March 2, 2010

The Joy of "Living in Holland"

The Joy of "Living in Holland"

~~"I'm a pair of Left-Handed Scissors in a Right-Handed World" --Dana Cockrum~~

It was completely unexpected when a young woman, age 28-30, in my old ward, gave birth to a baby girl with Down's Syndrome. They did not know in advance. I got a phone call from someone asking if I would contact the mother, as the family was struggling with the news, but accepting, and needed some support. Well, I don't have children with Down's Syndrome, but I know the essence--parenting the Disabled, special needs, the quirky. I put together a packet of materials containing what has always brought peace to my soul, and gave it to her.  She was able to look at her future a lot differently.

"And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass, that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea,the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." (Mosiah 24:14-15)

Welcome to Holland  This is a beautiful essay I found, written to help explain what it's like parenting a special needs child. 
Holland Schmolland    -- a hilarious take on Welcome to Holland by a mother of an Autistic child
*disclaimer--I do not seek a cure.

What this parent of special needs children knows as a Latter-Day Saint:
  • The Lord qualifies those whom He calls.
  • He never gives you more than you can handle with His help. I always feel as though I get a little extra help in my life.
  • It is a great honor to parent children such as these, because the Lord trusts in me. 
  • We gain great patience and a sense of humor if we allow it. 
  • Always follow the promptings of the Spirit. 
  • Counsel with the Lord in all thy doing and He shall direct thy paths for good. 
  • The Lord cares for His little ones--miracles abound. 
In my travels as a parent of special needs children, people have tried to feel so sorry for me. I used to try to explain to them not to feel sorry for me. We were fine. I don't feel any "burden."  They mostly couldn't fathom it. A friend commented to me once, how my perspective on life was different, remembering the day I had mentioned of how overjoyed I was when my 5-year old son (autism spectrum) actually spoke to me for the first time in 3 months.  I lived for a summer on the memory of my daughter, Katie (also autism spectrum), stepping off the school bus after her first week of Special Ed Pre-K, and spoke to me, directly to me, for the first time in her life.  She was nearly 4 years old.  She stepped down, looked me in the face, and said, clear as the day we were having, "I love you, Mom."  Then, her expresssion became unfocused again,  and she walked by me into the house.  We live for those moments, taking joy where we can. We see and experience little miracles.

The unenlightened who fear,  have hated my children for their disabilities, and people who love,  have loved them. I let them "speak" for themselves now. Buddy, who was once non-verbal, is now a scriptorian, wow-ing the congregation with recitals of the Christmas Story from Luke..."And there were in the same country, shepherds...." on Fast Sunday in December. Another day he stood up on Fast Sunday and recited Joseph Smith's First Vision (scripture mastery) word for word. He is a delight in Gospel Doctrine Class.  

How did this happen?  We worked with his disability instead of against it.  The Lord did the rest.
  • We have to enter their world first, before they will enter ours. We got down on the floor and together built walking fishing poles, hung fire engines over the railing with a pair of Suspenders, encouraging the creativity within him as a major part of our school day.  All day recess!!!
  • Visuals, Visuals, Visuals worked for him in our school day. 
  • Listen for the Promptings.  I was prompted to give Buddy a Gospel-based education. I know many people don't like the "Living Scriptures" videos because of artistic liberties, but I was prompted by the Spirit to use them.  He answered questions about the movie, or we played match game with cards about the movie. We used Scripture Stories to teach him to read.  When he was older, Seminary made all the difference in the world for him, emerging slowly and loving to read the scriptures on his own.. 
  • We didn't force our will.  If he wasn't ready for something, we didn't force it.  I learned that what I want and how I feel were neither here nor there.  We were all happier for it.
  • I talked to him, asked him short, simple questions using as few words as necessary. He couldn't sift through long sentances to find the meaning.  Less frustration for me, too,  once I understood that.
  • Teach using what they love and will respond to. He LOVED Thomas the Tank Engine trains, so I made math fact pages, building familiar trains, piece by piece, in our graphics program (yes, quite the labor of love, believe me).  If your child loves toothbrushes, use them for math, for telling stories. If he loves dinosaurs, use them.
  • Whole pages of worksheets can be overwhelming. We covered most of his worksheets with other papers, so he saw only a problem or two at a time.  This reduces the frustration level for all parties involved.
  • Know that they will blossom, and emerge, at their own pace, if at all, in the Lord's time. 
We don't always know what the Lord has in mind for our special people that have been entrusted to our care, but if we listen to Him, love them, look, really look at what we have here in "Holland," joy abounds as we see His hand in their lives.  And our own. 

~~Teresa is a widow, with 4 children at home, 2 of whom are on the Autism Spectrum. She expects them to be home with her for, at least, the next 50 years, and is preparing for all eternity. You can find them at Wockenflock Daze.

3 comments - Add a comment below -:

- Dana ♥ said...

Wow Teresa! - That was beautiful! From my own experience, I know that I would not be the same person if I didn't have the children I do. They are indeed helping ME to the Kingdom.

teresa said...

When I was 20, and arrogtant, I looked at screaming kids in the grocery store and thought, "MY kids will never be like that!" Little did I know that the Lord had something else in mind for me. *;-.)
I wouldn't have it any other way either.
You should have seen us the day I had to drag my ,then, 5 year old son out of the Train store, carrying him as he screamed and flailed about, while trying to push a baby stroller. "I HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE TRAIN STORE!! I HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE TRAIN STORE!! I HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE TRAIN STORE!" I forget exactly what the problem was, but today we couln't spent 2 more hours at the train store.
People were looking, but being a resident of Schmolland, it didn't matter.... we are a proud people....I had to get from the 5th floor of the mall, clear to the parking lot outside the side door of the 1st floor. This frail looking 70-ish year old grandmotherly type came up to me and asked if she could help me."sure" I thought, "your 70-ish frail self can walk clear to the first floor with me...." but I said, "no thank you. We're fine. I'm used to this."
Then a strong 50 year old grandmother came along offering help and I took it. She grabbed the stroller while I struggled with screaming, flailing son. We made it to the elevator, and of course, the level of screaming didn't stop. Oh no. The sound only intensified in the enclosed elevator. My eyes of my 50-ish grandmotherly angel were growing larger with every scream. After I left the elevator with my screaming, flailing son, a shoe went flying. My angel scooped it up saying, "Got the shoe!" Then, Security started following me! I was being pummled, screamed at, looked at, followed, and I'd had enough. I sat on a bench and just started sobbing. My angel asked, "Are you all right? Are you hurt?" And then a crowd gathered around!! Security slipped in to a store front, continuing his survelliance. When people realized it was "just a kid having a temper tantrum" --which is truly not the word to descrbe the event, -- things settled down and a lady from the hair salon I was sitting in front of brought a lolly pop. We settled, my angel went back to the 5th floor and we found our car. I pulled out my phone, called my husband and sobbed into the phone that he had to come home right now, then cried all the way home.
Not my favorite experience and it still makes me cry, as I remember the emotional trauma, but I am stronger and see a little clearer.

- Dana ♥ said...

Obviously Teresa, this was a stressful event! But hey you made it home with both shoes right? ☺ I can't help but smile - children can humble you in a matter of seconds can't they? Thank goodness we somehow make it through. ☺ Hugs!