Special Needs Shout-Out! {Hannah}

My sweet Hannah Christine is fourteen and a half years old today!  She adores her eighteen year old brother, Tyler and wants to meet, date, and/or marry Justin Bieber!  

Tiffany:  Can you tell us about the day you found out that Hannah would have special needs?  What stands out the most to you about this day?  

Wendy: The phone rang at 2:30 on the afternoon of February 11, 1998.  My four year old son was on a play date at the neighbor's house and my husband was on a business trip.  The caller was my OB-GYN.  From her hushed tones, I knew that something was wrong.  In the next moment, the doctor shared the words that would change my life forever: "You are carrying a little girl, and I'm so sorry to tell you that she has Trisomy 21."  Then,  she stopped talking.  As a speech-language pathologist, I didn't need her to tell me that my precious, longed for daughter would be born with Down syndrome.  My heart broke in that moment.  Fear rushed in.  Thoughts that I would never see my daughter walk down the aisle, go to prom, have best friends, or learn swirled in my head.  Then, we began to talk.  I had agreed to undergo prenatal testing after miscarrying Hannah's twin early in my pregnancy.  The thought was not that there would ever be a choice to be made about having my baby, rather that we would be prepared if there was a medical issue to face.  In hindsight, however, I can honestly say that I never expected to receive that phone call.  What stands out the most about that conversation was that time seemed to stand still.  I remember the light pouring in the kitchen window.  I remember having to sit down because I couldn't breathe and I remember telling my doctor that I knew, deep in my heart, that God was sending her to the right place.  I was a therapist and already had a knowledge base about kids with disabilities, and I was familiar with the Oklahoma Soonerstart early intervention program.  I, at least, knew where to begin the journey.  

Tiffany:  How were you able to make it through the first few days/weeks/months/years after her diagnosis?  

Wendy: I spent the following week overwhelmed with emotion.  I grieved the many things I feared this little girl would face or go without in her lifetime.  After a week of darkness, I settled in and began researching Down syndrome.  I contacted the National Down Syndrome Society and asked to be connected with a parent mentor.  I started compiling a notebook of things to be aware of and things to expect.  And I prayed.  I prayed.  To this point in my life, I had been in church and studied and searched for God but never fully trusted Him to love and provide for me.  My marriage ended in the months before Hannah's birth and my anxiety and fears about being a single mom with two small children threatened to overwhelm me.  I remember hitting my knees one night sobbing in uncertainty.  In the midst of my tears, I heard His voice, "If you will just trust me, I will provide."  Those words pierced my heart.  In that moment, I truly accepted the gift of His love and something within me changed forever.  I was filled with a surreal peace during the remainder of my pregnancy.  The day Hannah was born was filled  with joy and we were standing on the promises of God.  The job is too hard; the shoes are too big for me.  He carries me and my little family on His shoulders.  I often am afraid that I'm not enough...then, I remember that He is!

Tiffany:  Tell us more about Hannah's personality and interests now.  Does she have a favorite activity, sport, etc. that she really enjoys?

Wendy:  Hannah is a lot like her momma and her brother!  We all tend to be quiet in large groups and the total opposite with just a few people.  Hannah is funny and witty.  She has an insight into God unlike anything I will ever experience!  She absolutely knows that she is "perfectly and wonderfully made" and that God has big plans for her life.  She loves to sing and dance.  She is a natural-born teacher and can often be found teaching a kindergarten class in her bedroom!

Tiffany:  Hannah attends private school and does extremely well; how has she been able to be so successful in school?

Wendy:  Hannah is in the seventh grade in a private school and does very well.  We started working on "going to school" as a young toddler.  I have always been a strong inclusion advocate and took a strong stance that Hannah should be raised and educated alongside her regular peers.  I set the same behavior expectations for her that I set for my son.  I expect her classroom teachers to hold her accountable as well.  Over the years I have utilized all of the therapy services offered by the local public school system and made sure Hannah had private services as well.  I have learned how Hannah learns, and I do my best to provide that support at home.  Each summer, we work on concepts that will be taught in each of her classes during the following school year.  We read the novels and do novel studies.  This pre-teaching gives her a basic knowledge base, and she has always attended better when she has some foreknowledge of a subject.  I placed a classroom aide in the general classroom to assist Hannah beginning in the fourth grade.  The intent was to enable Hannah to learn to her maximum potential while eliminating the possibility that her needs would place any extra demand on the classroom teachers.  She receives general classroom accommodations (pre-teach material, quiet room for tests, etc.) but no curricular modifications.  She learns the same material and does the same amount of work as her peers.  Her classroom aide serves as a scribe and provides any re-teach that Hannah needs.  Hannah has an incredible work ethic and loves to learn.  I am amazed every day by her abilities!  

Tiffany:  What is a piece of advice you might give another mom or dad who recently found out their child has special needs?

Wendy:  My advice to another parent who has recently learned that their child has special needs would be to understand that they know their child better than anyone else.  If they believe something needs to be done or something is wrong, don't take "no" for an answer.  Persevere!

Tiffany:  What hopes and prayers do you have for Hannah?  

Wendy:  My hopes and prayers for Hannah are that she will grow to be everything that God has designed her to be.  I pray that she will always know that she is a marvel, a miracle that God has brought and that He is using her to change lives.  I pray that she will experience love as an adult and have the opportunity to be married.  I pray that she will never fully understand that some people expect her to be lesser-abled because she looks different or has a diagnosis.  

Tiffany:  What is the biggest blessing you have received from having a child with special needs?  

Wendy:  The biggest blessing that I have received from having Hannah is Hannah!  I get to live life with this love-filled, ornery, funny, witty young woman!  She makes me see God every day!  

Tiffany:   Lastly, what is something you wish others knew about children with special needs?  

Wendy:  I wish that others really knew that children with special needs can rise to abilities many in the world don't think possible when they are given opportunity and support.  I wish the world knew and understood that moms and dads of kiddos with special needs are tender.  We are always praying that we are doing everything we can for our child while trying to live as normal lives as possible.  


Wendy, thank you for sharing your sweet family with us!  Your words are beautiful and encouraging... and so is your precious Hannah.  Don't you just love how much she enjoys life?  Hannah is a blessing to those around her and God is using her in a BIG way!  Be blessed!!

This is our first Special Needs Shout-Out at the blog and we are so excited to share these precious ones with you.  If you know of someone who might want to be featured in the future, please email us at: commonthreads15.7@gmail.com.  Thanks so much!  

No comments:

Post a Comment