Saturday, February 2, 2008

Special Needs

I have discovered many parents have a fear of the unknown. They want a child without any "special needs" They often forget that we all have special needs. Some are mental, some physical and some are a combination. When parents give birth to a child, they love that child from the moment they see it. They don't make judgements based on the child's appearance or how much it cries. As the child grows, they raise the child to their best ability.
Jacob was a child who was labeled as being at risk of having long term special needs. While the chances of him having serious long term problems were minimal, many prospective parents turned away. It was lucky for me and I believe he is happy to be my son. It is still sad that so many parents are looking for the perfect child. That child does not exist.
Jacob has proven to the doctors and to me that he does not have any of the long term problems they (not me) feared. He is physically and mentally healthy. He is also 2 1/2. He does have special needs but they just aren't labelled as that. You see, every child has abilities in some areas and is only "average" in others. He may not need special services or medications or surgery. He needs a loving family that supports him and encourages him. It is what every child needs no matter what kind of special services they require.
As a parent, it is my job to expose Jacob to as much as I can and help him find his way. He has some natural physical abilities that are not possessed by other members of our family. He was walking 4 months before most children in orphanages. He is mastering motor skills most children do not master until 3 years of age. He knows that "h" is the first letter in happy meal and points out every "h" he sees even when in the middle of another word. Yet he is "average" in his language skills. He is still struggling with learning his ABCs and counting past 2.
This is where he is today. It may not be where his talents are in the future. He could grow up to be a great writer, a great artist or a star athlete. He could also grow up to be "average" working in a business, stocking shelves, serving food, or teaching children. It doesn't matter to me. I will be a successful parent as long as I have given him the tools and opportunities to become the best Jacob he can be. Special needs don't scare me. Not giving him the tools he deserves terrifies me.
The above pictures are some of the ways I try to help him learn now. Through cooking, he learns that things look different and taste different after being exposed to heat. He learnes how to pour, stir and measure. He learns that biting into a hot cookie can burn his mouth and he must wait for it to cool down. Through going outdoors in winter, he learns about snow, ice and cold weather. He learns that he is warmer when moving than when standing still. He learns that the sun can be very bright and warm or very bright and still cold. Through scarves and bandanas, he learns to dress himself and express himself through play. By banging on the drum, he learns about rhythm, vibrations and sounds.
I try to expose Jacob to many different things through play and every day life. It is my job as a parent. It is his job as a person to learn about himself and what gifts he has to offer the world. It would be the same if he had medical, emotional or psychological problems.

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