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Offering Hope, Not Don'ts
Offering Hope, Not Don'ts. Great Expectations Pay Off
Jerry E. Sullivan
The Exceptional Parent, February 1997, p. 46-47
©1996 Jerry E. Sullivan
Reprinted with the expressed consent and approval of The Exceptional Parent, a monthly magazine for parents and families of children with disabilities and special health care needs.|
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Helping Danny thrive
We read everything we could find on developmental delays and found a treatise on "thriving." It said in the first months of life, babies learn to embrace the world or retreat from it, depending on whether their parents embrace or retreat from them.
Based on this approach, I started raising Danny as if he did not have Down syndrome. Games, rough-housing and reading became part of Danny's daily regimen.
Because we started reading to Danny early on, he developed an appetite for books as voracious as any reader. He marvels in being read to and brings us his favorites when he decides it is "story time." He takes delight in turning pages; each is a new adventure to him.
So far, only one of the dire predictions we heard over two years ago has occurred: Danny's speech is somewhat delayed. Instead, he shows a remarkable ability for sign language. It has become his second set of vocabulary.
Now halfway between his second and third birthdays, Danny is ahead of where "normal" two-and-a-half-year-olds should be in some skills. Predicted to have low muscle tone and delayed physical development, he throws with vigor-balls, pens, blocks, car keys and crystal all have discovered flight at his hands.
Staying the course
Before Danny was born, we had high hopes for his life. His diagnosis temporarily caused us to lose hope.
But our resolve to stay the course has yielded wonderful dividends. Looking back, we know we did not need to diminish our expectations for Danny.
Children with special needs are blessings. They can teach us more about living than any textbook. By raising them properly, we are directly contributing to society's understanding of children with disabilities so that they, too, can make meaningful contributions.
Major Jerry Sullivan is Media Relations Officer for the Office of the Chief, Army Reserve in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in political science and resides at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, with his wife, Sharon, and three children, Danny (2), Sarah (5) and Steven (7).
Fathers' Voices is a regular feature of The Exceptional Parent magazine. This column, usually coordinated by James May, Project Director of the National Father's Network, focuses on fathers' experiences rearing children with special needs. Your contributions to this column are encouraged.
For more information about the National Fathers' Network (NFN) or to receive their newsletter, write or call: National Fathers' Network, The Kindering Center, 16120 N.E. Eighth Street, Bellevue WA 98008, (206) 747-4004 or (206) 284-9664 (fax). Funded by a Maternal and Child Health Bureau grant, the NFN provides networking opportunities for fathers; develops support and mentoring programs; and creates curriculum promoting fathers as significant, nurturing people in their children's and families' lives.