Family picture

Family picture

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Special needs - special child

Philip with his sweet little three-year-old cousin

Philip has an obvious special need in his cleft palate and lip, making surgery and speech therapy a part of his life for the long haul. Those are the things you can see, but they aren't who he is. They are merely bumps in his road of life. We have specialists working on those areas.

There are other special needs that accompany almost all children who have been adopted later in life like Philip was. They are less easily seen, but they are there nevertheless.

Just the other day Philip and I visited our zoo with my friend and her children. In our little group was a four-year-old and her seven-year-old sister. The seven-year-old noted that even though Philip was four, just like her sister, he seemed much younger. What a wise and perceptive little girl. She was seeing the special needs of a previously institutionalized child up close and personal.

That's known to so many adoptive parents as REAL AGE vs. chronological age. That is knowing the child is an actual age but realizing that child might be a younger age emotionally and developmentally for a variety of reasons.

When Philip first came home he was three years and about four months old. He looked and acted so much like a typical American two-year-old even though he was three.

Since then, he has made such gains in all areas.

We are very proud of him and his progress.

He has gained about a year and a half in a year's time from what we can see which would put him at around 3 1/2 or so. He turned four in March. That still leaves him with a gap, but . . .

Boy is he closing the gap!

However it's still there, and we respect the need to acknowledge it. He is who he is due to his life's experiences. Even though Philip lived in one of the best foster care villages in the world where people dearly loved him and took such good care of him, he was still institutionalized. It was like living in a really good preschool 24/7.

Now he has been in the cocoon of his family for a little over a year. Philip is thriving. But reality still shows up sometimes.

It did that day at the zoo. Before going home from the zoo, I took Philip to a mini-water area for a cool down time. At first it was all new to him, and he approached it with caution and awkwardness (usually his body movement is one of athletic nimbleness when he feels safe and secure) - arms out at odd angles from a soaked shirt, legs spread a little when he would run because of his dripping wet shorts, and mouth half open in a grin, half open in hesitation. He was beginning to enjoy it, but he still was overwhelmed from the sensory stimulation, so his awkwardness showed up.

At that moment my heart just flooded with love for this precious little boy who is our son forever! At the same time, my heart broke for all he has overcome and has yet to overcome in the future.

I looked around at the other children and then back to Philip. Even though there were many children who were much younger than our son, he looked the youngest by far.

Talking about it later to my sister-in-law, I was saying how I just couldn't exactly describe how Philip looked at that moment. She said that maybe he looked NEW.

He did look "new" playing in the water all over again, almost like when he first came home and was becoming accustomed to his forever family and his new home. He looked so precious and amazing and vulnerable at the same time.

It was in that moment and remembering that little girl's comment a few hours before that I felt the pain of his hidden special need that really has nothing to do with his cleft lip and palate. It was also in that moment that I realized all over again how blessed we are to be this little boy's family, to be a part of his growing up time as he reaches his full potential.

Philip at Chuck E.Cheese

And by watching the way he overcomes at this tender age, his full potential will really be something!


Pam said...

What wise words and what a beautiful post. I can just see that little Philip THRIVING in his family.

Chasity said...

Janet, so beautifully written. We have talked and you know our life as well. Philip is just a wonderful little boy and your family is just a blessing from God. We know God loves us all so much to place our children into our lives. I know and respect those precious times when we stop and truly look at our children and what they have gone through and where they have come from, and to see where they are now.

Jean said...

What a precious little boy you have!~ I know exactly what you mean. It is evident in both of our children. It is humbling and heartbreaking but at the same time we cheer with every milestone they meet. These milestones may be nothing for birth children but when my Anna says she wants to sleep in a big bed or Sarah successfully crosses the monkey bars- I literally jump up and down celebrating with them! Thank you Jesus for these very special children!

I am very excited to follow your journey to ELI!!!

Jocelyn-Chris said...

You guys are doing an awesome job showering Philip with love. He is blossoming (is that okay to say for a boy?!) and it will only get better and better. What a sweetie!