18 August 2016


I took LB to a meeting with our school district's child development center to discuss her transition from Early Intervention to the care of the district when she turns three in October.

She has received services through Early Intervention for a speech delay since she turned two. Her speech therapist comes to our home twice a month and works with her- usually playing games and reading books. She works hard in her therapy sessions and works even harder when it's just us; even when it's her and her siblings, she's always trying.

The progress she has made is significant. She tells me everything she observes in two, sometimes three-word phrases, and her vocabulary has at least tripled. She's able to let me know what she needs help with instead of hoping I guess right. I see changes daily and I am so proud of her, but not because I feel like she needs to be progressing at a certain rate or meeting specific standards.

I'm proud of her because she is proud of herself. She's always been confident, but now she beams when she puts words together to express something that used to be difficult for her to get across.

Her speech is delayed- specifically, her expressive language development has gotten a little later start than the average child her age. It is anticipated that she will continue to progress and will eventually be up to speed with her peers, when she starts kindergarten.

But if she isn't?

It's not a big deal.

Language delays are common in children with FASD; they're also common in children without. She is not defined by her disabilities, but they are a part of her, though just a small part of who she is.

She is every bit my determined, loving, joyful child who has never met a stranger and says hi to everyone she meets. If her smile is contagious, and her laugh can cause a full-on pandemic. Her hugs will forever be able to melt even the iciest of hearts, even if she doesn't have the words to tell someone how she feels.

To not acknowledge that has delays and disabilities would be doing her a disservice. To not get her the help that she needs to flourish at whatever is the right level for her, would be irresponsible.

There is no shame in needing extra help with something others don't, or requiring different accommodations or a more time to reach the same benchmark.

There is no shame in having a disability or a delay.

There is no shame in being a parent to a child who has a disability.

But there is something wrong with pretending your child is "typical" when they're not. (And really, define typical.) There is something wrong with ignoring very obvious signs, and even downplaying the findings of a medical professional because it isn't what you want to hear.

Everyone has hopes and dreams for their child. If your child has a disability, they're still your child. Those hopes and dreams? They still belong to them.

Unless, of course, they were just the desires and wishes of a parent whose discomfort  or embarrassment they feel in raising a child who is different than they would have thought supersedes the needs of their actual child. That shame and denial can only fester until it turns to resentment.

When it comes to aspects of parenting, my philosophy is that there is more than one way to do it. So long as safety isn't a concern, choose the method that works best for you and get it done. Feed your baby. Diaper your baby. Dress your baby. Teach your baby.

But should your baby have extra needs, be they extensive or small? Get them help. Seek out resources. Your child is still your child, the same one you dreamed of and have hopes for, but you owe it to them to give them the best chance at being who they're meant to be.

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