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December 17, 2002

Mr. Kevin battles the odds

From: Henderson Gleaner, KY - 17 Dec 2002

By Kevin Swank Courier & Press staff photographer (812) 464-7681 or
December 17, 2002

Kevin Goodman's smile beams from his face, beautiful and infectious. He had a look of pure joy that captivates those around him. th Like other children his age, he spends weekdays at day care and pre-school and evenings with his mother and grandmother. He enjoys finger painting and Play-Doh and cutting with scissors. th However, the youngster, not yet 4, needs a lot of help with those activities. Kevin has a host of medical problems. He is blind and deaf. He can't talk or stand or walk. Kevin was born May 11, 1999, weighing just 2 pounds, 12 ounces to Cheryl Goodman's son and daughter-in-law.

But it was Goodman who took the child home from the hospital.

She said the welfare department chose her as a foster parent because of Kevin's health problems.

"I found out three or four days before Kevin was born that I was going to be taking him home. I had to hunt up all kinds of baby stuff," she said.

His adoption papers list a host of medical problems, including being exposed to controlled substances intrauterine, fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral atrophy, encephalopathy, developmental delay, gross retardation, multiple paraventricular calcification, blindness, deafness, chorioretinitis, microcephaly and low birth weight.

Both Kevin's parents are in prison, so Goodman adopted him March 29, 2001, making him both her son and grandson. Goodman dotes on Kevin. "It's not just 'Kevin,'" she said. "I always call him Mr. Kevin.

"I pick him up at day care (Evansville ARC Child Life Center) and he usually takes a little power nap on the ride home.

"Then we spend the rest of the evening playing on the couch."

The couch of their Gibson County, Ind., home is lined with stuffed dolls and toys. A collection of infant seats filled with toys sits on the floor of the living room.

"I put him down when I fix his dinner, but most of the time I just hold him," Goodman said.

A normal day begins when Goodman drops him off at day care on her way to work in Evansville. Then he takes a school bus to the Rehabilitation Center for morning preschool. And then he is bused back to the Child Life Center for the rest of the day in day care.

Debbie Gilham, director of children's programs at the Child Life Center, explained they offer therapeutic preschool at the Child Life Center, but it is through the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp., which serves Vanderburgh County. Since Kevin lives in Gibson County, he goes to the Rehabilitation Center.

At preschool, the teachers work to establish some type of communication with Kevin. "We use different activities to try to make a connection," said Brandi Scheller. "We use texture tiles and things that vibrate, working with his sense of touch. You don't want to over-stimulate people who are deaf and blind, so we keep it simple. We don't want to overwhelm him."

As they work with Kevin, teachers and therapists let him know who they are, both by talking to him and by taking his hand and touching an identifying object. Scheller always has him touch a ring she wears, Patty Tapp, a teaching assistant, uses her glasses and therapist Jill Bacon uses her long hair.

"It's our way of communicating. Also, before I pick him up, I touch his elbow to let him know what is going to happen. One day I did that and he sat up just a little bit," Scheller added.

Kevin also spends time in a stander while at the Rehab Center. Once he is strapped in, Tapp gives him a morning snack. "The stander holds him up and puts the weight correctly on his legs and feet," she said.

As the morning at preschool ends, Kevin is back in his wheelchair and with the other students for the goodbye song. Then he is bundled up and rolled onto the school bus for the trip back to day care. Kevin is very susceptible to colds and other viruses so his time outside is limited.

After arriving home, the two take their spot on the couch. Kevin leans his head back causing his hearing aids to make a high pitched sound. "You're squealing," Goodman said, rubbing his cheek.

"I know he can hear some things. The doctors have said that children his age who can't hear won't make any sounds at all, and he can make noise. Granny is very glad because at times he's yelled out. Like the times he bites his finger.

"Say yes, I know how to yell and get my way with Granny," she said in baby talk to the child in her lap.

"He may also see some light, and maybe shadows but we're not able to tell. He has scar tissue on his retinas so they can't do anything about his sight."

Goodman reaches for a doll and lets Kevin feel it. "He gets sick so easily, especially in the winter that Granny still has her worries.

"Doctors have said his life expectancy would be only eight years, but we're going to prove them wrong. We've proved them wrong on other things."

With another hug and a kiss, Goodman put Kevin down in an infant seat and went to make his dinner. "Everything has to be pureed. He gets Boost Plus along with baby food or other stuff I put in the blender.

"One time I was having some cookies and milk and thought he would like some, too. So I put everything in the blender and we both had a treat.

"I always say that my goal is to be able to take him to McDonald's and order him some french fries," she said as she spooned food into his mouth. "But I don't think that is going to happen."

As she wiped Kevin's mouth, she went on. "Christmas is always a bit sad. He will never see a Christmas tree or know about Santa. We still have a good time, but it puts a damper on it.

"When I first brought him home, I made two promises to Mr. Kevin: One, that I would always be there for him; and two, that he would be one spoiled rotten little boy."

© 2002 Henderson Gleaner