I was told, “Shelby would never learn to love and that I might have to institutionalize her.” She had just turned four years old when a therapist delivered this news. I was speechless, numb, and could not even speak after she told me this. I knew if I said anything, I would fall apart. I calmly gathered my things, took my daughter by the hand and walked out of her office. I never returned.
Shelby was born in March of 1995. She was a delightful baby who interacted and responded appropriately or what one might say as “normal.” I prefer to use “typical” instead. She hit all her milestones in those first sixteen months. Shelby was a thriving, happy, healthy baby and was moving into those toddler years as expected when the unexpected happened. Five viruses in a seven and a half month period hit my baby hard.
Roseola, which is very common in infants and young children, came first followed by Fifth Disease. Immediately following that round of viruses, she was ill once again with Roseola. She recovered but then broke out with Roseola for a third time, only to be followed shortly with Fifth Disease once again. You can imagine our shock and dismay, our little girl was terribly sick. That time period was also paired with constant ear infections. The never-ending antibiotics left her with a spiraling downward immune system.
She recovered virus free, or so we thought, after her almost eight month bout of illness. It was soon after that, around the 24 months age, that we started to notice she was not progressing. She never really lost her language, but continued to use only the handful of words (about twenty), that she already had. Most of which were nouns. We were on a slippery slope as Shelby began to disengage, in other words she checked out!
I was given very little hope. Discouragement could have gotten the better of me, but when I looked into my daughter’s eyes and held that sweet girl in my arms something happened. I soon had the ammunition, energy, and perseverance to do something. I figured out a plan of attack to help my daughter. Shelby had atypical behavior, but somehow I knew deep down there was hope for my child. People thought I was crazy to go the medical route, but I listened to my inner voice. I leaned on a mother’s intuition and plunged in with all of my heart and soul. And I never looked back.
Speech and language, occupational therapy, vision therapy, social communications group, auditory integration training (AIT), behavior modification, and at first monthly and then every eight weeks doctor visits paired with blood work… became our world. Expensive does not even begin to cover it. Emotionally, mentally, physically, financially… your entire world changes! But when “Hope” is on your side, your push through and just do it!
The road has been discouraging often over the years. Still my daughter’s triumphs have dimmed those low times. Shelby is getting ready to graduate High School with an almost 4.0 GPA. She is a member of the National Honor Society, takes part in the FFA, was accepted as a Junior Curator at the Museum of National Science in downtown Raleigh, NC, and is living her life to the fullest. She will be attending a University in the fall 2013 and her plans are to major in Biochemistry or something of that nature. She is excited to explore all her options but loves the sciences. She is also passionate about history, animal science, and math.
Shelby has an inner strength and courage that I marvel at. I could not be more proud. She has climbed many mountains and won! Had I listened, even for a moment, to that therapist almost fourteen years ago when she delivered that horrific statement, I truly don’t know where Shelby would be. I’m grateful that I was never sucked into believing that there was no hope for my daughter. I shiver at the thought.
Shelby is one of the most loving, kind, sweet, passionate people I know. She feels deeply and loves freely. She has a keen sense of when others need a hand and is right there to help, to cheer, to make a difference. Once a caterpillar all cocooned, today a beautiful butterfly whose is spreading her wings to fly!
What a blessing, a gift, and a treasured gem my daughter is in my life. Lucky me!