We were at the library when my husband Ben asked me out on our first date. I was leaving from a meeting in one of the conference rooms when I ran into him looking at the used books for sale. I walked over to say hello, and he wrote my phone number down on the inside front cover of one of the books he later had to buy.
The first time I went to his house when we were dating, I was surprised to find that he had even more books than I did. Now we read chapters from novels to each of the kids every night and then also let the older two pick out three of their own books to read before bed. There are books in every room of the house, and all three of the kids can be caught turning pages when they are playing alone.
Jack’s favorites are about bugs or dinosaurs. Ellie likes to read about dogs, bunnies or other fuzzy animals and she enjoys looking at picture books about babies. Gus is into bright colors and different shapes, but his favorite part of reading is sitting in someone’s lap.
We have purchased and been gifted books about special needs. There are a number of them that we don’t finish and end up just putting in the donate pile. Ben and I are intentional about how we want the kids to learn about special needs and a lot of the books don’t make the cut.
Each of our kids are unique, but that doesn’t make one of them more special than another. They like different foods or toys. They all have different hair and eye color. They each have a favorite song they like to sing and game they like to play. Being different is just the way it is at our house and no one gets special treatment for it.
One of my favorite quotes of Ben’s is from when he was asked about raising a kid like Ellie. He said, “Just because she has Down syndrome does not mean she is entitled to any more of my patience than the others.”
A package arrived in the mail the other day for Jack, Ellie and Gus. It was from some of our favorite people in Tulsa – a family of five who has a working understanding of occupational therapy and kids with special needs.
They sent us a book called “Let’s Go Play.” A card was included in the front of the book from author Shelby McCarthy that describes the book as introducing “eleven pieces of adaptive equipment, or ‘tools,’ while encouraging inclusion through imaginative play.”
Jack and Ellie sat in my lap to read the book for the first time. As we flipped through the pages, we read about leg braces, standers, wheelchairs, glasses, hearing aids, g-tubes and many other tools that help kids do things like drive race cars, play basketball, dance on stage and go to outer space.
This book has become a favorite in the nightly rotation and already has worn pages. Instead of focusing on the disability or the clunky equipment each kid has, it uses creativity and pretend to make the tools part of the game and changes the narrative of therapy from work to play.
While putting Jack to bed last night, he asked me about the day he was born. He then told me about when Gus was born and who was there. He also remembered going to visit Ellie in the hospital. He told me about walking the halls with Papa and riding in the wagons that the hospital provided.
He met Ellie about six weeks after she was born but met Gus on his birthday. Ellie was hooked up to machines and tubes but he got the opportunity to hold Gus. He doesn’t see these experiences as different even though they were completely opposite. Just because she has some special needs or additional accessories, it does not mean she gets any more of his attention.
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