By Tom and Sherry Bushnell
(Editor's note: This article is in no way meant to ridicule or belittle professionals. If you choose to take advantage of early intervention programs with a private or public therapist, we honor your choice, and pray God's blessing on your beginning with your disabled child.)
A weak cry interrupted the silent delivery room.
"I can't believe this baby is alive," the obstetrician whispered to the delivery nurse.
"Let's get this little one the warming table, STAT!"
The mother lying still and her husband, now a father, looked on quiet and scared. It had all happened so quickly. Who was to know the short cord was wrapped so tightly around their baby's neck, pulling off the placenta in delivery. What would happen now? Would their baby live? Their birth, their baby... now in the hands of others. Mommy closed her eyes and prayed with all her might for her pale baby girl, moving her little arms weakly in protest to the nurse and pediatric specialist's administrations. Tubes and wires now connected to every orifice, she looked more like a baby robot in a science fiction movie.
A nurse peeked into the sad scene, taking in the parents' frightened state and alerted the head nurse to start the paper work, a chain of events that would start a stream of professionals that very evening that would not cease until the baby died, now or years later.
Sweet baby girl stabilized now, released many of the specialists to leave the room, mommy recovered from the birth with daddy in another room, waiting, waiting.
A pediatric specialist the next morning greets the family with a smile of hope. "She made it! However, the tests will no doubt reveal some brain damage from lack of oxygen."
Daddy grinning, "But, thankfully she is alive. She is quite the fighter."
"I am very sorry you have had to go through all of this," the specialist said softly. "We will make every effort to encourage you and assist you in the care now, and in the future. I know that this is a lot to take in right now. Be assured, our programs are the finest in the area. You really need not worry too much."
Daddy smiles slightly, questioning, "In the case she does make it, will she ever walk or talk?"
"Of course it is too early to tell, but we will help you make every effort to help her do so." The professional rose to leave. "We'll know more in a week or two. In the mean time, in the next day or two, before you leave the hospital, our social worker will visit you and get the paper work rolling so we can help."
This scenario is repeated thousands of times a week. Early intervention starts at birth. Most parents know of no other way. They are scared, confused, grieved, a feeling of helplessness overpowering them mentally. This makes a caring social worker a real blessing, as she eases sadness and reassures the parents of hope.
Homeschooling is probably the farthest thought from the minds of parents so struck with the whole idea of disability. Most parents have never even given the idea of dealing with a handicap a realistic thought.
The term early intervention has come to mean to most actual professionals intervening in a child's life from birth on until 2 years old.
However, the activities that encompass early intervention come naturally for most all parents, if they would think about it. Hind sight is always better than trying to guess into the future.
When our son Jordan was born with Down syndrome and came home, we were literally flooded with opportunities to "advance" him. A new way... hopeful exercises, and therapy to make him more normal? All of these "necessities" and more, we struggled to mingle with meeting the needs of our other children, church, a landscape business, and being a family. STRESS. We began to wonder if, in all the professionals' well meaning, they meant to keep us helpless to resume normalcy, keeping them in a job.
The hope of being a normal family began as a root of independence rose in mommy's heart. The therapist sent out to do our home early intervention was no more capable than mommy. In spite of Jordan's progress, the interventionist would not make a check mark on her special chart is she didn't see Jordan perform. ( Usually right before or after nap time when he was sleepy.) Grrrrr...
Propping Jordan up with pillows so he would "learn to sit up", did not make sense, as Jordan was not even rolling over yet. Any experienced mother knows that muscles are not ready yet until they can do this! Mommy started reading books on Down syndrome and early intervention. She located catalogs that the therapists order from. Armed with information, our family withdrew from the helpful, government programs that we felt were setting us up for failure.
As the years have gone on, we have continued on this same path of searching for information when we were at a brick wall in development.
We are firmly convinced that therapies and education, including early intervention, done by parents, puts a child and family miles ahead. (Excluding medical needs of course.) Our priorities for education and behavior are very different than the public's one-size-fits-all. We wanted Jordan to be capable of living within a family, our family, for as long as the Lord so willed.
This meant that he needed family socialization, not institutional style socialization. We wanted him to be a blessing to whomever he would live with.
This has worked out really well for us. Jordan is now 13. We can say he is just the way the Lord wants him, and we would not want him any other way either.
Perhaps you know of others who are contemplating the idea of early intervention at home or even homeschooling. There are literally thousands of us who have made this their lifestyle and reaped wonderful rewards.
After the initial shock of dealing with the idea of disability, Christian parents are looking for ways to implement a Godly education for their disabled child.
Just because we have a child with special needs, we need not be helpless recipients of the world's buffet of "help". The fact that the Lord has given us a different life than we planned can be an excellent way to reach others for Christ.
Being a normal family again is great!