It is early Sunday morning. I do not want to get out of bed. I hear a little voice say, “Happy Mothers Day, Mommy”. I open my eyes and see my little 5 year-old, holding a plate with food, carefully arranged, from last-night’s dinner, including a few pieces of dried-out tortilla. This is a new stage in her development. She thought of me first. I saw a fuller person.
With those in our care who are classified as “typical”, we see these beautiful milestones, which then become happy memories. When she learns to use the bathroom, when she learns to read and to do math, she only needs a little review before she excels to the next stages of hygiene and of her education in school.
Milestones are different with special-needs people. When they are children we are often bombarded with phrases from many doctors and teachers beginning with “Your child will never…” Only one doctor told us to treat our child as much as possible as if he was any other child.
“Your child will never live past the age of three,” says a doctor. To another care giver, a teacher says, “Your child will never have receptive language.” We persevere. We watch as the skillful therapists, who come to our home every day after school, teach our non-verbal child to sit and listen and then to learn to recognize the alphabet before the kindergarten year begins. Things move along, slowly, but they keep moving. Seemingly out of nowhere, at age 15, the same child uses a perfectly-formed sentence for a simple request. And the child who was not supposed to live past the age of three is now “annoying” their care givers with their “teenage ‘tude!”
Special-needs people do not have the same developmental “checklists.” We don’t check-off a skill and move on to the next. Their checklist comes on an endless sheet of paper. We are lucky with our child. The skills are continuing to appear into adulthood. Although he may fall back into some of his old habits, new skills continue to emerge.
It is like a shooting star. We may think that we will never see one, but, we are often thrilled by the unexpected!
I must go now. The 18 year-old, who amazed us by learning how to use the bathroom at age 10, fell asleep this afternoon and wet the bed. We hope that you are as blessed as we have been, as one in your care surprises you with new skills!