Tag Archives: blind child

The page that I’m on

11 Dec

Some days I look at her and I can’t believe how lucky I am.

Not everyone has an Oli.

Some days I look at her and I can’t believe how lucky she is.

She’s not sick. She’s not in the hospital. She’s not hooked up to any machines. She’s alive.

And some days just the fact that those are my blessings, makes my stomach turn.

It still feels like a rollar coaster ride some days. A lot of days. But not as many as before.

I can look at her now and most of the time not compare her to her friends. To her classmates. To the kids who were supposed to be her classmates.

Every once in a while I’ll get a glimpse of the little girl who I thought she would become.

Sometimes it’s in a photograph. Sometimes it’s in a dream.

Every time it makes me lose my breath.

Like someone just punched me in the stomach and I can’t quite get enough air into my body.

I saw a picture once of Oli portrayed in a book as a ballarina. She was smiling at the camera; looking at the camera. She was beautiful in that picture. Such a perfect little seven year old girl, dressed up in a tutu, posing for a picture. I can’t look at that page in the book. That’s not my Oli and if I start imagining and pretending it is… I will grieve for the loss of that little girl all over again.

I don’t want to lose that little girl all over again.

And some days… I just do.

Some months she will progress so much. She will speak a few words, take a few steps, stop stimming so much… and I will begin to believe that she will make it. That she will become the little girl that grazes my dreams every once in a while.

But then she’ll stop.

She always stops.

And then she’ll go backwards.

And then I lie awake at night and wonder what I did. What did I do? Did I not praise her enough? Did I not do enough at home? Was there some therapy that I should have looked into? What would have made the difference this time? What could I have done to propel her forward? To keep her where she was and not keep falling behind.

I think about that for a few days and then I remember.

This is Oli

This is who she is.

At some point after she was born I stopped agreeing with other parents who told me that she was going to be okay. And by “okay” they meant that she would catch up to her peers.

I think that maybe they believed it.

I probably believed it too.

Or maybe we were all just trying to make me feel better.

Now, no one tells me that she will catch up. No one tells me that she will be okay. At seven years old, no one believes it anymore I guess.

I miss how it was before.

Tonight I sit at my computer trying to figure out how I’m going to schedule ALL of her therapy sessions that she gets now.

Occupational therapy

Physical therapy

Speech therapy

Music therapy

Massage therapy

Aquatic therapy

Hippotherapy

I start to question just what it is that I’m doing?

What am I doing?

Are these helping her? Are they helping us?

What are we doing?

I fight and I fight and I fight.

I research different therapies and teaching techniques. I go to ARD’s at school and fight for more services.

I fight for her home therapy sessions.

Her home PT cut her therapy in half.

And I fought.

And I lost.

I lost that one. She doesn’t get as much home physical therapy as she used to and I’m pissed.

Don’t they KNOW how much she needs it?! Don’t they KNOW that she is almost walking independently? Don’t they KNOW?!

Yes. They probably do know. They probably know what I am reluctant to admit.

That all of these things are just not helping like they used to.

That Oli has come as far as she will come right now.

So what do I do?

Do I give up? Do I cut back?

Do I sit and hold and hug and kiss my daughter more? Do I do all of the things that normal families do with their children if they’re not in hours and hours of therapy sessions?

How is this affecting my other children?

What does Oli’s schedule do to them?

They never complain. At 9 and 4 years old, her brother and sister have not once, ever complained.

If you ask my son if he ever gets jealous of Oli’s attention, he just looks at you like you’re speaking another language.

Trust me, I’ve had this conversation with him.

“What do you mean mom? Oli needs help.”

But as their mother, at some point, I have to stop and consider us as a whole family supporting each other.

Not all of us supporting Oli.

But how can I look at this amazing little girl and not offer up the whole world for her?

How can I look at her and see just how far she really has come and not want to do more?

How can I get access to all of these wonderful therapies and say no?

What if it helps?

What if it works this time?

What if she begins to walk and talk?

What if I stop and she never does? Was it because we didn’t do everything?

I’m not sure, at this point, that I can live with the thought of not doing everything.

So…If you ask me what it feels like to be a special needs parent I will tell you this,

It feels like you are reading an amazing story with excitement and joy and suspense and so much love. You get to the last chapter because you just know that it is going to be the best ending ever….

And the entire last chapter is missing.

It’s just not there.

You have so many questions. Did she speak? Did she walk? Did she go to the prom? Did she have a best friend? Did she ever play with her brother and sister or learn to ski or go fishing or read a book or even learn the alphabet?

You don’t know.

You’ll never, ever know.

Until one day you stumble upon an old, threadbare copy of that same book sitting on the back shelf of some dusty, second hand book store.

You pay $1 for the copy and rush home to read that final chapter, only to realize…

That the ending never really mattered all that much.

It was the journey to the end that is what made the story.

So that’s how we live here.

We live the journey and not the destination.

I live my life one page at a time.

I live my life knowing that the last chapter is missing.

And I try to make the best of the page that I’m on.

And then there were two…

18 Jul

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the ICAN conference in Chicago, IL. ICAN stands for the International Children’s Anophthalmia/Microphthalmia Network. Every two years, children and families from all over the world, travel to learn about and meet other people with anophthalmia and microphthalmia.

It’s always great to learn about the new technology available for blind people. It’s always fantastic to learn about new advancements in the treatment of these conditions.

But nothing beats what it feels like to look at another child or another family that knows exactly what your life is like.

No one knows what it’s like to raise a blind baby, to deal with the trials and tribulations of conformer therapy, to deal with other people who stare at your child…

Than other parents with a child just like yours.

No one knows about the breakdowns in the car because someone said something hurtful about your beautiful daughter…

Except another family who has walked in your shoes.

No one knows what it’s like to hide your newborn baby underneath a pile of blankets in her car seat because you just can’t stand to have one more person comment on how your very wiggly, giggly, very AWAKE baby, is sleeping because she can’t open her eyes…

Than the other mom who has had it happen to her.

The families that I met this weekend? Know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

It’s so refreshing to talk about all of these things and to look into another mom’s eyes and see that flash of recognition. That spark of “Yes! Yes! That’s happened to me! That’s how I feel!” I don’t have to explain everything. Half the time, I didn’t even have to finish my story. I would get half way through and then see her head start to bob up and down and a knowing smile, play on her lips. Ahhhh…yes. You get it.

There was still some explaining to be done though. There were still a lot of walking, talking, interactive blind children running around the halls that weekend.

There were many many children who were NOT like my Oli.

To be honest…it makes me feel a little bit weird and strange to be around them. I feel kind of awkward. I don’t know what to say to a talking blind kid. Give me a non-verbal, blind kiddo with multiple disabilities and I feel right at home. Otherwise, I’m out in deep water. Do I offer my hand to them? How do I introduce myself? What do I say?

I’m just not used to it. I don’t know that life. I only know my own.

It was still pretty cool though. I was sitting at dinner and was watching a new friend talk to her son at the table. She was telling him where his knife and fork were. That there was a little lip on the edge of the plate. And then she took his hand and guided it over the plate to show him. I could only stare and smile and think to myself, “Yes. I must be doing it right. I do all of those things with Oli even though she can’t tell me if that’s correct or not. It must be, otherwise this other little boy would tell his mom that it wasn’t.” I need to see those kinds of things. I need to know that I’m doing it right with Oli.

There was one little girl that I just can’t get out of my head. A 14 year old girl from Italy. She was just like my Oli. After seeing her, I don’t think I’ll doubt Oli’s autism diagnosis again.

Little Eliza from Italy was JUST like Oli and she also has the diagnosis of autism. She too, is totally blind and non verbal.

Her and her parents sat next to us at dinner on Saturday. I had spoken to her parents a little during the day. The geneticist wanted me to talk to them about some different forms of communication techniques and tactile symbols, to use with her.

I knew that when they described her, I had that look on my face. I know that as I listened to her mother speak about her, I had that spark in my eyes. “Yes. Yes! I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

Meeting Eliza, was a whole different experience. I have never met another child that was like Oli. I mean like her in EVERY SINGLE WAY!

I couldn’t take my eyes off of her during dinner. Her mannerisms, behaviors, the way she moved her hands, the way she ate her food, the way she relied on her mom…it was ALL like Oli.

It may have been a little strange for her parents. More than once they caught me with my mouth hanging open, looking like an a-hole, staring, smiling, and nodding in their daughter’s direction. More than once I had to excuse myself and say, “Oh my gosh!! She’s just so much like my daughter!! I’ve never seen that before! I’m sorry for staring.”

More than once I felt like bursting into tears because I was just so happy that I had found another mom who knew what it was like.

There are, of course, other children born blind and who have the autism diagnosis. I’ve met some of them.

They were not like Oli.

I later asked the genetic counselor at the convention what made Eliza and Oli so similar. They have the same eye condition, but different gene deletions. Oli is missing the OTX2 gene, while Eliza is missing the SOX2 gene.

She couldn’t really give me a definite answer, other than to say that there had to be some genetic correlation that caused the blindness and the autism. Somewhere in those genes lies the answer, or rather, the missing answer to the puzzle. Something about those missing genes that caused their eyes not to develop and then whatever caused the autism, is the same in Oli and Eliza.

It was fascinating.

The next day when it was time to leave, I said good bye to Eliza at breakfast. She took my hand in hers and ran her fingers over and over my palm. She found my ring and was twisting it around. She smiled and smiled… Her mom said, “Wow! She really likes you!” I told her “I know. It’s because I just totally understand her. It’s because we have this bond that ties us together. It’s because of Oli.”

And that is the story of the day that I finally met another child like Oli.

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