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8-year-old with Down syndrome tells his dad he's 'proud of him'

8-year-old Ryan has pushed through years of health concerns with a huge smile on his face.

8-year-old with Down syndrome tells his dad he's 'proud of him'
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Maura Kaveney Senneff

8-year-old Ryan is one of those people for whom the word "champ" is somewhat of an understatement. The awe-inspiring little boy has overcome so much in his young age that most of us could stand to learn a thing or two from him on resilience. With an incredible zeal for life, the youngster—who has Down syndrome—tackles every challenge life throws his way with a huge smile on his face. He pushed through years of health concerns, from a low white blood count to issues with the size of his kidney, with his doting parents by his side every step of the way.


Hence, when Ryan happily skipped down the road from their house with his father Jack Senneff this week, his mom Maura couldn't help but reflect on how far her son has come in the past few years. Videos posted to Facebook by the proud mother shows young Ryan teaching his dad the right way to skip and leading his old man down the street with an almost infectious spring in his step. Nothing better than watching Jack skip and do jumping jacks with Ryan, and then Ryan critiquing his form, Maura captioned the post.


However, it's the other video—taken after the father-son pair's skipping session—that just melts your heart. In the video, the little boy hugs his father saying, "I'm going to cry for you dad." When asked why he'd cry, Ryan responds: "I'm so proud of dad." Posting the videos online, Maura explained why the seemingly simple sight of her son skipping meant the world to her. This doesn't look like much. We dropped the ball on mastering some bilateral coordination skills years ago bc the plateaus were endless while triaging acute illnesses. Back to the drawing board, what we were doing was not working. So Ryan’s docs focused on coordination between body & brain + vision for motor planning the past few weeks, she wrote.


2 weeks later he got the hang of a bunch of skills & mastered out of all his vision exercises. These bilateral skills using the left & right sides of brain will help with writing, all sports & ball skills, tying shoes, confidence, social skills, language, etc. Even late, it’s still progress. Sometimes the little victories are the biggest, Maura explained. In another post earlier this year, the mother-of-three looked back at the inspiring recovery journey Ryan went through as a young boy.


[Ryan's] trajectory went from stressful to exciting. 5+ Years on an adult thyroid dose, 2 strabismus eye surgeries, 1 kidney was 2 standard deviations smaller than the other, the urologist was talking about surgery, backflow. We could not wrap our heads around it all. Ryan’s white blood count was 2.2 w one acute illness after the other. All labs were horrific for 5+ years.
Every single vitamin was scary deficient. [He] was not absorbing vitamins in his food= GI nightmare. Previously had no endurance or strength to even shuffle skis on flat, let alone carry them. Abs were 5cm apart. His shut down/ flop and drop was annihilating. Early intervention and preschool were amazing, but being little and cute = avoidance behavior taking over, she wrote.


2018 Hired a Ph.D. BCBA + applied verbal analysis to teach intense language acquisition & many self-care & school skills. He had an awesome foundation from early intervention therapists but needed more. Eye surgeon kept telling us eyes were great, as his vision had improved from 20/70 to 20/30. He was thrilled. May 2019 Ph.D. BCBA sent us to a developmental optometrist, who told us Ryan was not using his right eye, had zero depth perception, tracking was a disaster. We were overwhelmed, fried, barely triaging the acute illnesses. Could not wrap heads around [the] kidney. 2018: New motto: what we are doing is not working, time to change up our game, she continued.


2 new Ph.D.s, MD, & [an] incredible school who look beyond Down Syndrome diagnosis, refusing to accept "they just walk around like that." Now: All labs remain in normal range since summer 2018. White blood count = 6.6, kidneys = both the same size, growing normally for his size, age, weight. Vision: Depth perception went from 0 to 70%, tracking at age level, farsightedness improved by 1/3 from May to November 2019. Vision = root of many avoidance behaviors. Lowered thyroid dose several doses, Maura explained. Compliance, endurance, language are close to grade level. We are beyond grateful for his incredible team. Ryan's case has inspired countless people around the world with every diagnosis you can think of.


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