"The people within these walls are constant advocates for the children and their families." - Kim Leffew, Laik's mom
The words delight, joy, heartache and worry have been in the same sentence of life’s storybook written especially for Kim and Todd Leffew since their first and only son was born on June 25, 2010.
When Laik Russell Leffew was born, Kim and Todd were given the biggest surprise of their lives. Laik was diagnosed at birth with partial trisomy 12p, which is an extremely rare chromosomal disorder that has caused Laik to have significant developmental delays.
After experiencing infertility for 10 years, Laik’s diagnosis was not the only surprise they had received on this journey of parenthood. They had been told that they wouldn’t be able to have a child, so when Kim found out she was pregnant, they were both excited and quite pleasantly surprised. Her pregnancy went smoothly, and there were no red flags pointing to any health issues with their first child.
“When the doctor uttered the words to me that there was something wrong with my son, I wanted to run out the door,�? described Kim. “My husband Todd and I practically live outside, always active and involved in sports, and now someone was telling me that my son might not be able to walk or run, or even talk. At first, all I could think of was that it was not supposed to be this way.�?
It’s almost instinctive for parents to imagine what life will be like once their child is introduced to this world. For Kim and Todd, this vision involved the outdoors, playing sports, hunting and basically anything with movement. As Kim candidly described, the unpredictable reality of Laik’s condition was the loss of a dream. A dream of what society calls “normal�? and what Kim had envisioned for their life with Laik.
“For me, everything kind of crumbled,�? Kim said. “I went through every sense of grief, asking what was wrong with my baby. But Todd kept reminding me confidently that this was the child God had chosen for us.�?
And that, for many reasons, is why they call Laik their “miracle baby.�?
At six weeks old, Laik began receiving physical, occupational and feeding therapy through Tennessee’s Early Intervention System. From there the Leffew family found what would soon become the support system that they all so desperately needed. Laik was referred into Siskin Early Learning Center at 18 months.
“I can honestly say that I have never felt so passionately devoted to a place as I have with Siskin Children’s Institute,�? said Kim. “The people here are constant advocates for the children. You know it’s not just a job for the people inside these walls; they have a passion for the children and their families.�?
Since Laik has been at the Institute, he has learned to self feed, holding his own bottle, sit up more independently and play with his friends. According to Lisa Spurlock, a physical therapy assistant who has been working with Laik and his family for about eight months, Laik has benefited greatly from the inclusive classroom environment and integrated therapy, which allows his individual developmental goals to be worked on throughout the day. She said that Laik has become more vocal and is much more active on the floor playing.
From a parent’s eyes, Kim also has noticed that in the last two months especially, Laik has become more aware of things around him. Like Lisa, Kim credits these steps forward to his time at the Institute and engaging with his peers, both typically-developing and those with special needs. He watches his friends walk and move and that makes him motivated to try it, too.
Laik was being fit for a gait trainer which helped him develop skills for walking as well as a small “Quickie chair�? that will position Laik at an elevated state allowing him to access all areas of the classroom and playground just like his typically-developing friends.
Laik is now 3 ½ years old and is thriving in the Siskin Early Learning Center environment. He is walking and taking consecutive, independent steps, which allows him and his mom to walk to and from the car and the center each day, holding hands and beaming with the brightest of smiles. He is more confident, explores new things with his friends and is increasingly more motivated to walk to get where he wants to go.
Laik has begun to put two-word phrases together, answer “yes�? and “no�? when asked questions and has recently added the phrase “Hey DaDa�? to his growing vocabulary. He is independent at mealtime and enjoys his new found confidence in mobility, speech and being an active participant in his environment.
When asked how she sees her son in 10 years, Kim described Laik walking, talking and in a “regular�? classroom. Yes, she has altered many details of her vision for her son, but one thing has not changed.
“Regardless [of where he’ll be or what he’ll be doing], he will be a happy boy, functioning at the best level he can.�?
Follow along on the journey with Kim, Todd and Laik on Kim’s blog, www.livingleffew.blogspot.com.
Watch this video to hear Kim tell her family's story.
Photo 1: Laik walking!
Photo 2: Laik loves his swing and his teacher, Ms. Chris.
Photo 3: Easter family photo.
Photo 4: Laik swinging on the SELC playground.
Photo 5: Laik and his dad playing in the water.
Photo 6: Laik and Santa seem to be good friends!