WHEELING - Triadelphia resident Heather Kovalski's son Landon, 4, has taught her to appreciate life's little moments and triumphs that other parents likely take for granted.
Landon started having seizures at about 10 months old and they have not stopped since, despite efforts to discover a cause.
'It's not for a lack of trying. We've done every genetic test science has and everything has come back normal," Kovalski, 30, said. "He doesn't talk or walk or crawl at this point. We're working on self feeding and communicating via iPad."
Landon receives physical and occupational therapy at Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center in Wheeling. He also was diagnosed as autistic and receives related therapy at Augusta Levy Learning Center also in Wheeling. Up until 10 months ago he had relied on a feeding tube for nutrition, but now is eating on his own.
Being a parent of a typical child can be difficult, but having a child with disabilities often involves many doctor and therapy appointments. It can also be emotionally draining. And Kovalski's husband, Brent, works many hours to allow them to afford the medical care Landon needs.
"We're blessed in a lot of ways. ... There are things to appreciate - smiles and good times. A lot of days he sleeps or is upset because he can't communicate what he needs. He's mad and he can't tell you how he's feeling," Kovalski said.
She noted there are things that people's children do that they don't realize are really big accomplishments.
"You hear people complain that their children are starting to become mobile and it's all downhill from there. But there are some children whose biggest goal is just to walk to that toy or reach for something or play appropriately," she said.
When Kovalski had her second son, Liam, who is 10 months old, she learned how quickly a typically developing child learns.
"For some children it takes work for years to crawl or take a step," she said.
Though Landon has many struggles, she noted his favorite activity is swimming in warm water.
"And he does like to eat now. He likes to go out and eat," she said. "He enjoys attention. What he wants is to be noticed. ... I don't want kids to shy away from him. I think he absolutely notices if people pass over him."
For parents who are facing similar struggles, Kovalski advises them not to give up.
"Nothing comes easy - when you get there it will be the greatest reward ever," she said. "I never dreamed what he would teach me - I never thought he teach me."