Tag Archives: special needs

Every Child Is Gifted, They Just Unwrap Their Packages At Different Times…

Until you are the parent of a child like my little Joey, you may not fully comprehend what it’s like to have a school like the Linda Nolen Learning Center for your child to attend.  These are not your typical teachers – not by a long shot.  They ride in ambulances when one of their students is rushed to Children’s Hospital, they deal with almost as much bodily fluids (and I mean from ALL ENDS) as the parents have to at home.  And even though they may have less than ten children in their class, they all have varying and often multiple disabilities – many requiring medical equipment, wheelchairs, walkers, etc.  They have to know how to communicate with these children who are non-verbal – and they are able to, understanding what their different facial expressions, moans and sounds mean.  Seizures are a daily occurrence, along with emotional melt-downs and outbursts.  I’ve seen first hand how they interact with the students and it’s like they are their own children, it is the closest thing to a Roseanna Borellifamily outside of my own that I’ve ever encountered.  What I love most is that they do not see Joey’s disability; rather, what he may be capable of doing.  Goals are set, limits pushed, small victories celebrated with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.  They are somehow able to tap into each child’s creative outlet coming up with wonderful & stimulating activities that I would never have thought of and they let each child express themselves freely.  It’s not unusual for Joey to come home with green paint under his fingernails or Kool-Aid stains on his shirt from a painting project gone wild.   The teachers at LNLC put into practice what I’ve always believed about children, regardless of their ability, and that is, that every student can learn, but it just might not be on the same day or in the same way. 

There are very few, and I mean very few,  people I trust Joey with and I can honestly say that while he is at school, I don’t worry.  Well, ok, I worry; I’m a mom, that’s what we do.  But I never question if he is being loved and cared for.  Personally, I have a special place in my heart for all teachers; I think like nursing, it’s a calling.  You obviously don’t enter teaching to become a millionaire. But to work at a school like LNLC requires a level of love, patience and compassion that leaves me speechless.  I’m impressed with everyone at LNLC – from the lady at the front desk who Joey flirts with incessantly, to the counselor, the nurses (yes, Joey flirts with those two as well), the teachers, administration …even the janitorial staff – they all know these kids and interact with them.  But most importantly, the students know they are loved – hugs and smiles are never in short supply.

The staff at LNLC is nothing short of amazing and today I felt the need to share that with everyone.

Something to think about….

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the special need teacher’s job.” ~D. Quinn

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Often the simplest of things bring the most happiness…

In Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, he writes, “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”  I truly believe that, well, I have believed that for the past nine years.  My little boy, Joey, just celebrated his ninth birthday and he is among the wisest I know.  You see, Joey just discovered pinwheels.  Yes, pinwheels.  A rather simple toy by today’s standards. It’s certainly nothing fancy, as it is often made of just paper or plastic curls, attached at its axle to a stick by a pin.  It doesn’t require batteries and it can’t even be plugged in.  In fact, to get it to do anything requires a summer breeze or it must be blown upon by a person.  But to my little guy, it was pure magic.

This latest discovery of Joey’s happened by chance, as do most unexpectedJoey Discovers Pinwheels things.  There was a pinwheel in the doctor’s office and out of sheer boredom, I picked it up and began spinning it for Joey.  The look on his face when he saw all those bright colors spinning around was one of the most precious expressions I have ever seen.  Many of us have had the distinct pleasure of experiencing something through the eyes of a child, but when your child is disabled and all of the sudden he finds immense joy in a toy or a song or anything for that matter, well, it makes you stop whatever it is you’re doing and take notice.  I can tell immediately if something is going to really hold Joey’s attention or if it is just going to be a momentary infatuation.  After 45 minutes of spinning that pinwheel for Joey, I knew his love affair with pinwheels had begun.  As we sat in the doctor’s office waiting, I watched Joey look with wonder and then smile so brightly at this toy.  Who knew a toy, that  can be traced back to the late 1800’s, would bring such happiness to a little boy, 140 years later.  Joey cannot walk, talk, sit or stand, but he could reach for that pinwheel and smile and coo as it spun around and around.  So you see, it’s true, the simple things in life are very often the most extraordinary things, at least, in our family they are.  I’m in constant wonder and amazement at what my little boy teaches me every day.  All children, regardless of their abilities, have a sense of wonder and awe that we tend to lose as adults.  I’m so blessed that I get to relive my childhood through my son.

As I sat in the doctor’s office waiting – and spinning the pinwheel – I immediately began planning how to incorporate Joey’s new found love of pinwheels into his everyday life.  I tend to be like a bull in a china shop with my ideas and projects.  Once I get a notion or thought in my head, watch out – because I will do whatever it takes to make it happen, especially if it involves my little guy.  It’s my best and worst trait.  Ok, it’s one of my best and worst traits, but that’s another story for another day.  There are a handful of things I’m passionate about, first and foremost, my children.  After that, gardening.  PinwheelsSo it didn’t take long to come up with a plan that would combine pinwheels and petunias.  Right there in the doctor’s office on that tissue paper they use to cover the examining table, I actually sketched a garden that would be filled with pinwheels and flowers – complete with a path for Joey’s wheelchair.  I could feel the adrenaline – yes, I was that excited.  If you aren’t the parent of a child with special needs, you will not understand what it’s like to stumble across something that your child loves.  Joey cannot tell me, “mommy, I really love (fill in the blank) can we go do/buy/see that”.  I have to rely on trial and error.  I have to hope and pray for those moments, like the one last week, where we discover pinwheels completely by accident.  And when that discovery happens, you will do everything you can to encourage it, to repeat it, to make it a part of your child’s life.  At least, I do.

This new garden already has a name, “Il Giardino dei Girandoli di Giuseppe“.  My next step is to get pinwheels that are weather proof to be placed in the garden.  I’m going to ask friends and family to help make this happen as I feel it will add sentiment to the garden and make it special.  I truly feel like a child on Christmas morning right now, I cannot wait to begin this latest project and then watch Joey’s face when he sees it for the first time. So yes, while having a child with special needs can be exhausting, frustrating and heart breaking it can also be inspiring, magical and breath taking.

I’m learning that not much about life is perfect.  There is no such thing as perfect kids, we don’t come from or have perfect families or perfect partners, perfect jobs rarely exist, but every once in awhile, we do get a perfect moment.  I think maybe the trick is to recognize this and to not only hold on to the memory of that perfect moment, but perhaps we need to try and figure out how to make more of them.  God willing, that’s what I’m going to do.

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“And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.”

~Nicholas Sparks

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