Little Andrew Langston had a tough start in life.
Found in the closet of an Upstate home by authorities when he was just five weeks old, he tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamines.
He suffered a left brain stroke, and cerebral palsy.
Foster care followed.
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But the 2-year-old has found a loving new home with parents who officially adopted him last week - just in time for the season of miracles.
“Nobody knows how he survived the five weeks,” his adoptive mom, Dawn Langston, told The Greenville News.
“When we got him, all he could do is sit up. He said no words and made no movements,” she said. “But we fell in love with him immediately. He smiles all the time. He has determination and is just a remarkable little boy.
“We knew instantaneously that he was the one for us.”
Langston, a stay-at-home mom to three daughters, and her husband, Charles, a manufacturing plant supervisor and a captain in the National Guard, first learned about Andrew last January from a friend who knew his foster mother.
“It actually all began with my 13-year-old,” Dawn Langston said. “She had this vision of us adopting way before we did.”
The brain stroke left Andrew weak on his right side and unable to use his right hand.
“He has difficulty straightening his arm or opening his hand at all,” said Tricia Bucci, a physical therapist at Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville who has been working with the toddler.
While some children with this condition will use their disabled hand as a helper to balance themselves or do other tasks, Andrew wasn’t using his much at all when he came to Shriners in early November, she said.
“We wanted to try to get improved use of that side of his body, because the more you can do ... the better,” she said, “even if it’s just as a helper hand.”
So doctors recommended putting a cast on his good arm to induce him to use the disabled one, Bucci said. And so far, she said, it’s working.
“He’s made huge leaps,” she said. “I believe that constraining the hand has even made a difference in other movements, too, because we’re changing a pattern by forcing him to use the other side of body. He’s using other muscles he wasn’t aware he could use.”
Bucci sees improvement in his walking as well.
“He’s always scooted on his bottom to get around,” she said. “But he is now walking holding on to a hula hoop with no further assistance. And last week, I got him to hold on to the string of my sweatshirt and he was able to walk a good 30 to 40 feet.”
While it’s likely he will always have some limitation on his right side, she believes he will walk independently. His speaking ability is improving as well.
“He’s bright. He’s strong-willed. He’s very motivated. And he’s in a great home now,” Bucci said. “He will continue to improve. He’s already using the other hand so much more. So it’s hard to predict how far he will go.”
A big blessing
Because Andrew was born at home with no birth certificate, authorities estimated his birthday as Dec. 11, 2013, Langston said. In January 2014, he was placed into foster care.
The following January, the Langstons met him after a church friend learned he was going to be put up for adoption. So they spent some time getting to know him.
Three years earlier, the Langston’s youngest daughter had begun praying that her parents would adopt a child.
Her dad, who is now “in love with this little boy,” finally warmed up to the idea, Dawn Langston said. And because they already had three girls - 22, 15 and 13 - they were looking for a boy.
And as for the girls, “They love him,” she said.
In April, Andrew came to live with the family at home in Anderson, bonding easily with them, and they began the process of adoption. But the subsequent months were filled with worry because of the lack of the birth certificate.
“We were told in August we’d be on the schedule for a December adoption,” Langston said. “But in between that time, we’d get calls saying that because they can’t get the birth certificate, that was not going to happen.”
After finding an attorney to help obtain the proper documentation, Andrew officially became part of the family on Dec. 17.
They’d never cared for a child with special needs before, Dawn Langston said, and were told that he would never walk or talk. But since Andrew has been getting therapy at Shriners, he’s made amazing progress.
“He loves to play with trucks, ride on his car and push it, and he likes to dance,” she said. “He’s stacking blocks and using his fine motor skills like turning and pushing buttons. If we go by cows, he says, ‘Cow. Moo.’ And it’s the same with cat and meow.
“He keeps surprising everybody.”
Now the Langstons are looking forward to spending their first Christmas together with Andrew, who will find a choo-choo train, a set of drums and some new books under the tree.
“He’s a big blessing. We don’t need anything else for Christmas,” Dawn Langston said. “We feel complete and very blessed.”