A Mother-Daughter Tale

Tera was a preemie, 2-3 weeks early and her weight was 4lbs. 9oz. The Drs. knew she would be small and told me try not to deliver early, but Tera knew what she was doing. I had blood clots on my placenta and I was getting her food, 60 lbs. worth, and Tera was, well, hungry. So from early on I had the sense that Tera had the determination to do things, and if she couldn't do something, there was a reason why.

When she was almost three months old, she began to move her mouth while I sang "You Are My Sunshine;" it was as if she were singing along. I told my pediatrician this, and he said that I needed a babysitter so that I could get out more. But, four months later, she could say things
like, "Kitty-Cat," "Lolly Dolly" and her cousin's name. She got her first book for Christmas, when she was ten months old, and she's loved books ever since.

Tera quickly learned numbers and letters. By 17 months she was counting to twenty; by 21 months she could recite the alphabet and by 36 months she could read books--"Hop on Pop" was her first. I was amazed at her reading proficiency, because I'd always had trouble reading since I was a child.

I thought of Tera as my little absent-minded professor; she could remember where I'd bought toys for her, or what she got them for, but she couldn't find where she put them. She had a favorite tree-stump in the backyard, which was on the left, eighteen yards away. (Living with Tera has taught me to be more descriptive and detail-oriented). However, she could never find it by herself; I always had to take her to it. Whenever she spoke to someone, or would first get out of the car, I noticed she would always turn to the left; later I noticed that she would look down, and I'd tell her that she couldn't see where she was going if she was watching her feet, thinking that that would help her not to get lost.

When she was four months old, I noticed that her eyes were crossing. I took her to the eye doctor, who said to bring her back at six months, and if they were still crossing, he would do eye-patching. At ten months Tera had eye surgery, and three months later she got her first pair of glasses. Everyone thought she was so cute--a little baby with glasses.

She was my little socialite; she'd just go up to people and talk to them, regardless of their age. (Looking back, I don't think she let THEM talk--it was probably her first experience monologuing).
Even though Tera used her mouth so well for talking, swallowing was a different story. When she was three, she told me, "Only big people can chew and swallow." She had a habit of chewing her food for a really long time, holding it in her cheeks, and then spitting it out. I took her to an occupational therapist who worked for the school system, who thought it was psychologically based. (I didn't agree).  He patted me on the knee and told me there was nothing to worry about.  I was mad.

Tera started crawling when she was fifteen months old; until then, she got where she was going by rolling on the floor. Two weeks after she crawled, she learned to walk. For many years, she always had scrapes from falling--for a long time I thought I was being overprotective because I had to be near when Tera used the stairs, and her cousins, who were three years younger than her, went up and down with ease. She also had a peculiar way of walking; she had a gait, and she walked with her left arm drawn up--at almost nineteen, she still walks like that.

I personally thought that Tera would like school, because she was so intelligent, but she didn't. She especially did not like recess. We lived three blocks away from the school, but she couldn't find her way there consistently. I often followed her in the car, pretending that I was just passing by if I saw that she was lost. At this time, I took her to a neurologist, who diagnosed her with dyspraxia and epilepsy.  She was put on Tegretol, a seizure medication, two different times for nine months each--when she was thirteen, it was found out that she really didn't have epilepsy at all: her EEGs were just abnormal, and her lostness and staring into space were caused by NLD.

I had many an argument with occupational therapists, physical therapists, teachers, principals, and psychologists before the diagnosis of NLD, and after. I was told I was overprotective, and that I should let Tera be more independent. We asked for the simplest of things:  that teachers write assignments on the board, modify map and graph work, that Tera be allowed to redo math work she didn't understand, and that she be given extra time to get to class. Tera always did her homework, but she frequently forgot where she put it. She often handed work in late, especially in early grade school. I asked for a workbook for her spelling class, because when she copied things out of her book she'd forget the bottom half of the page and end up not doing half of the assignment.

I kept Tera, for the most part, in small private schools; this way, she could get the best possible sense of her surroundings. This arrangement has worked out well for her, and she chose to attend a small, prestigious women's college. She finished up her first semester with a 4.0.

High school was better socially for Tera than middle school; she made a couple of friends at the girls' school she went to. (In junior high, she'd had no friends). She has problems with anxiety and depression, and has been on Zoloft in the past. She is very witty and makes people laugh, but her eye-contact is poor and she has never been sure of how to approach people and talk to them. (I told her first-grade teacher that she'd have to "invite herself in," because I knew Tera wouldn't approach her to ask for something).

The computer has been the biggest help to Tera. She is very verbose when she writes; she wrote an eighty-page autobiography when she was thirteen, having been inspired by Donna Williams' autobiography. Also, the computer has helped her to meet other people with NLD; she has met a lot of people through her year-old website.

I would have never been able to write this without Tera; she is my speller, and helps me put my thoughts in sentences. I help her orientate herself to space--it's a nice tradeoff.

Kathy Kirk, and Tera (the human dictionary).