Years ago, when my husband and I were foster parents, the sweetest almost 5-yr old girl arrived into our care. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed by a psychologist as mentally retarded confirming an earlier diagnosis prior to foster care. Starting Kindergarten, we were told she would never learn to read. And yet, despite her 10-word vocabulary, my husband and I remained convinced that people underestimated her potential. She had grown up in an environment where she was under stimulated.
We began working with the doctor to wean her off the psychiatric drugs she had been started on before foster care (the birth family had convinced the doctors that she was mentally ill and self-abusing) and started talking to her throughout the day. The response was phenomenal. She began bonding to us immediately and increasing in vocabulary. It was an amazing thing to see.
In the early years, the differences between her and her peers were not so apparent but as she aged, they became more pronounced. It became difficult for her to make friends with other children and she began to become more and more withdrawn from them. At church, the children were kind and polite, but she was never included in birthday parties and the like. At school, she was taunted by the other kids, but seemed to be successful making friends in the special education classroom. My husband and I finally realized that, if she was going to make friends, it would have to be within her own peer group.
Throughout her life, she has participated in Special Olympics, The ARC of Sedgwick County, and just this year, Laughing Feet Productions. These organizations allow people with developmental disabilities to do the things that other people take for granted including normal social activities. Socialization would be difficult without these opportunities. Because of these organizations, our adopted daughter has been able to be a cheerleader; play on a soccer team, t-ball team, basketball team, and volleyball team; run track; bowl in a league; go on overnight fieldtrips and other outings with friends and without her parents; and perform on stage before a live audience in a professional venue.
Many people support these organizations allowing those like my daughter to get some of the same satisfaction out of life that most of us take for granted. I wonder how many of these contributors realize just what a difference they make in the lives of those served by these organizations. This past week-end, my daughter and her friends put on a performance on stage that made them feel like movie stars and received a standing ovation. I just want to say thank you to the volunteers and financial contributors who make opportunities like this available. You are heroes in my eyes. Does anyone agree?