Regular readers of my blog will know that I have an adopted daughter and for those that are new, I have an adopted daughter! (catch my last blog here) My daughter has special needs that falls under what seems to be an all encompassing banner called Global Developmental Delay (GDD) and from what I can gather, that basically means in medical terminology “we don’t have a clue”.
Now my wife and I are fairly new to the scene when it comes to parenting a child with special needs however we have been parents for over 6 years so have a good idea of what we are doing, I don’t want people to think that we are saintly as that’s not the intention, I just want to give more of an insight into how we have got on so far.
We first met our daughter over a year ago following a successful bid on the childrens auto trader. The medical reports were extensive for a kid that was only 11 months old at the time and they basically said “this kid is different, we don’t know why but don’t expect any great things in life” a diagnosis which is pretty bloody hard to swallow for a kid so young but this was backed up by her consultant who said “she will be what is known as a retard, I would be surprised if she walked let alone met any milestone”.
Despite my grumpy and sometimes harsh exterior (you should see my twitter feed) I am actually a big fan of children, if I could I would have a house full and I would have as many adopted kids as possible, however that isn’t practical or indeed sensible. When I read these reports prior to seeing my future daughter, my blood boiled. Medically they were writing off this 11 month old child which also meant that social services were writing her off too. The cold hard truth was that out of the few hundred people to apply for our little girl, it was only us who were willing to explore her medical issues further, had we not then she would have remained in foster care and/or a children’s home for the rest of her life. Both my wife and I agreed this couldn’t happen.
When we first met our daughter she was to be frank and honest, a right mess with a snotty nose and hair the size of a small village (my daughter has big naturally curly hair that is a nightmare to control). She was very clingy, rolling her eyes back and forth and couldn’t sit up or even move that much. She was a blob on the floor and if you were to stereotype the look of a special needs kid, she would be it. I looked at her and immediately saw something behind those glazed eyes, my wife did too….Screw you experts, we’re not writing her off just yet.
Over the course of the following few months both my wife and I heavily researched GDD and looked at what we could do to improve this little bundle of hairs chances of a semi normal life but the truth is, nobody really knows what the causes are or how to treat them, so we opted for good straightforward parenting. Once the handover had started we got to work which involved stripping back all of her routines from the sleep pattern to her daily activities. This was done alongside weaning her off her milk only diet (which the foster carers thought was best) and introducing her to solids, this resulted in her going from having 4 teeth to having another 6 come through within 5 days.
Now it could be argued that by doing all of this straight away, in a new home with new people, we could have caused some psychological damage however we worked off the opinion that the risk of that was far better than her continuing on the path she was on. We taught her to sit up and immediately started socialising her with other people, this was made easier by her two new brothers who immediately got hands on and treated her like a normal kid.
Over the course of the 6 months that followed we taught our daughter:
- to crawl
- to roll over
- to drink from a cup
- to eat solid foods
- to sleep in a proper cot
- to sleep 12 hours without the need for milk
- to feed herself
- to play with others
- to sign certain things like “I love you”
- to kiss
- to laugh
- to be more independent
- to dance
- to love
- to walk
Our daughter still can’t talk and communicates with sign language, grunts, shrieks and the occasional throwing of items. Our daughter will always need the assistance of others and will as we term it, forever be a “peter pan”. We have plateaued slightly in her development but compared to where she was and what was expected of her, we are fine with that. There are a few other challenges such as being food obsessed, lack of an instep and some major major tantrums. She also has the ability to turn her tear ducts on and off to such an extent that you would think she was losing a limb!
Everybody looks at kids with GDD as being a handful and when I tell other people that I have a daughter with it, I get a pitying “oh you poor thing” which really angers me. Yes it is harder to look after our little girl compared to our “normal” kids however the rewards we get are unbelievable. Our principles are that our daughter gets treated like a child, not like a child with special needs. She has 2 brothers who won’t stand for preferential treatment of a sibling but who also treat her normally.
I know not all parents who have kids with GDD will be able to associate with this story. There are varying degrees of GDD and there are also hundreds of other conditions that children can have, all of which require massive commitment from the parents. To these people I say “you are my hero’s” your hard work is noted and without people like you, society would be a darker place.
When some people found out we were adopting a kid with issues they said and I quote this “what are you doing that for? Your life will be ruined” to which I say “define ruined?” Because if it is seeing a completely innocent little cherub bouncing around my bedroom every morning or running towards me for cuddles the very instant my feet hit the doormat, then yes my life is ruined in your eyes but in my eyes my life is perfect……
Apart from next doors cat shitting in my garden.