“At first everything appeared to be fine with Colton,” said Cunningham. “He passed all the early childhood tests.
The weeks passed and Cunningham begin to notice that Colton was having a hard time sleeping.
“When he was only about two months old, Colton was not sleeping at all,” said Cunningham. “He had no sort of any kind of sleeping pattern.
It was at that time that doctors caught and diagnosed this ‘little’ man with a serious eye condition — Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH).
ONH is a medical condition that results in underdevelopment of the optic nerves. It is often associated with endocrinopathies (hormone deficiencies), developmental delay, and brain malformations.
The first diagnosis was certainly hard on the family, but nothing compared to what was yet to come.
“At six months, we noticed that he wasn’t hitting any of the developmental milestones,” she added. “It was then that we began taking him to neurologists across the Mid-South.
The first neurologist in Jackson left Cunningham with little hope. However, through the strength and support of her entire family, Cunningham refused to lose her faith.
“The main thing that we got from that first diagnosis was that Colton would never be able to do anything.
It was years before she would finally get the medical answers that she desired.
“When he was four we took him to New Orleans to a neurological specialist and it was there that he was correctly diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy,” she continued.
Cerebral Palsy is a condition, sometimes thought of as a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking.
When most receive a diagnosis like this, families are devastated. The Cunningham and Little families are not most families. They met the diagnosis head on and have built an unbreakable bond centered around a boy whose smile lights up a room.
What could have been looked at as a tragedy has become something else entirely.
“When people come up to me and say things like ‘I am so sorry,’ it makes me want to tell them that I am the one that feels sorry for them. They don’t know what a joy that this little boy gives us,” said Cunningham through a smile.
“We don’t treat Colton any differently because of his condition,” she added. “He goes where we go and does what we do. This family’s life revolves around him and we are all thankful that he is here.
Colton is finding new ways to live his life like a normal, eight-year old boy.
He loves playing outside, swimming, riding four wheelers with his best buddy and grandfather, Randy, as well as playing with his siblings, Alli Kyle and John Randall. He loves his baseball. He loves music.
He loves his family and friends. One can tell by the huge smile that appears on his face when one of them appears. And, what may be more important than that, everyone loves him back.
He has had the opportunity to learn from the Delta State University Child Development Center and through the Cleveland School District, where he currently attends.
Colton’s parents are Kyle and Megan Cunningham. His grandparents are Randy and Tammy Little, Jackie Cunningham and Bobby and Connie Hayes. His great-grandparents are Markes and Carolyn Little, Charlene Kendrick, Barbara Ann Walden and John and Gloria Cunningham. His aunts are Kaley Little, Kristen Land and Kim White. His uncle is former Statesman pitcher, Korey Cunningham.
“I am just so thankful everyday for Colton,” said Cunningham. “Everyday is a gift and it has taken him being in our lives to understand that.”