Age Appropriate

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...

Age Appropriate

Parents of typically developing teens are more in tune to the current “must-haves” that girls wish for. I’m clueless, but I would imagine that trendy clothes and bags, friendship bracelets and tech gadgets make suitable gifts.

When my daughter turned 13 last year, I carefully sought out ideal birthday gifts for her. I thought about all the things that bring joy to her life. Having complex physical and intellectual disabilities, most of her favorite things don’t align with those of the teenage majority (except for her unwavering love of Taylor Swift!) As that realization has begun to sting less and less over time, she has taught me a priceless lesson:

Our cherished treasures don’t have to be age appropriate. They just need to be appropriate for us, as unique individuals.

If a toy, YouTube video or book brings her happiness, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS

Blippi videos, preschool songs, toy pianos and board booksfill her days with wonder. Her mornings begin with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and playing peek-a-boo when she wakes up. These are her favorites, and they are an integral part of her one-of-a-kind personality.

I was sad when my older son outgrew his young childhood interests. It seemed that precious stuffed animals and beloved story time snuggles quickly vanished. Overnight. Suddenly, he was too cool for The Wiggles and Winnie the Pooh. This time around, I find gratitude in this slowed-down pace of entering the teenage years. I don’t take it for granted. I’ve learned to view “growing up” in a whole new light and I appreciate all the extra time I’ve been gifted to spend in this whimsical world.

Babyhood lasts longer here.

Toddlerhood continues into the teens here.

Long, sleepless nights carry on forever here.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade any of it.

I’ve gained much wisdom from loving my daughter, and I’ve learned that we don’t have to ever fit into the norm.

If you see a young adult clutching his teddy bear in public or,

If you witness an adolescent singing “The Wheels on the Bus,”

Don’t hastily assume that they’re “too old for that.”

It’s OK if the things that delight our children with additional needs aren’t deemed as “age appropriate.” It’s perfectly fine if their prized possessions are intended for children YEARS younger than them.

I’ll gladly continue to listen to Taylor Swift, while reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar with my teen. They are both incredibly appropriate and completely perfect for her.

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