I have decided to put these two posts into one because I would like for them to be read consecutively.
From the moment children are born they are put to the test and graded using the Apgar Score. Within the next few days of life they are screened for numerous conditions and have their hearing and vision tested. All of theses tests determine if the child has any known medical conditions. What does it mean if your child fails one of these tests or doctors discover your child has a condition? Will you love them any less? Will their life be any less meaningful? Sometimes placing too much pressure on a child to be perfect can be overwhelming, especially to the parents. Newborn screenings can potentially save a life due to early detection and intervention, but how often do the findings of an “abnormal” characteristic have an adverse effect?
Pregnancy is the time in a woman’s life when she should be the most calm and relaxed, but it’s pretty hard to stay calm when a doctor tells you that your child has a cyst on her brain and that it is a “soft sign” of Down Syndrome. Doctors love to get you all worked up and do all these fancy tests and ultrasounds that more times than not come back negative. I understand the importance of knowing 100 percent whether a child has a condition, but would not knowing change that person’s mind? Has medical technology and early detection gone too far and put even more expectations on a helpless child to be perfect? Why is it that we can’t simply accept whatever may be?
Society puts too many unrealistic expectations on children and families to fit into a certain mold of normalcy. Well, sorry to tell you but no one is normal or any more special than anyone else. We are all uniquely different so how can we classify what is normal or acceptable? Who are we to judge? Labels and stereotypes have ruined our society. No wonder bullying is at a high in our country. Children should be taught to see everyone as equal, and I’m not referring to color. Children come in all shapes and sizes. They may wear glasses, hearing aids or need one-on-one attention in the classroom. They shouldn’t be made to feel bad about these differences. We must all build self-esteem within our children starting at a very young age. Show them encouragement and let them know that it is ok if they can’t do what peers their same age are doing. Praise them for their differences.
“Measuring Success by Inches Instead of Miles”
In the special needs community the term inchstones is more widely used when referring to our children’s progress. Most children reach milestones one after another at a pretty fast and continuous pace (rolling, sitting, crawling, walking). My son, for instance, was walking at 9 months old. When you have a child that progresses on schedule, you take so much for granted. My special needs daughter has yet to fully master sitting on her own and she is 16 months old. But that is ok because I know how far she has come and I see new things that she is doing everyday. These things are no big deal to anyone else because most parents would consider them minuscule. But when my daughter drinks 7 ounces in one feeding or picks up a puff with two fingers and puts it in her mouth, I am celebrating! Success should not be measured by the miles we take to reach a goal but by the inches along the way that teach us how to see the bigger picture.
There are too many negative connotations associated with developmental and neurological delays. The term developmental milestones is poured down your throat in every pregnancy and newborn book you read. Children are expected to reach these milestones at a certain age and if they do not they are considered delayed. What the experts need to realize and factor in is that every child develops at their own rate, and although they may be behind their peers that does not mean they are not “normal.” And even if a child has a diagnosed developmental delay they should not be considered abnormal or made to feel bad about their differences.
Because of these negative connotations, some parents can be in denial about their child’s progress and often refuse to get them the help they need for fear of scrutiny. No one wants to admit or accept that their child has a “problem.” While it is true that not every child that is behind their peers reaching a milestone is developmentally delayed, there is still that chance that something additional could be going on that would require intervention. If you have a child that shows signs of developmental delays it is very easy to get your child evaluated and begin therapy to set them on a path for a brighter future. I have personally seen what a huge difference early intervention can make in a child’s life.
No one can ever prepare them self for having a child with special needs. The best thing you can do for your child when learning they have a certain condition or impairment is take yourself out of the equation. Now is not the time to say “why me?” Because you aren’t the one who has to live with these impairments. You aren’t the one who has to deal with the scrutiny and the pressure from society. Sure you will feel it because you will be by your child’s side and it will be hard to see them going through these things, but that is why it is your JOB to be strong for them and become their ADVOCATE above anything else. You are your child’s number one ally.