‘Little Points of Light’
Horizons’ 2010 Little Points of Light fundraising campaign is currently underway. The organization seeks donations for its Early Intervention and Family Support Programs. Contributions can be made to www.horizonsnwc.org or P.O. Box 1483, Craig 81626.
Conner Herring kneeled on the living room carpet of his family’s Craig home.
With his right hand, Conner, 2, drummed a perfect beat on the wooden surface of a coffee table.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Conner’s parents and 4-year-old sister sat on the couch behind him.
“He was pretty much deaf,” recalled Conner’s mother, Caitlin Herring. “It was apparent very early on. I mean, if you turned on music, after he could finally crawl, he’d go to the music and lay his ear on the floor.
“And, that was to feel some kind of beat or vibration.”
Conner’s hearing difficulty was just one of many health issues the toddler has endured in his young life, Caitlin said.
And, those issues caused other challenges.
“He was delayed in his development,” Caitlin said. “At 11 months, he was at a 4-month level.”
Luckily, the family receives help from Horizons Specialized Services’ Early Intervention program, Caitlin said.
“The good thing about Horizons is they help facilitate your inner therapist,” Caitlin said.
Horizons Specialized Services works in partnership with families and communities to expand opportunities for individuals with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities, according to the agency’s mission statement.
A difficult beginning
Conner was born May 21, 2008.
From the moment he entered the world, Caitlin said she knew something was wrong.
“When he was born, I remember telling Jon, ‘Why isn’t he crying?’” she said. “It seemed like forever before he took his first breath.”
Conner was born with a heart murmur.
Jon Herring, Conner’s father, said his newborn son was immediately transferred.
“They flew him to Denver that morning,” Jon said. “Then, I went up that same day, and then (Caitlin) came up the day after.”
Caitlin said the immediate separation was difficult.
“We were apart for a whole day,” Caitlin said. “When I got (to Denver) it was another six days before I got to hold him.”
Conner underwent heart surgery two weeks after birth, and he continued to receive treatments throughout his first year for complications.
“He was in and out of the hospital for the first nine months of his life,” Caitlin said. “He has reactive airway disease. He’s had pneumonia a few times.”
Connor’s hearing problems were addressed with the insertion of tubes in his eardrums to drain inner ear fluid, Caitlin said.
Caitlin also said the heart murmur has been addressed.
“It’s an ongoing issue as far as making sure it doesn’t get worse,” Caitlin said. “His cardiologist has said that (Conner) has made very good progress to where he doesn’t think he will ever need heart surgery.”
“It will always be there, but it’s not as bad,” Jon said of the heart murmur. “He’s better now. He’s a lot better than he was.”
Working toward success
Although Conner’s health is better, the medical interventions he’d received took a toll, Caitlin said.
“Between being born with a heart murmur and having surgery, and being in the hospital, and having IVs and always lying down, there really wasn’t any way to interact with him and help him progress,” she said.
A doctor referred the Herrings to Horizons’ Early Intervention program, Caitlin said.
When Conner was 11 months old, Caitlin said Horizons physical therapist Jodi Glaisher began seeing Conner.
“Before she came, he couldn’t sit up on his own,” Cailtin said. “His head still wobbled when you’d hold him.”
Caitlin said Glaisher used exercises to build Conner’s strength.
“She worked with him little by little until his muscle tone got to where he could hold up his own weight,” Caitlin said. “She pretty much helped him get to where he is now, physically.
“He can walk, run, jump. Anything you see him do is because she helped us be able to help him get to that point.”
Next, Conner was visited by Horizons speech therapist Mona Entwistle.
“Mona started coming twice a week,” Caitlin said. “She made it clear that repetition was important, that helping him say, ‘ah’ a million times over would be helpful. And then we’d go to the next sound, like, ‘bah,’ or ‘cah,’ or ‘dah.’”
Caitlin said the improvement has been drastic.
“Just to give you an idea, he started with just ‘Dada,’” she said. “That was last October (2009). Now he’s at 179 words.”
Caitlin said Horizons is tapering its interventions as Conner’s development improves.
“The frequency of his physical therapy is going down. (Glaisher) is more focused on his fine-motor skills than gross-motor,” Caitlin said. “And, his speech therapy has also gone down. (Entwistle) meets with him once every two weeks now, instead of every week.”
Cailtin said Horizons’ help has been “incredible.”
“They’re there without judgment, and they’re there to help you get your child to where they can live the rest of their life,” she said. “Everybody wants their child to succeed. Whatever disability or challenges your child has, (Horizons) can see past those disabilities and challenges and see what kind of person they can be.
“They can help kids live a semi- to normal life.”