Friday, October 31, 2008

Looking for STARING STORIES

I'm working on a paper about parents of children with disabilities, specifically parents’ reactions to STARING. I want to explore parents’ reactions, dealing with stares, how it makes them feel, how they react, if they intervene and if so, how, and so on.

If you have any stories to share, please email me at twxee@aol.com. I will not use your or your child's real names, of course!

Also please feel free to pass this around to anyone else you think can help!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Capacities and Capabilities

A strange thing about Jordan—or maybe the least strange thing about him—is that whatever people think he isn’t capable of doing is what he wants to excel at. He was born with multiple orthopedic issues such as dislocated hips, a dislocated knee, club feet, and the ability to only move one of his toes (the big toe on his left foot). He walks with a walker or forearm crutches (we call them “ski poles), and he wears braces.

He is very smart and verbal and always has been. But what he wants to excel in are physical things. He throws himself around, he fights with swords, he does stunts on his walker. He is already planning his fifth birthday party—9 months away—as a wrestling party, more specifically, a “smackdown” party. It’s going to take me these 9 months to convince him to have a different theme!

Over the summer, we went to a birthday party for a girl in his class. It was at one of those “bouncetown” places. Right when we got there, the birthday girl’s mother came over to us and said, “There are some things over there that Jordan can play with!” pointing to the “soft play” area for infants. There were about four little foamy pillow-like things for babies to play with on the floor. “Yeah, sure,” I thought. “Just watch him.” He then went and climbed up a huge slide using only his arms, used a rope to climb up another one of the bouncy things, and truly kept up with all the other kids.

Recently when we were going through a lot of stressful things with both my husband’s and my family, it was affecting Jordan at school. He “kept to himself” in the classroom, the teacher told us. But still, out on the playground, he was the usual leader, getting his classmates to trail after him while playing “cops,” and “arresting” nearly every kid on the playground.

Last week they had a bike-a-thon at his school to benefit St. Jude’s. We brought his arm-powered Amtryke in for him to use. He needed help getting around the track, but he told us he “won” the bike-a-thon. I don't want him to be deluded about his physical skills, but I do want his confidence to last.

“I’m wiggling my toe!” he said to me the other day. That was his first acknowledgement about the movement in his toes. But the interesting thing—he didn’t say, “I can’t move nine of my toes.” It was that he can move one of them. The old clich├ęs apply—he’s teaching me more than I’m teaching him. How am I supposed to reconcile not liking it when people say that he is “inspirational” with my own feelings that he does inspire me? He does reveal things to me every day. I feel like I'm not doing any of this; I'm just along for the ride, his loyal follower.