at the age of seven, her daughter’s drawings of happy smiling people had straight lips because she couldn’t draw curves.
“But she kept drawing and eventually had a breakthrough. It was my husband’s idea to paste the drawings on the walls to motivate her,” the stay-athome mum says.
It took Chris a while to get used to the idea. “I always thought a home should be covered by nice canvas paintings, not children’s drawings. But we will do anything the kids want to do – even if it means covering our walls with their drawings – because we believe it gives them the motivation to keep trying,” she says.
The Perezes believe this positive and encouraging method of parenting has helped their daughter Amor and her twin brother, Nathan, trudge on amid their numerous developmental challenges.
A MULTITUDE OF HEALTH ISSUES
Born premature at 32 weeks following a complicated pregnancy that left Chris on bedrest for two months, the twins suffered multiple medical and developmental issues at birth.
Before conceiving the twins, Chris had three heartbreaking miscarriages.
At birth, Nathan was born blue and had a “hole” in the brain, causing cerebral palsy that affected control of his lower limbs.
“The doctor told us he may never walk,” shares Chris, recounting the terrible diagnosis that left her shattered. She has a younger son who is nine year old.
At the age of four, Nathan was diagnosed with severe autism. He was unable to respond to his name, speak, interact socially or maintain any eye contact.
Amor, on the other hand, had appeared healthy at birth, but her problems showed up over time.
At ﬁve months old, she was found to have spastic muscles and was later diagnosed with global developmental delay (GDD) when doctors saw delays in her physical, speech and social developmental milestones.
GDD is a term used to describe signiﬁcant delays in two or more areas of development – including motor skills, communication, cognition and social skills – in children under ﬁve.
Amor also suffered frequent seizures from the age of four to seven, as well as touch and hearing sensory issues that affected the way she processed touch and sounds.
“Since Amor could not hear properly, she could not sing properly. At three, she sounded like she was reciting Harry Potter spells when she sang. But of course, we never told her (how out of tune she was). It was enough for us that she had the interest to sing,” Chris says.
While their developmental issues are likely due to their prematurity, Chris sometimes wonder if they are linked to the medications she was prescribed during her pregnancy or the medications the twins took after birth.
“But I guess we’ll never know for sure. I don’t want to keep thinking about what went wrong but focus on helping them,” she says.
BAD NEWS YEAR AFTER YEAR
Recalling the twins’ early years, Chris shares how bad news was thrown at them at every doctor’s check-up despite their efforts of early intervention therapies.
“Every year, we kept hearing the same thing at their checkups. It was especially bad for Nathan,” she says.
Although conventional therapy methods worked relatively well for Amor, Nathan’s progress was dismal. For instance, after going through a year of intensive therapy, Nathan was assessed to have progressed only two months in his development.
“At four years old, his cognitive development was that of a one-year-old. At ﬁve, it was one year and two months. I remember asking myself, is this how it is going to be like for him for the rest of his life?” Chris says.
Reality hit her hard when the kids started attending preschool. Chris had pinned high hopes on Amor as she did not seem to have problems taking instruction, unlike her brother, who was in his own world.
She thought Amor would “somehow catch up” with her peers over time. Looking back, Chris now realises it was denial.
“Compared to her twin brother, who needed a lot more help, I had high expectations for Amor. But when she started mainstream preschool, and you see the rest of the kids in school doing what four-and-a-halfyear-olds do, the realisation that she needed so much more help with her developmental issues