She speaks for herself this 5th Apraxia Awareness Day.
I remember being in 1st or 2nd grade, the age Ashlynn is now. I was always struggling to fit in.
There was a girl in our class who had special needs. I remember she wore this heavy, pink, furry coat and she talked with slurred speech. She would sit outside, even on the hottest of days in that coat. Usually, she was by herself. I don’t remember how it came out, but my mom told me one day I should spend one recess a week with her as she must feel so lonely because she didn’t have anyone to play with. I looked at her like she MUST be kidding.
“Mom!! I can’t sit with her!!!” I remember saying imploringly. I knew she might be sad, but that would kill my chances in the “fit in” department.
“Well, Laura” my mom would say, “I hope one day when you are lonely, the same kindness you showed will be given to you.”
There it was, the Catholic guilt, and can I just say it’s a thing and it works?
So, there I went….every Thursday I think, and I sat under this tree she liked to sit under and we played jacks. I remember her laughing and smiling, more than I had ever seen her; and instead of feeling good I was being kind to someone and making their whole day if not whole week, I was so consumed with worrying how I would be perceived and if the kids would thrust me to the position of outcast because I was playing with one.
How awful is that? I would like to remind everyone I was 7 or 8. It’s not a memory I am proud of, trust me.
I think of that girl a lot since I’ve had Ashlynn. Ashlynn ( I don’t think) has ever been an outcast. That girl makes friends everywhere. She has not come home crying because her feelings have been hurt. Even when she had few words, she was one of the most social people in the classroom.
Ashlynn though cannot stand for others to be alone. She just simply will not have it. She thinks nothing of needing to fit in, or worrying about how she will be perceived. If someone is alone, it simply must not be.
I relayed a couple months ago about the boy with autism who started her school two months ago. I just happened to be in the lunchroom when he was sitting by himself and the girl with apraxia of speech yelled (literally) across the lunchroom and told him to come sit by her. I just met his parents this weekend at the school carnival and they said this boy comes home daily and tells them Ashlynn is his best friend.
This weekend we went for Mother’s Day to visit my grandma, (Ashlynn’s Great-Grandma) in the nursing home. A resident named Mary sat outside the activity room smiling, and literally looking longingly from the outside in. Before I knew it, Ashlynn was out in the hallway talking to her. My sister calls it “spreading her sunshine wherever she goes.”
She had the woman smiling and laughing. They read a poster together, and then Ashlynn did some OT with her and had her putting her hands in the air and out to the side.
At one point I just stared out into the hallway. I was thinking of how when I went out of my way to be kind and offer company to a person who was lonely, I only did it because I was told to and I wanted someone to be nice to me if Karma ever bit me in the butt….and I’m looking at my own child, who I have never instructed to play with the lonely, and she seeks them out and brings them joy not because she has to or because she was told to….but because she genuinely WANTS to. You can see, it feeds her soul.
I will get comments that I am raising her right, but honestly, she teaches me more than I think I teach her. I was feeling rather uninspired this #apraxiaawarenessday until I saw her at the assisted living facility and I realized….
Though Ashlynn can now communicate with words, they are still not easy to come. I’m not sure if it is because she has apraxia, but Ashlynn speaks the language of emotion, love, and nonverbal communication. She is most certainly a healer, seeking out the broken. She will never make honor roll for this amazing human quality and talent, but it is most certainly a skill most people (like me) would benefit from learning, and she has it naturally.
I used to use Apraxia Awareness Day to prove how my amazing daughter was because she couldn’t speak for herself. This 5th Apraxia Awareness Day, I don’t need to prove who Ashlynn is to anyone. She is quite capable of doing that now all on her own and she still doesn’t need words. I feel blessed and often unworthy of being her mother.
As night falls on this 5th Apraxia Awareness Day, which also happens to fall on Mother’s Day, I want the world to simply know Ashlynn is so much more than her apraxia, and I don’t have to prove it anymore. If you are around her for 5 minutes and are really looking, you will see for yourself. Before I knew about apraxia I quoted on facebook lyrics from Martina McBride’s song “In My Daughter’s Eyes.” I had a different frame of reference before apraxia entered my life, but now I realize, apraxia changed nothing. It’s all still as relevant and true as it was then as it is now.
As I put Ashlynn and my son Jace to bed tonight I told each of them individually on this Mother’s Day, “Thank you for making me a mom.”
Happy Mother’s Day AND Apraxia Awareness Day
In my daughter’s eyes,
I am a hero,
I am strong and wise,
And I know no fear,
But the truth is plain to see,
She was sent to rescue me,
I see who I want to be,
In my daughter’s eyesIn my daughter’s eyes,
Everyone is equal,
Darkness turns to light,
And the world is at peace,
This miracle God gave to me,
Gives me strength when I am weak,
I find reason to believe,
In my daughter’s eyes