Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bridging two worlds

I have made the intentional decision since Kelsey was a baby to give her as normal of an experience as possible. I am sure that initially it was my intention to somehow defy all odds and "cure" her of all of her challenges by putting enough effort in.

It has slowly evolved into a philosophy of acceptance of Kelsey's limitations, but desire that she be challenged, and challenge herself, to not stay at the level of low expectation that some might have for others in her position, but instead grow into a independent, productive girl (and someday, lady).

These goals have brought me to situations that I might otherwise like to avoid.

Honestly, it hurts to see your child struggle to do things that should come easily to them, but it is an entirely other level to put your child in with her typical peers and to see first hand everything she should be doing, saying, being.

But ultimately it does no one any good to pretend that the "typically developing" world does not exist and choose to bury your head in the "look at how good she is doing compared to how she could be" special needs world.

We take Kelsey everywhere with us. We do not not go places because of her special needs. In fact, we probably seek out more sensory and fun activities than we might otherwise do.

In November, Kelsey took the biggest step thus far in pushing into the world of the "typicals."

Kelsey attends a community preschool at a local church with the support of school district staff and an incredibly loving teacher, director, and staff there.

It has been the most heartwarming and, at times, heartbreaking thing we have done for Kelsey.

It was not the easy path. It was not the "normal" placement for someone with the physical disabilities Kelsey has.

Yet it is the only path that I felt right for my girl.

(we are blessed to be able to continue services at her private special needs school so we did not have to sacrifice therapy for placement here)

Kelsey loves to go to preschool. The kids are absolutely wonderful together. They were quick to accept Kelsey and call her their friend.

Kelsey has blossomed there. She is so talkative about it. That is the place that she most often makes her walker "go" all on her own. She is attentive and excited about going and being there.

She has been to a birthday party of a classmae. She has been called "my best friend Kelsey that God sent to me." Her classmates help her motor through the actions to songs. They get right up close to her to talk to her and engage her. They help her "catch" the ball and wait for her to drop it ("throw") it back to them.

Kelsey has done all of this on her own. It is amazing to me. After facilitating all of her interactions (mostly adults) for the first three years of her life, here is my spunky, opinionated, nonverbal daughter developing relationships with "typical" peers with help from no one.

Last night I went to a girls night out event at this church and spoke briefly to the mom of a boy in Kelsey's class. She was so nice to me. She commented on how well Kelsey was doing in her walker. She said it was so good for the kids to have Kelsey there because of the compassion for others and kindness it helps them to learn.

I know this is true.

I know that if I was in this mom's place with my son, I would feel the same. I know that diversity does make us all better for having experienced it. I guess I just wish it wasn't my little girl that was the carrier of the message.

I also know, in some ways, it is an honor for Kelsey to be the carrier of that message.

Kelsey is so close to being just another kid and yet in some ways so far.

I yearn for the time that Kelsey will be able to fully verbally (or with a communication device) be able to express all that she is.

The fun parts, the sassy parts, how smart she is...

That she will be seen for who she is and not the equipment she uses.

That she will be seen for everything she brings to the table in spite of her disability and not because of it.


Rochelle said...

Awesome Kelsey you are just awesome!

Kristie said...

First of all, Kelsey is adorable! I wanted to leave a comment because I'm a teenage girl with cerebral palsy. Keep doing what you're doing. I'm sure she will continue to amaze you. If it's any comfort, I have friends in my life who see me as an individual, not "the girl in the walker" (As a matter of fact, in middle school, one of my friends was quite upset when someone referred to me as that; and, boy did she let them know it! lol) I'm sure Kelsey will find those friendships too. Especially since she already has you! =)the url i included is to an article I wrote recently that you might enjoy! If you click my name in the article you can add me on facebook too.

Jenna said...

HI Kelsey!
You are adoreble and a brave courageous fighter and an inspiration. You are a real life shining hero.
I am so gald you are accepted in pre-school, I have trouble being accepted because I have many disabilites and health issues.