Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Special Needs, Special Kids

First of all a big THANK YOU to so many of you who helped write in to Ellen.  We are truly grateful, and we are also very humbled and amazed by the many kind things that were said in some of these comments and on the Facebook page.  We have wonderful people around us.  We love you!

Tonight I took Cali, Lexi, Xander and Jessica to a fun activity at Elli's school.  This is the second time they have put on an evening like this.  The parents of a 14-year-old student at the school run an activity for siblings of kids with autism.  The children are there from 6-8pm and there are games and activities for them to enjoy.  Artwork, riding special bikes, general running around, eating cupcakes, etc.  Our kids have really enjoyed these evenings.  And the volunteers seem to enjoy our kids.  Both times I have returned to rave reviews about how sweet our kids are.  One kind gentleman talked to me about Lexi afterwards.  "Isn't it neat that she can still speak Chinese?"  This seemed to make him so happy that I decided to let him enjoy his delusion.  Lexi's Chinese consists of about 6 phrases that Graci has taught her recently.  She must have said every one of them to Cali tonight and convinced this man that she had brilliantly clung to her mother tongue despite not speaking a word of it from age 5 to age 8:)

One of the activities tonight was to write Valentine's card.  Jesi's understanding was that it was supposed to be written to themselves, which seems kind of interesting, but when Xander, Cali and Lexi were our only other kids to hear the instructions, I'm not expecting any crystal clear clarification.  Given the parameters, this is what Jesi wrote:

Apparently Jess has no doubt that Grace is her biggest fan.  Thanks, Graci, for being such a fantastic sister:)!

The last part of the evening is spent in the gym where they have really cool, large trikes, designed for kids with special needs.  There is enough space that Lexi can ride in a circle on her own.

They also had some plasma cars and said that Cali must have ridden them before, because she really lit up when she saw them:

As I observed my sweet children and looked at their artwork, I was particularly moved by Lexi's valentine:
My sweet, dear, Lexi.  Eight years old and not able to draw the simplest of pictures.  How taken for granted is the sight that most of us enjoy.  For some reason I have recently become acutely aware of how difficult every day tasks are for so many of our kids.  Sophi trying to get dressed or undressed.  Cali moving from her bedroom to the kitchen.  Lexi trying to navigate a room that all too often has become a small obstacle course.  And of course, writing.  One of the most basic of human tasks.  Something that has been part of human history for thousands of years.

And yet.

I have also stopped to ask myself if there is not much to be learned from the way they do things.  Lexi patiently traverses our home, never in a hurry (unless she has waited a bit too long to start heading towards the bathroom, but watching the little dance/walk she does on the way there is worth the mental cringe as I wonder if she'll make it in time:).  She slowly makes her way through her meals, never stuffing her face to move onto the next important appointment.  I've never heard her complain about her lack of slight slowing her down.

When Cali needs to come up the stairs, she muscles her way up, using her very strong upper body.  Fewer than one time in ten will she accept help if it's offered.  When she brushes her teeth at night, she takes an extra few minutes as she positions herself either with one knee on the step stool or with one leg locked in place as she stands.

When Sophi needs to put her toys away, she patiently takes one thing tucked under her chin at a time.  One Barbie down the stairs and into the basket.  An arduous return trip back up the stairs, her shoulder and head leaning against the wall the entire time to help her keep her balance.  And yet she rarely, rarely complains about her disability.  In fact, she embraces it.

What tremendous examples these three are.  In the last two days I've read financial articles about McDonalds and Apple.  Both companies are under tremendous pressure because they haven't grown enough this year.  Stock prices are spiraling downward.  The talking heads are wondering how they will survive.  Both of these companies made millions of dollars last year!  And yet because they aren't going bigger and faster, they are in the doghouse and stock prices are falling.  Why are we so caught up in more, more, more?  Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from these innocent but effective teachers.  Slow down.  Enjoy your meal.  Look at a sunset.  Listen to the wind.  Spend more time with your family.  I believe these are a few of the myriad lessons that Heavenly Father is trying to help me learn as a parent to these magnificent kids.

I have been reading a wonderful book to Taylor and Parker.  It is called Fishers of Men.  It is historical fiction set in the time of the Savior.  Jesus is a character in the book, and the story follows a  family that comes to know and love Him and accept him as the Messiah.  As we have been reading about some of the things the Savior did and said while He was here on earth, I have been struck by similar thoughts to the ones I expressed above.  Peace, be still.  Take time to enjoy the little children in your life.  Look out for others who are need of your help.  Enjoy the company of those who are most important to you.

Life has so many lessons for me.  I hope I don't miss them as I rush off to the next meeting or basketball game...or McDonald's!