Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Child is Not a Freak

"You know young lady, you have a baby far too big to be in a stroller. He should be walking." the old lady pointed at Jake in his stroller.

Yes, I know he should be walking. Thing is, he's NOT walking. He's 18 months old and walking just isn't happening. Neither is pulling up, cruising, or crawling. The doc says he's fine, and you know, I'm believing him, not some strange old lady at the store. What I didn't say thought is that some little thought was niggling in the back of my mind that...well...what if something is wrong? I have been following this blog for awhile, and every time I read I'm right back at the beginning of our own story. Right back to the day Jake was diagnosed and I spent the next hour wandering through Wal mart in tears. It wasn't Amala's post that got me-it was the comments. The comments that branded a small child with a big vocabulary as a freak.

Jake didn't actually take his first steps until he was 19 months old. He did, however, have no problem talking; and it was this that puzzled people so greatly. By 14 months old this boy was coming out with full on sentences and accumulating vocabulary faster then we could count. I was constantly stopped by complete strangers who wanted to know why my kid could talk so well. Did I teach him?


Did I use flash cards?

Are you crazy?

I did NOTHING except talk to him all the time, and occasionally wish that he'd just be quiet for a few seconds.

So nobody suspected anything other then that he was just a little slower in the motor department.

Around the corner from our house was a family with a little boy about the same age as Jake-another family who were noticing that something was different about their child, but they didn't know what. We had been friendly and I had hoped that possibly, our kids could get together and play.

What I didn't realize is that their child was slower in the speech department, and that Jake's chattiness cut right to the heart of the parents. One day we had gone by their house to borrow a book, and Jake chattered non stop with the older kids. I'll never forget the look on the Dad's face as he watched Jake, his eyes filled with tears.

"That's what Andrew is supposed to be doing."

What Andrew wasn't doing-and they didn't know why.

We didn't become good friends, but rather remained acquaintances, through the family's journey of doctors and diagnoses. It became clear that Andrew was delayed-and I watched as they entered the world of therapists, special education, and doctors.

I had no idea I was going to be next, or what hell it would be. Nobody did. Jake, after all, was talking. He was considered advanced. Which is why everyone thought we were nuts when we began to say that something wasn't quite right.

"Na, a smart kid like him? It's just behavior."

"No, listen to me. Something is up-I can't understand why he has so much trouble writing. Counting, too."

"It's just development."

"But then why is he so anxious?"

"His language skills are fantastic. He's fine."

He wasn't fine. And the people who should have seen it-those experts who should have known, missed it because he was so verbal. Missed until it was too late for therapy that may have made a difference.

Why is it that when kids learn things quickly or are a bit advanced, they are seen as a freak or something to be envied, and people try so hard to capitalize on what you kid can't do to make themselves feel better? Don't they see that this is a child with feelings, who wants to be loved and accepted like everyone else? Don't they see that kids all develop so differently that it is completely unfair to judge?

Having a child who is gifted is one thing. Having a child who is gifted, learning disabled, AND dyspraxic is quite another. You find that you don't quite 'fit' anywhere because every book, every support group, every Internet message board is labeled either gifted OR ld. If you talk about the gifted aspect, you're branded as bragging. If you talk about the LD aspect, then people assume that your kid is mentally incapable. There is no parenting advice, no support, no commiserating among peers because to be quite honest, their parenting experience is completely different from your own. As a parent you are judged constantly by friends, family, acquaintances, and teachers who offer advice that will never work because your child just isn't like everyone else's.

There is no support; or if there is, we just haven't found it yet. Instead, Hubs and I have taken this journey on our own, feeling very much like pioneers venturing into the great unknown. The feeling of isolation is partly why I started this blog, and when I did, I asked Jake if he minded me telling his story.

"Mom, I think that if you can help just ONE family understand their kid and make it easier, it's worth it."

He may be different from your kid; he may not be able to write, or play baseball like yours does, and he may freak you out a little when he starts talking about the Periodic Table of the Elements or Atomic Theory. I know, because it still freaks me out some days.

That's just Jake-and to me, he's every bit as beautiful as every typical kid out there.

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