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Henry was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, in 2017

By Claudia Harmata
September 30, 2020 10:40 AM
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Richard Engel
Credit: Richard Engel/Twitter

Richard Engel celebrated his son Henry's 5th birthday with an adorable video on social media.

On Tuesday, the NBC News chief foreign correspondent posted the video on Twitter, showing Henry riding a carousel for his special day while wife Mary Forrest held him up.

″5-years-old and we're on the carousel, his favorite thing!″ Engel, 47, said in the video. ″Happy Birthday Henry! Happy Birthday! We love you, happy birthday! 5-years-old today!″

Engel also included a sweet message to other children with Rett syndrome in the video caption.

″And to all Rett and other special kids out there, we love you!" the journalist added.

In 2017, Henry was diagnosed with the rare genetic neurological disorder that leads to severe physical and cognitive impairments that, as of now, has no cure. Doctors have warned Engel and Forrest that Henry may never walk or talk.

Last month, Engel opened up in a candid essay for Today about how Henry is doing amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, admitting that the shake-up in his son's routine has been challenging considering that Henry ″interacts with the world through sight, sound and touch" in normal circumstances.

″School was the only place where [Henry] could interact with other children,″ Engel explained. ″The kids would come up and kiss him, tussle his hair and bring him toys. He didn't always respond as they expected, but the excitement in his eyes told them he enjoyed and appreciated it. Special needs kids have the most expressive eyes."

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Richard Engel
Richard Engel and son Henry
| Credit: Courtesy Richard Engel

″That's all gone,″ Engel said of Henry's pre-COVID day-to-day routines. ″He's bored. He's whiny. There is nothing more frustrating than hearing him upset and not being able to figure out what's wrong and how to soothe him. The TV helps, but you can only put on cartoons for so many hours a day. He's averaging around one.″

To help their older child, (the couple also share 1-year-old Theodore Forrest) the parents ″cuddle,″ ″massage,″ ″bathe,″ ″talk to″ and ″praise″ Henry, as well as ″shower him with kisses."

″We burn scented candles. I do spa baths, combing his wet hair and giving him a head massage with conditioner,″ he wrote. ″Mary sings to him, sometimes a song she made up about Coco, and works with flash cards to teach him letters, numbers and colors all day long.″

And luckily, the family is able to continue the little boy's therapies at home, with a $100-an-hour private therapist.

″There are risks with having the therapist come, touching and moving Henry, but not doing the therapy has risks too. So we roll the dice, hoping not to hit seven and COVID out," Engel said.

He also acknowledged that they are ″lucky," knowing that not all "families can't afford to turn their homes into therapy gyms, and not all community support is strong."