Communication Gap

Remember that feeling you get when your baby says his or her first word? That little ‘da-da’ or ‘mama’ (or ‘ball’ if your child is anything like my husband was when he was a baby), uttered in that adorable little voice! It is so exciting!! You just want them to keep saying it. Then they pick up more and more words until they turn three or four and begin asking you about two million questions a day. Then you look at them and think, “why was I excited that you learned to talk?” Communication is so exciting for children and parents alike. You can begin to see them learn and grow as they experience the environment around them. You begin to understand what they are thinking and what they need as opposed to randomly guessing in the dark. Language is a huge developmental milestone in a child’s life!

Abigail will be two and a half in November, and she has yet to say any words. Sure she says mamama when she is tired. She can say dada and ba and I swear there is a ‘this’ in there every once in a while. She does occasionally tell people bye when she wants. But that’s it. Da, ba, ma, and maybe a ‘th’ sound. Four syllables is what I get to work with all day. These four syllables are all I have to tell me what Abigail might be wanting or needing at any particular moment.

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She may not talk, but that smile is worth a thousand words!

From day one, Abigail was the most content baby you would ever meet. She rarely cried. But now that she is developing and becoming more aware of her environment she is becoming more vocal about what she likes and what she does not like. If she does not want something she is not afraid to tell you. Her whining is at an all time high now days, and I wonder if she gets frustrated with herself because the people around her just are not understanding her. She has no real way to communicate with us. We are teaching her sign language but it is a slow process because Abigail does learn a little different from others. Right now we love the ‘all done’ sign! But we also know ‘more’ and are learning ‘please’ and ‘eat’. I hope that she begins to catch on to signing and it will benefit her.

Thankfully I am with her most days, and I am pretty good at knowing what she needs or what she wants. I know her schedule so I can tell when she will be hungry or tired. Those are when she is the most fussy. But we have gone to the doctor for a quick check up on many occasions because I thought she may have an ear infection or be sick, and she cannot tell me. Usually it is a false alarm and she is healthy, but I would hate for her to be suffering and no one even know.

Oh I cannot wait for her to talk so we can have conversations. I want to hear her voice and know what she is thinking. I want her to be able to be happy or upset and be able to express herself. You do not realize how important communication is until the ability to have it is taken away from you. I do hope that Abigail learns to communicate. We have a speech therapist that comes to our house once a week. Ms. Keisha knows that Abigail’s communication (like everything else about her) is behind. She still is not quite to a one year old’s speech patterns yet. And teaching speech to a child who has never talked is difficult. It is a lot of playing and simply communicating with them. They learn by hearing and mimicking, so you just play and talk and talk and make silly noises hoping they pick up on something. My day consists of a lot of one way talking. I am very good at talking to myself it seems. But I have a little buddy who is hopefully listening to all my chatter and learning something.

Before Abigail I would have never believed how important communication is in life. The power of the spoken word is amazing. So often we take it for granted the fact that we have so many ways to communicate with technology, word of mouth, the written word. I am so thankful that I have my husband beside me through this journey, helping me communicate my feelings and being my support system. I am thankful that today there is hope that Abigail will learn to communicate with us too. Whether through her own voice, or signing, or the help of a device. I just pray her little voice will be heard as she grows and that with it she will honor her Lord, her family, and others.

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Building a Community

What an adorable girl you have.

She is just beautiful.

What a happy girl.

Her smile is the cutest.

That hair!

These are just some comments we receive from strangers while we are out and about with Abigail. She is too cute for her own good. I tell Jordan all the time that I do not know how we made such a cutie. Her blonde hair, blue eyes, contagious smile, and now her little pink glasses make an adorable combination. You see, Abigail looks completely normal. Nobody with would think twice that she has a developmental delay. Often people are shocked, or they just do not understand, that she is not able to sit or stand on her own.

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Our beautiful girl!!

I guess most people consider special needs children to look or act a certain way. But special needs covers a wide variety of conditions from speech delays to the autism spectrum to severe cases of cerebral palsy. And that does not even cover the other thousands of syndromes and genetic disorders that are known today. People are so quick to judge the little boy in the wheelchair or the little girl with Down’s syndrome, but they do not realize that children like Abigail have some of the exact same issues.

I have to watch myself when we are out and about because I catch myself staring at families that have disabled or special needs children. Not in judgment, but simply because I can relate with them and I want to encourage them. But they take one look at Abigail and they would never guess that we were the same in any way. The other day we were in the check out line of Wal-Mart, and a mom and her two daughters got behind us. The one daughter was in a wheelchair, so I immediately wanted to talk to her and make a connection. Thankfully, she commented on how cute Abigail was and I was able to talk about how we just recently received her glasses and found my lead in to say, “Yes, we are alike!” Turns out her daughter’s and Abigail’s stories were quite similar in the beginning. Her daughter did not walk until she was four, she has no diagnoses, and they go to therapy too. It was wonderful to make that small connection, and I wish we could have kept talking, but it is hard to do that in a check out line.

I live for these connections with other special needs parents. They are people who can relate because we have all journeyed down similar paths. My passions are slowly being molded to start a special needs ministry for parents in some way. I have always wanted to be in ministry since God called me in 2010. I always figured I would be apart of a women’s ministry of some kind, but know I feel more and more led to special needs. It is where I am in life as a mother of a special needs child myself. And yes, while our children may all be experiencing their own struggles and triumphs, all special needs parents share a common bond. We are all struggling to find our way through emotions, bills, insurance companies, appointments, and still raising our kids to thrive in their environment. It is a lot, and we need each other. So my daughter may be the cutest thing in the world, and look like she has is all together but her mama needs those other parents to understand that I need them and we need each other. So today I am praying that God works in and through myself, my community, and that He can use me to bless other special needs parents in some way great or small.

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The Need for Community

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We have been living in our new home for almost five months now. I came here not knowing anyone except Jordan’s family. It was hard leaving behind my family and friends. Most days it is just Abigail and me because Jordan works such a random schedule. It gets lonely at times, and at other times I love it because I have found renewal for my weary soul in the quiet moments of life. But this past week I was reminded how important community is. Community as defined by Webster’s dictionary is, “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals; a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” God created us for fellowship and community, first with Himself and then with others. Community is where we find friendship and acceptance. It is a place to relate to one another and find encouragement. A community of like-minded people is a beautiful thing; it is a needed thing.

I had one of these times of connection and community this past week, and I will always treasure it in my heart. At the therapy center we attend each week I see the same families there week after week because we have therapy at the same time. All the parents wait in the waiting room while the children are in the back working with the therapists. Mostly parents keep to themselves and work on other things or stay on their phones the whole therapy hour. However, this past week was different. I am slowly starting to talk to some of the moms, who attend therapy with us, and last week they asked me about Abigail and I was able to share our story and hear theirs.

It was a blessing to hear these moms tell their own stories. They have been exactly where we are now, and it was encouraging to see these moms on the other side of the coin. They both have daughters with chromosomal disorders. One has a three-year old and the other has an eight-year old. Neither of their daughters will ever be able to be independent. Neither of their daughters will ever talk nor walk, at least not for long distances. They know these realities, and yet they are strong women who love their daughters fiercely. They are fighters and strong moms who even have other children to take care of besides their special needs child. They were an inspiration to this mama!

These ladies reached out to me, and helped me remember how much I needed community. And how much I am a part of this special needs community that is growing day by day. I am thankful these ladies and other special needs moms will be in my life for the foreseeable future as we continue therapy. I hope to have more conversations with them that might lead to friendship and an even deeper community. That is the thing about community – it grows and expands as you grow and expand. I have lived many chapters in my life and in each one I have specific friends and communities that I still carry in my heart. I am thankful for this new community I have being introduced to. I am thankful for others who reach out to me, and want to join me in community.