Archive | 9:21 pm

Leaving a child behind

1 May

After what seemed like an hour, but was more likely only a few minutes, I dared to sneak a glance at my husband. His face was a silhouette against the window of our car. With the sun setting orange behind him I could just make out the corners of his lips turning upwards in a smile.

“Move? You really think we need to move?” He asked, sparing a glance at me and momentarily taking his eyes off the road.

“I do. I think that we really should. Oli’s vision teacher is always telling us how great Austin, TX is. I think we should look into it.” I answer.

“Okay. I’m in. She just isn’t getting the amount of services that she needs. She needs occupational therapy and speech. She needs more physical therapy and orientation and mobility. I agree. Las Vegas, NV is definitely not the best place to raise a special needs daughter. Let me talk to my company and see what they can do. Maybe I could somehow transfer.”

And that was it.

The decision to move my family was made on a hot summer day in August 2009 on the drive back from California after a trip there for my birthday.

There were no arguments and no one resisted the change. We simply decided to move.

Bittersweet tears were shed by my husband. He was happy for Oli, but sad for who he was leaving behind. Moving to Texas meant leaving his two sisters, two nephews, one niece and his mother behind in Vegas. It also meant moving much, much farther away from his daughter, my step daughter Thalia, who lived with her mother in San Diego, CA. She was 11 years old at the time.

I didn’t appreciate then what an enormous amount of strength and courage that decision took for him. What it meant to leave a child and move somewhere where he would only see her once every 6-9 months instead of every month. He made the type of decision for Oli, which I’m not sure that I could have ever made. He made a choice to help one child, who may have needed it more, with the sacrifice of not seeing the other. Their relationship would remain tightly intact via computers and nightly phone calls. Many many phone calls.

And many many tears.

Many tears of sadness and loneliness were, and still are, shed on behalf of Thalia.

Some days he gets lost without his oldest daughter.

Sometimes I wonder if he regrets leaving.

I wonder if he thinks it was worth it.

I’m sure most days he thinks that it was. And then. . .I’m sure there are others where the pain and the sadness are too much. Days where he longs to feel the touch of her sweet embrace and see the warmth of her beautiful smile.

I do know that every day he misses her. Every. Single. Day.

We both do.

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Heartache written on a piece of paper

1 May

Before I move on with my story, I have to write about Oli’s mandatory 3 year evaluation for school. They evaluate her to determine her progress and also to determine whether or not she still meets the eligibility qualifications for services. She’ll be 6 years old on May 10th.

O&M was the first evaluation scheduled to be completed. O&M stands for orientation and mobility and focuses on body awareness, spacial concepts, walking and navigating around the environment as a blind or visually impaired child. As a totally blind kiddo, Oli always qualifies for O&M. Her O&M instructor is absolutely fabulous. She is a wonderful woman and teacher and I really like and respect her. She has been with Oli since we moved to Texas when she only was 2 ½ years old.

I have to tell you that, before I get into the results of her evaluation. Before I tell you how little progress Oli seems to have made in the last 3 years. This is NOT, in any way, a reflection on her teacher.

This is just Oli. This has always been Oli.

You see, progress is slow with her. She does do new things and accomplishes goals every once in a while. It just doesn’t happen very quickly or very often.

It’s hard.

It’s so hard to watch your child work so hard and struggle. To try and to fail. To improve and do something new, only to have it slip away. Some of her new skills have diminished and then disappeared completely. At the beginning of the school year Oli was standing up from the middle of the floor all by herself. She would just stand up and every once in a while she would start walking. Just like any other kid. Then it stopped. It stopped completely and she hasn’t done it at all in 8 months.

Is that skill gone forever? Did she have a seizure that wiped it away? Did she forget how to do it? Did something scare her? Why does she lose these skills so easily?

I don’t know.

That is my universal answer when teachers and therapists ask me “Why doesn’t she do that anymore?”

I don’t know. I don’t have any idea.

I wish I did. I wish I could take a peek inside her brain and figure it out for her. I wish I could just look at her and say “Remember when you did that? Or said that? Can you do it again please?” I wish I had an answer. Something better than, “I don’t know?”

That’s not how it works though. What is the problem for her? Why does she struggle through learning simple things? Why can’t she be potty trained or pull up her pants? Why can’t she remember where her nose is consistently or say hi? Why doesn’t she tell me that she wants eggs for breakfast or tell me she wants to play with the bells? She used to do all of these things.

Why can’t she tell me that she loves me?

So many questions and so very few answers.

Is it her autism, her blindness, her developmental delay, her intellectual disability? What is it?

No one can tell me because they all overlap.

No one has any answers, but everyone asks me. Because I’m her mom. I should know. At least, I feel like I should know.

I’ve never known the most profound sense of helplessness since meeting my baby girl. I’ve never felt so out of control on all things that feel like they need to be controlled.

I’m her mom. I should know what’s going on with her.

But, I don’t. I never have.

I’ve read a few other blog posts written by moms of kids with disabilities and they talk about looking at other moms and being jealous of them and their children. I understand that. I try not to compare my daughter to anybody else’s children, mainly because I did that WAY too much in the beginning, but sometimes…I still do. Not in the uuuggghhh…I hate you because you don’t know how good you’ve got it…way. But…uuuggghhh…Look how easy it is for your kids. I just wish life wasn’t so hard for her…way. I’m jealous of other special needs kids who learn things easier than her or kids that don’t have multiple disabilities. But then I HATE myself for thinking that way because it’s ridiculous. I don’t know that life is any easier for them or any harder for my daughter. There are a lot of kids out there in way more difficult situations. These are things that just should not be compared.

I think sometimes I just want her to get better.

I look at my other two kids and it just all comes so naturally for them. They just learn. No big deal. For Oli everything is such a bigger deal. She can’t see so right there, it’s a whole new ball game trying to teach her. And then her body just doesn’t work all that well. It seems like she wants it to do things and it just doesn’t. She has low tone and poor balance. Her arms are weak. She needs a very long time mentally and in terms of motor planning just to figure out where she’s going and how she’s supposed to get there.

It just isn’t easy.

Reading these evaluations…isn’t easy.

It’s always hard to read the same evaluation year after year.

It’s hard to read “She used to do this…She used to say this…but now she doesn’t.”

It’s hard because I know she’s in there. I know what she’s capable of. I just don’t know why it comes and goes. I don’t know how to make it any better for her.

She does therapy and therapy and more therapy. She gets PT, OT, speech, vision, and O&M at school. She gets PT, OT, speech, and hippotherapy at home. I just always feel like maybe there’s more. Maybe there is that one therapy out there that we’re not doing and that will be the key that unlocks the door.

In my brain I know that it probably doesn’t exist. In my brain I know that we are doing everything.

In my heart? I want to do more.

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