|Photo image courtesy of grazvydas via 123rf.com|
My baby is 12 today.
Oh, the years that have passed since she burst onto the scene with her little 5 pound, 13 oz self! We thought the stressful, exciting part was just trying to keep her in my tummy without a premature arrival. That was merely a harbinger of things to come.
The real heartache began when she faced repeated ear infections as a toddler. Each bout left her with a new allergy to antibiotics. One was so severe that it actually qualifies as a rare condition with NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders). If she were ever exposed to penicillin again, no Epi-Pen in the world would save her.
Despite her adversities, she had a bright little personality, but something was notably different with her from my other children. I couldn't use a bathroom without her taking off through the neighborhood. The ladies up and down my street spent plenty of time judging me a horrible mother because of it. We have an entire photo album of her antics -- fully clothed sitting in a bathtub as it fills with water; smeared head-to-toe with triple paste while sitting a meat thermometer in her hand ('cuz, you know, those things belong together); discovered standing on the keys of our piano; modeling her brother's underwear on her head in our full-length mirror.
I knew this was something more than just the spunky behavior of my last-born. Yet, people dismissed me as being overly concerned because of my work in special needs ministry.
Nevertheless, I was tearfully proven correct by the time she reached first grade. She had an older teacher that year, one who didn't look too kindly on her antics. She begged me to have our daughter assessed for ADHD and put on medication. At the time, I had my own problems with repeated knee surgeries. While I could get her to the pediatric assessment confirming ADHD, I simply did not have the time to run her to a specialist for medication. The teacher was not too pleased with me, and definitely had the air of "I told you so," when we ended up in the ER with a dime solidly lodged in our daughter's esophagus.
Eventually, we did medicate her, without any progress. On top of that, she had allergic reactions to each medication the pediatric psychiatrist put her on. Talk about a bad nightmare!
By third grade, we had another teacher whose disposition did not mesh well with our daughter and her issues. This is where we had the biggest intervention in her academic career. Thank God! We had an evaluation done by a neuropsychologist confirming sensory processing disorder, social deficits, and severe ADHD. Once this evaluation was in place, her grade school helped our little lassie grown and shine. We had such an amazing team including an occupational therapist and special ed teachers who invested in her, helping her progress. We felt hopeful.
Her intermediate school years thusfar -- not so much. As she reaches this landmark birthday -- the last of her "tween" years -- I find myself grieving afresh. We have come to the conclusion over the past year with school staff that she really does have Asperger's Syndrome. Coupled together with the neuropsychologist's diagnoses, her lacking theory of mind and obsessive issues place her solidly in the Asperger's camp. And with each year she grows older, her differences from her peers become more obvious. It is heavy -- They are maturing, while she is not.
To be able to celebrate, we need to accentuate the positive. Rather than staying stuck in that place of grieving over her challenges, we need to dream again about how God will use her personality to shine in His world. Being an athletic, energetic girl, she long dreamt of become a phy ed teacher some day. That was something she enthusiastically anticipated. Now she has her sights on becoming a police officer in a canine unit. She loves animals, but she doesn't think her heart could handle seeing wounded pets as a veterinarian. Whatever her choice, I need to continually fix my focus on the positive, remembering that many of the world's achievers and thought leaders have diagnoses just like hers. In other words, there is NOTHING she could not accomplish with her desire and God's help.
One of her wonderful teachers came up with a terrific action plan at the beginning of the school year. "You're fighting a war on 2 fronts right now," he said. "You're trying to manage the bad while also encouraging the good. We are going to shift all of our energy into fostering the good this year, so we crowd out the bad."
His words were a game-changer to me at the start of the school year. And aren't his words just an extrapolation of Philippians 4:8? Feed the good. Starve the bad.
There have been many other extenuating circumstances that have made this an extra tough school year for our youngest. Not everyone has been focusing on her assets, especially not bullies. Still, I'm not giving up on the goal set by this teacher. It is a biblical goal and one worthy of continuing to strive for. With God's help, we can focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, and see our daughter's differences bloom into her distinctions.
PRAY: Lord, thank You for trusting me with the care of this precious child. By Your wisdom, Holy Spirit, fix my eyes on the positive attributes of my child rather than the hard parts that pain our hearts. We need Your strength, God. Thank You that we can rely on it.
~ Barb Dittrich