I grew up knowing little about special needs. What I knew, was that I was not to stare and to stay away from "those people." Once, I even heard that when parents gave birth to a child with special needs, it meant they had done something wrong and God punished them with such a child. Nichole has never been a punishment to us. Her Down syndrome has been one of the greatest blessings our family has experienced. I wish I would have known that before she was born, maybe it would have helped me deal with her diagnosis a little bit better.
Two years ago I had the privilege to attend a conference called "Parents as Presenters." It was the first time I had been surrounded by parents of children with different special needs. I had come to the conference expecting to have so much in common with these parents (which we did) but what I learned that weekend was that each special need has its own challenges and blessings. My eyes were opened to the world of special needs beyond Down syndrome.
Once we adopted Nina, her Cerebral Palsy challenged us in ways we never had been challenge before with Nichole. Somehow, I feel like my understanding of special needs has expanded, and yet, I feel like I lack in so many areas.
There is little about Down syndrome that I do not know or have not heard about. Really, once Nichole was born, I began to study Down syndrome, I began to research. Our Down syndrome family is close! In facebook, the blog world, the forums. A wealth of information that I access daily.
Cerebral Palsy? This is a different story! I feel like I have just dipped my toes in the waters of CP. The more I learn the more I realize that I have a long ways to go. I think starting out with an almost 4 year old did not help me "grow up" with Cerebral palsy along with Nina. I am discovering more and more that what we think are behavioral issues are sometimes common to CP. I am learning about new treatments, surgeries, procedures that are hard to understand or to know what they are for.
But I am learning, as I go along.
Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy are so different. We had it "figured out" with Nichole. Nina's CP challenges those areas we had tackled with Nichole. There is no one size fits all with special needs.
Our family is stretched and molded with our three special little girls. What a journey we are on!