It’s that time of year again. Back to school, farm fields in their last stages of growth, time to reflect and gear up for the new year – all that.
As I was driving home from the high school the other day, I found myself thinking about an old blog post I wrote a couple years ago. A reflective piece of the nature of development in children and how, just because it might be slower doesn’t mean it’s “bad.” If you’d like to read it, it’s here. It’s okay. Go ahead. Just hit the “back” button on your browser when you’re done. I’ll be here.
So, yeah. Some kids are slower than others. Doesn’t mean they aren’t able. Just means they’re wired differently. And maybe rather than seeing them as defective or wrong or “slow,” we should see them as doing exactly what they’re supposed to – on their own terms. Their own timetable. It’s pretty cool.
I was thinking about that post when I was driving, because it’s that time &, again, I see alot of soybean fields with rogue corn stalks standing tall and doing their job. It give me hope and perspective. But I also was thinking about it in terms of Henry and how, here we are, 4 years later.
Henry started high school this year. All 52″ of him. All 65 pounds of him. He entered the halls of kids twice his size and close than 3 times his cognitive level. (He’s at about a kindergarten level. Maybe 1st grade in some areas. So all the kids are at 2-3x his cognitive age) But he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be. I mean, how will it help him grow even a little bit more if he stays with kids at his level? He needs to be pushed a little, challenged a little, taken out of his comfort zone a little in order to develop more.
But when I think about it – how much more is he going to develop. Again, just like EVERY. SINGLE. OTHER. TIME I’ve asked myself that question, I have no idea. He may stay exactly where he is now – at about a 6 year old level. He may spend the next four years just working on using the toilet and not kicking his food off the table. That might literally be all he accomplishes. Or he might not accomplish that. Maybe he’ll accomplish other things instead. (God, if he could READ, what a joy that would be. But I digress.)
So when I think about it, Henry isn’t really like that corn. Yes, he’s doing what he’s going to do at his own rate. It’s slower – way slower – than his neurotypical peers. But, unlike the corn, he’s not just a season or a year behind. It’s more serious than that. It’s more like that corn germinated and is taking decades to grow to maturity, not just one year behind. But, LIKE the corn, he’s still developing into what he’s supposed to be. A Henry-shaped corn stalk. Shorter. Lighter. Maybe with only a cob or two. And maybe it takes 10 years to finish growing instead of one. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s still corn. And Henry is still a person.
I won’t lie. I worry about him. I do. As we’ve moved into high school, we’ve started becoming more acquainted with the post-high school world for people like Henry. Parents of over 18-year olds wondering about SSI and Medicaid and group homes vs independent living. All that. I mean, seriously, I barely know ANYTHING. But I think about it and know that, unless Henry suddenly overdrives his cognitive development, there won’t be any independent living. Probably not a group home. The kid has zero life skills and hasn’t shown any ability to pick them up. He doesn’t care, he can’t focus long enough to learn anything. I don’t know what options are available for someone like Henry. I mean, of course, he’ll be with us as long as that’s possible. But after that?
I just sent his information off to our local group that helps with this stuff – planning and all that. We’ll get an appointment to go in and get him on whatever lists he needs to be on and get some information about what choices and options there are. That will be helpful and take some of the worry off my shoulders.
Just like every other parent out there, I just want him to be happy. To have a life that brings him joy and fulfillment in whatever shape that takes. I want him to love and be loved. And because I know who Henry is and what he brings to the table, I want others to be impacted by his joy and his love and maybe view life a little more colorfully because of his existence. I want him to listen to AC/DC and Parliament Funkadelic and visit farms and dance whenever he wants. I want him to be allowed to sing if he feels like it and jump up and down when he’s excited. I want him to have people who will hold his hand when he’s not sure of something and help him get past his initial reluctance to try a new thing. I want him to march with marching bands and dance with Lady Marmalade and play his own version of air guitar and tell awful knock knock jokes that are thinly veiled attempts to get what he wants. I want him to lie with cows and have a dog and be able to ride in the front seat so he can see everything. I’d love him to have a miniature horse or cow and spend afternoons outside just talking to it. I want him to visit zoos and ball pits and jumpy castles and petting zoos. I want him to be fulfilled. Whatever that means for him.
I know. It’s a lot to ask from a world that doesn’t much care about what people WANT, but rather only wants to know what they can DO. I don’t know how or if he’ll be able to check that box.
Anyway. What I’m thinking about right now. He’s small. He’s slow. He’s not typically gifted. But there’s SO MUCH there. The question is how to tap it. I guess.