As many of you know, Jaimie has Asperger's and SPD. She has had a tremendous amount of therapy to be who she has become and I am so proud.
The girl that refused to speak until she was three, is now volunteering to be the Master of Ceremonies. The girl that was afraid to even allow people to touch her, is giving hugs. The girl that didn't know how to interact with other kids, or even was interested in having friends, is a social butterfly. The girl I had to cut tags out of all her clothes and wouldn't even wear things that didn't 'feel right', is trying new stuff.
I am so proud of her.
Today, I am sharing the awarding-winning, short story called 'Kids Amaze Me', that was actually included in a book from Chicken Soup For the Soul (for Special Needs). And it inspired the books I've written about her experiences (I'm Not Weird, I Have SPD and Not Just Spirited).
This story always brings tears to my eyes because it reminds me how far she's come. Without the understanding, therapy and love she's received, she wouldn't be who she is today.
Thank you to all of you for your support all of these years.
Baby mine, don’t you cry; baby mine, close your eyes; lay your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine. – Baby of Mine from Disney’s Dumbo
My daughter, Jaimie, was my miracle girl. She reminded me of one of those little babies you see in photos from the early 1900s: big blue wondering eyes, poker straight strawberry blonde hair, and creamy porcelain doll skin. Looking down on her each night as I watched her sleep, my heart filled with pure love I didn’t know existed before she did.
But as she grew, she became increasingly more introverted and scared of her surroundings. Something was terribly wrong with my sweet angel. After two-and-a-half years of her behaviour getting worse, we had her assessed and she was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Although not a life-threatening disorder, it causes her tremendous anxiety and frustration. Essentially, SPD is a dysfunction of the nervous system where information received from the environment isn’t processed properly in Jaimie’s brain. She has no “filtering out” capability, causing her to get smells, sights, noises or tactile (touch) signals all at the same time. It would be comparable to a crowd of people coming at you all at once each demanding a different sort of attention, which can be both scary and overwhelming. Needless to say, her SPD can alienate her from other children as they’re unsure how to approach her.
We live in a townhouse complex where the homes are lined up around a winding road. It’s nice because the homes block out sound from the street, but it makes noise within the complex quite audible.
One day Jaimie was in the front yard running and spinning in circles...two things she finds comfort in doing. As Jaimie spun, her strawberry blonde hair spread out around her like a parachute coming in for a landing. She stopped only when things were spinning without her and she fell into a pile of giggles on the prickly grass.
As I laughed with Jaimie I heard a young, but husky, voice from my right ask, “What’s wrong with her?”
Surprised by the sudden intrusion, I turned to see a young blonde girl, her pigtails sticking out Pippy Longstockings-style from under her bike helmet.
“What do you mean,” I asked calmly.
I knew what she meant. I’d heard her comments about Jaimie when we’d seen her at the park.
“She’s always spinning around, talkin’ to herself. I tried to talk to her at the park but she just ran away screamin. I didn’t even do anything to her. She’s always got a soother in her mouth and she’s not even a baby. Her bike has three wheels, but she’s big. Why is she so weird?”
I smiled. Ah, the honesty of little ones.
She wasn’t asking to be mean. She simply wanted to know why this other girl was so…different from her and her friends.
I crouched down and put my hand on Jaimie’s chest while she stared up at the clouds. She seemed oblivious to the other girl beside me. The young, inquisitive girl stood astride her bike staring down at me waiting for her answer.
Finally, after finding the right words for the girl to understand, I started by asking her, “Tell me something, dear. Have you ever tried really hard to do something but it was really hard for you?”
“Oh yeah, lotsa times,” she nodded.
“And what happened when you tried to do something hard and you couldn’t do it right away? How did it make you feel?”
She scrunched up her face, as though it helped to remember. “I remember learning to ride this bike with no extra wheels and I kept falling off. I hurt myself a lot. I didn’t want to do it anymore cuz every time I tried I fell. It made me very mad and I cried” she said all in one breath. “My dad and mom told me to keep tryin’ and then I could do it. Then one day, I did!”
“That’s wonderful,” I smiled. “Those mad feelings you felt…where you cried…those didn’t feel very good did they?”
“No. I didn’t like that.” She looked down.
“That’s how Jaimie feels every single day. The hard part is what hurts her isn’t always something we can see.”
“You mean something invisible is makin’ her like that?” she asked, her emerald eyes widening.
“I guess you could say that,” I laughed. “You see, Jaimie feels things differently than you or I do. Hey! Have you ever been at the park when it’s really busy and loud?”
“Oh yes. It’s like that everyday at recess” she said.
“Right! Okay, well it can get pretty busy there, right? So busy you can’t always concentrate on one thing.”
“Yeah. Like if I’m tryin’ to talk to my friends but everyone is runnin’ around and screamin’”.
“Exactly. It may be hard for you to understand this, sweetie, but that’s how Jaimie feels all the time. Like there are lots of sounds, things to see, smells or people trying to touch her and she gets scared. She doesn’t know how to ignore stuff so she can listen to one noise or see one thing. She gets very scared and she runs or she stands there and screams.”
The little girl stared at me for a good minute then looked down at Jaimie. Her eyes rimmed with tears.
“Is that why she ran away from us at the playground,” she asked, her voice shaking.
“Yes. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to play with you. There was just too much going on for her to feel comfortable enough to talk to you. That’s all. Jaimie has special needs but she’s still a wonderful girl to know. You just have to be patient with her until she feels safe enough with you.”
The young girl wiped her nose on her arm, then got back on her bike. “I get scared too sometimes. That’s not so weird.”
“No, that’s not so weird.”
Jaimie got up and started spinning again. The young girl rode back over to her friends who asked her why she was talking to “the weird girl”. As I walked back to the stairs to sit down I heard the young girl’s voice echo around our complex:
“Hey! She’s not weird. Her name is Jaimie and she’s special. And I’m going to be friends with her.”
With that, she dropped her bike and ran back over to our front lawn and spun with Jaimie.
“See, Jaimie? There’s nothin’ wrong with bein’ scared. I’ll spin with you ‘til you want a friend.”
Kids amaze me.