(NOTE: This “first-person” account of a severely neglected little boy who came to Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter was written by Infant & Pre-school Case Manager Kristina St. Sauver, as a creative way of communicating the sad circumstances that brought him to us, along with her first-hand observations of how his life was transformed by targeted interventions and a nurturing atmosphere. “Cody” is not his real name – we changed it to protect his privacy – but he is a very real little boy who experienced every circumstance described here … and more.)
My name is Cody. I am 2 ½ years old. For the last two years, my whole world has been one room. There was one door to this room, but it rarely opened. I drank from a bottle and ate wax, bugs and anything else I could get my hands on. I was pretty much on my own. I didn’t see the big people at my house very much.
One day, I piled up my toys and the broken furniture in my room so I could look out the window. I fell through the screen and glass and began exploring, dressed only in my T-shirt and diaper. A strange man saw me and called the police, who took me back to the people I knew. Two other strangers (from a place called DHS) met the police at my house and talked to the people I knew. The adults in my house told the strangers and police that they didn’t really know how to care for me because I was … “different.” My people also told the DHS strangers that they were depressed and drank a lot. So the strangers took me from my people.
The DHS strangers took me to an office, where I slept the first night, with one of them watching me. I cried for my people, but nobody understood, because I have no names for my people. The next night, I stayed at a foster stranger’s house. The DHS stranger picked me up from them in the morning because I opened too many doors. The foster stranger did not understand that I just want to find new things to explore, now that I am out of the room with the door that was always locked. I drove around with the DHS stranger, who then gave me to two new strangers. They took me on a long car ride to a place they called Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter. I fell asleep in the car.
At the Children’s Shelter, I found lots of doors that I could open and close and open and close. I also found lots of kids and adults who wanted to talk to me a lot and stop me from opening doors. They were very nice about it, but I still continue to open and close doors whenever I want.
I didn’t eat very well. I still only wanted a bottle, but I would eat breads, crackers and raisins when the big people offered them to me. Those are my favorites. And I could eat as much of them as I wanted. The big people gave me a new “sippy cup” to try, and I now like to drink from that.
My nice new big people at the Children’s Shelter also took me to play with some other friendly big folks at Imagine Therapy. I like it there. They said I had poor balance, and that was one reason I fell down a lot and could not do things to help myself. I don’t have the right words to say that I have a hard time leaving there because it is so fun. I get to explore many new things. After going there several times, I was able to learn to put on my own shoes … sometimes. I also learned to take off some of my clothes by myself, and now I can feed myself better. I get to see them six times a week. I also get to play with a big person from CARR Therapy, who is helping me talk more and communicate with the people around me. She says my tongue does not do what it is supposed to do. I get to play with her four times a week.
The big shelter people also take me on a lot of rides to doctors. They say that they want me to be healthy, but I am not quite sure what that means. One place gave me two shots. I’m not going to lie – those shots hurt for a bit. But I got yummy ice cream afterward. I also had an itchy rash, an ear infection and allergies, but I got medicine for them, and they got better. I also got my vision and hearing checked for the first time. It was fun looking at the lights and hearing a birdy! I also had worms because I used to eat things I’m not supposed to eat. I also had something called a cyst on my “private.” The cyst was growing, so I went to my regular doctor three times to check it. Then I saw a special doctor, and he said the cyst needed to be lanced off. The big person who took me had to give me a big hug, so I wouldn’t move. Then the doctor and big person looked shocked because I didn’t even try to move!
I have discovered how to use a few words: “no,” “shoe,” “Leah,” “door,” “up,” “juice,” “go,” “oooh,” and “diaper.” I’ve also learned the sign-language for “more” to tell the big people when I am hungry. And I even learned a phrase: “Please help me.” I say this when I want something, and then the big people help me get it or get it for me. I still have a hard time telling them what I want or need help with, but I am getting better at that.
I have explored so many new things at this place called the Children’s Shelter. I play in water, and I really like bath time now! I feel better here. I have discovered so many things that I really like. I paint, play with blocks, ride pedal cars and climb and slide on the playground. I play and laugh a lot now! I don’t really remember laughing and playing when I was locked behind that door at my old house.
I think I’ve decided this is a better place for me. I guess the big people at the Children’s Shelter know how to take care of a kid who is “different.” The funny thing is, they don’t make me feel “different” – “special,” maybe, but not “different.” I like being a kid a lot better now.