- Article printed in East and Bays Courier, Auckland, NZ. 7th March 2012
Being told her newborn was so brain-damahed he would probably never be educated was heart-breaking but Norma Delgarno dug her toes in and proved the doctors wrong.
He son Karl Rothko went through mainstream schooling, passed School Certificate and became a well-known face at Remuera New World supermarket where he worked for 23 years before moving to Rotorua last year.
Ms Delgarno has described her experiences in her book Becoming Karl: a Brain-Injured Baby's Journey to Recovery.
Baby Karl arrived five weeks early with severe dmage to his eyes and brain. At three weeks of age he was diagnosed with toxoxplasmosis, a common parasitic infection which is rarely harmful to adults.
Doctors predicted he would never be able to be educated and recommended he be sent to an institution for the handicapped.
He remained in hospital for almost six months.
'Basically I ended up taking him home and getting treatment for his hydrocephalus (water on the brain) which was deliberately left untreated as he was deemed too damaged,' she says.
The specialist gave her some exercises to develop the baby's motor control. They were as simple as leg rotations and moving his legs and arms in opposite directions.
'What you are actually doing is you are stimulating the motor centres of the brain', she says. From there she developed her own exercises to try to get her son moving.
'I used to compare him with other babies and it was terrible. Younger babies sat up and he just flopped around,' she says.
Ms Delgarno developed a method of teaching him to sit where she propped him up with pillows and made him hold on to a pram before whipping the pillows away from him. It took months but baby Karl finally sat up on his own on his first birthday.
'It was stunning progress' she says. The committed mother then taught him to stand while holding onto things, then to walk.
'I kept at it. It was persistence. Teaching them in very small repetitive steps is most important,' she says.
Ms Delgarno then moved onto teaching him about language and gave him a childhood full of books and music. Karl went to mainstream schools and did well at primary but struggled with the demands of hgh school.
Nevertheless he was determined to sit School Certificate exam - against his mother's wishes. He failed the first time but decided to give it another crack and passed the next year.
The 45-year-old is now an artist, lives on his own and works part-time in a Rotorua supermarket. Ms Delgarno says it was love - and pig-headedness - that drove her to seek better for her son.
She says it is important for those parents in a similar situation to bring music and books into the child's life early, and get speech and cognitive therapy underway as early as possible.