When it Clicks

Jodi Shenal by Jodi Shenal Additional Needs

Jodi Shenal

Jodi Shenal

I'm a stay-at-home mom with two amazing children. My son is on the Autism spectrum and my daughter has a rare genetic disorder and multiple disabil...

When it Clicks

For some of us the “little things” don’t always come easy.

In fact, for many of us, those “little things” are truly the incredible, BIG things.

Parents of children with disabilities wait…

And wait…

Sometimes, the achievements we wait for may not ever happen at all. It is an ache that dulls some over time, as we grow into acceptance. We learn to meet our children right where they are.

They are enough and they are exactly who they are meant to be.

However, that doesn’t mean that we EVER lose hope. We never give up.

We spend years taking our children to therapies, learning various techniques from professionals, and applying them at home. Our brains are like sponges; they absorb an abundance of information that aids us in teaching our children to become as independent as possible.

We dedicate hours to researching intervention methods on communication, mobility, behaviors, and sensory defensiveness. We wonder every single day (and worry through sleepless nights), “Am I doing enough?”

Sometimes, we grow weary.

When something just doesn’t “click”, no matter how many different, desperate attempts we’ve tried, the feeling of defeat can be inescapable.

I recently stopped focusing on self-feeding skills with my daughter. I had placed that on the back burner, as our progress had stalled. I felt that I was pushing too hard, and it was stressful for her, so I stepped back and gave us both a break.

Then one day, out of the blue, something magical happened.

While eating a packet of chocolate Teddy Grahams, my husband caught our girl’s attention. As her bright eyes widened, she watched with great intent as he slowly ate one of the intriguing, tiny cookies. He placed one in the palm of his extended hand and asked her if she’d like one. We watched in sheer amazement as she picked it up and brought it towards her lips! At 13 years old, we still had not experienced the victory of her eating finger foods. We’ve done countless feeding therapies, and tried numerous dissolvable snacks over the years, to little avail.

But on this day, she saw a chocolate bear, picked it up, and independently brought it to her mouth. She watched and imitated this major life skill!

She didn’t quite eat it, but she held it tightly to her pursed lips, to experience a taste. She hasn’t yet mastered chewing, so we were on high alert to quickly grab it if it made its way into her mouth. She held onto it, without throwing it down in protest! Before our completely bewildered eyes, as we held our breath, we witnessed her conquering an amazing feat. She showed awareness of this early developmental concept. This realization, along with a huge fine motor task, had been absent for so long.

It finally CLICKED!

She was so enthralled, she even reached into the packet several times to feel them, pulling the teeny snacks out and smelling their rich, chocolate aroma!

Since that day, I’ve been excited as we’ve resumed our feeding practice. My fire was reignited, and I’m driven to help her continue this almighty quest. Her Daddy has earned the title of “Feeding Whisperer”, as he’s taught her to hold and taste the salt from the ends of pretzel sticks. One of her favorite new activities is picking up small, dissolvable baby puff snacks and holding them to her lips. I just know that soon, she’s going to eat one!

When the breakthrough, aha moments finally happen, suddenly all the waiting is worth it. A success that may seem miniscule to most is significant in our world. We don’t take the victory lightly, or ever for granted. When it clicks, great pride and gratitude wash over us and we know every second that we pour into these battles is worth it.

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