LENOIR CITY, Tenn. — At a glance, Kayden Lambert is just like any other 4.5-year-old. He enjoys baseball, superheroes and playing in the pool.
"He's so smart in so many ways," said Kathy Lambert, who adopted him in 2018. "[He] has a memory that's phenomenal."
Still, certain things are more difficult. He has trouble with processing his emotions and overstimulation.
"He's just now starting to show behavioral issues and being able to deal with his emotions," Kathy said. "He gets overstimulated. He has anxiety."
Kayden Lambert was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in 2018. His birth mother —Kathy's daughter — struggled with addiction throughout her pregnancy.
"My daughter has been an addict for 21 years. Thankfully, on the 24th of this month, she will have one year clean," Kathy said. "[Kayden] loves her dearly, but she's Katie to him ... Someday we will explain."
Kayden goes to occupational therapy twice a week to help with some of the effects of NAS. He also sees a psychiatrist every six months.
"His little heart is very remorseful," Kathy said. "He can just have a total meltdown or do whatever and come back 10 minutes later after he's calmed down saying, 'I'm sorry. I don't know why my brain does that.'"
It breaks her heart to watch, especially when his outbursts happen in public.
"I can't look at every person and say, 'My child's not like yours,'" she said. "My child is different and he's different for a reason."
She wants to bring awareness to NAS so people aren't judgmental of people they don't know.
"I will not stop until Kayden gets the help he deserves," she said. "The day they laid Kayden in my arms for the first time, I promised him then that I would always protect him and do everything I could. I intend to do that with all I have as long as I possibly can."
In 2019 and 2020, the Tennessee Department of Health reported about 800 babies born with NAS.