What is Rett Syndrome? Imagine the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy and Anxiety Disorder… all in one little girl.
In January 2014, shortly before she turned three, Lily was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. This is a disorder that happens spontaneously, randomly, and to people on all walks of life.
Rett syndrome is a genetic neurological disorder occurring almost exclusively in females and becoming apparent after 6-18 months of early normal development. The resulting regression leads to lifelong impairments, including lost speech, seizures, scoliosis, irregular breathing patterns, and more than half of the children and women lose the ability to walk. Those diagnosed with Rett Syndrome require maximum assistance with basic daily activities.
Despite the debilitating nature of the disorder, Lily is so much more than a laundry list of symptoms. Her beauty and strength inspire and motivate everyone she meets.
And a cure is on the horizon. Rett Syndrome stands apart from other neurological disorders due to the dramatic reversibility of symptoms in animal models.
Read more here.
Q: I am wondering if you could share with me a little more about your journey to an accurate diagnosis, as well as any providers or evaluations that you felt were significantly helpful?
To me, what was the MOST definite and defining moment for Lily was getting the genetic test results with the Rett diagnosis. Here are the ‘steps’ it took to get there:
Autism diagnosis August 2012
Lily was talking and social and hitting all her milestones and then BAM. At around 15-16 months, there was a major regression. The language went away, she became super aloof and disinterested and physically started demonstrating some delays as well. She was initially diagnosed with autism at 18 months (both through Early Intervention and a private developmental pediatrician).
ESES Diagnosis November 2013
Once we started EI services (she was getting 20 hours of ABA, plus Speech, OT and PT), it became apparent that the autism label didn’t fit. The words started to come back (and then go away – which is still happening). She came out of her shell and was social and interested in the world around her again. We then had a bunch of EEG’s done to try and figure out the underlying cause of her regressions and found out she had a rare form of epilepsy called ESES. And we thought ‘aha! this is what is causing her regressions’.
Rett Syndrome Diagnosis January 2014
But while she was being treated for the ESES (using high doses of steroids that I had to inject into her leg every day which totally sucked for us both), we got the genetic results back (which we did to see if there was an underlying reason for the ESES). Rett Syndrome was confirmed. All her doctors (and she has many) were surprised with the results as she didn’t fit the ‘Rett girl’ profile. She walked, she had some hand function and she wasn’t having seizures (though she does technically have epilepsy and has epileptic episodes which I’ve been told are NOT seizures).
Q: Who did you work with to get the Rett diagnosis?The geneticist we worked with was Dr. Marion at Montefiore in the Bronx. And what was especially great about being at Montefiore was that there is a Rett Clinic there (the only one in the tri-state area, led by Dr. Sasha Djukic) so we were already in the Montefiore system. It also helped in terms of scheduling doctors appointments as the Rett clinic is open on Fridays and we now just go there once a year and see anywhere from 2 to 5 specialists in a day instead of going back and forth to the hospital to see all the different doctors.Q: Where are you today?A Rett diagnosis sucks. But you learn to live with it. And knowledge is most definitely power. I know what I’m dealing with and I can better prepare myself and my child for the road ahead. And by the way, it’s mostly a happy road we walk.Q: Is she on a special diet?Lily has been following the GAPS diet for the past two+ years (though she has pizza on Fridays at school) and is on the growth charts which I believe is because of the healthy foods and supplements she takes (many girls with Rett start to fall off the growth charts by the age of two). She sees a nutritionist regularly.Q: What types of therapies does she receive?She goes to a private special needs preschool where she receives numerous therapies, and has an augmentive communication/speech generating device that she navigates with her eyes (think Stephen Hawkins). It is called a Tobii. Actually she has two Tobii’s – one at home (which we own and were able to procure through the EI program) and one at school (which took a year of advocating through the DOE CPSE program).Here are the services she receives through the DOE, on a weekly basis:At school:
- 1:1 para professional for health and safety reasons (this is imperative: our girls cannot self defend)
- 5×30 Speech Therapy
- 4×30 Occupational Therapy
- 4×30 Physical TherapyAt home (she has a ‘dual recommendation’, sometimes called an RSA, and is supposedly impossible to get through the DOE):
- 6×60 SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher)
- 3×45 Speech
- 3×45 OT
- 1×45 PT
- 4×60 Assistive technology services (so that the home speech therapist can program both Tobii’s and upload course curriculum to them so Lily can follow along in class and participate).On the weekends she goes horseback riding through the GallopNYC program and is loving it.Yes. It is a lot of therapies. And yes. It was not an easy decision to put her in to all of these therapies. But the proof is in the pudding: My kid is thriving.We live a mostly happy, and always busy life. Yes. It is possible.
A few months ago while Lily and I were flying back from Florida, we struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us. It turns out that this woman works in the media – in a pretty high-profile way. Vera had never heard of Rett Syndrome and was intrigued. And so we kept […]