Monday, September 27, 2010

Typical Circumstances

Here I am, leaving my contribution for this month down the last minute, as usual. Down to the last 46 minutes, to be exact.

I remember, before I had children (something like a lifetime ago, really) that I had always felt, and said aloud, that I could never, ever have a child with special needs. (although I'm sure in that lifetime, I didn't use the term 'special needs') I always felt that there was no way I could handle that reality, no chance that I would be able to rise up and parent anything but a 'normal' child.

(Do you hear that? That's the universe laughing at me.)

But honestly, I had added up my own perception of my abilities and my worth as a future, hypothetical parent, and found myself inadequate to handle anything but the most typical of circumstances.

Life, of course, had other plans for me. Our first experience of typical circumstances came with the birth of our second child.

As I'm sure other parents of special needs children do, we scrutinized her, and watched her, and analysed her every move for an indication of differences, and found none. She is different from Noel in so many ways, But because we also had no barometer for normalcy, we also couldn't be sure if she was on pace.

Noel was using sign language at 11 months, speaking in short sentences by 16 months. At 16 months, Holland was saying one or two incomprehensible words and occassionally using one sign. Was this normal? She seemed so behind, of course, when we compared her to Noel.

A speech assessment confirms that she is, in fact, behind - a moderate language delay puts her about 9 months behind the curve. We left the assessment with handouts and instructions for how to play with her, and how to talk to her, and how to encourage language development.

One thing I got to enjoy, that I feel like I missed with Noel, was the abilty to just move through free form days with no need for... interventions, for lack of a better word. And though I of course won't compare Holland's moderate language delay with Noel's Aspergers, at least not in a direct way, I have to admit to a tiny bit of frustration that now I have to take those little moments, just spent with my girl, and turn them into learning opportunities - correcting words said wrong, encouraging her to put words together, insisting she use words for things she needs.

Typical circumstances. I'm starting to understand that typical circumstances might have been something I created in a dream world, the same one in which I cook everything my kids eat from scratch, grow vegetables in my backyard, keep my house spotlessly clean and have time alone with my husband on a regular basis. The dream world where my children are perfect, polite, independent, and brilliant, who meet every milestone on target, and who sleep through the night from birth. I decided before I had children that I could not handle anything less than this, or anything more than this.

(Do you hear that? The universe thinks I'm hysterically funny.)


Stephanie can be found at her blog, although sometimes it is woefully neglected and a bit dusty.


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