Updated: Feb 4, 2020
I don’t think one ever stops feeling the reward of being able to communicate. How sad that sometimes the smallest of signs and non-verbal communication can be so easily overlooked. Every day I see how people miss small (but oh so important) ‘words’ communicated through facial expressions, hands and simple body language.
When a mom sees her baby crawl, she knows that walking is just around the corner. The expectation grows and the joy explodes when at last the step is taken. The whole social media circle is notified ;*) For many of us, as parents of children with special needs, the same excitement abounds when we see how a simple sign or gesture soon becomes a sound, and later a word. Can the warmth of a heart, at that exact moment, truly be understood by someone who has not walked this journey? Personally, I think not, but I do try to create a glimpse or take a mental photograph to sketch to my listeners, my students, my friends, for them to try to understand the joy and the accomplishment which is so profound in so many ways.
You see, to be the parent of a child with cerebral palsy and deafness and ADD, could sound like a prison sentence to some people. It could sound like a lot of hard work or just something that some parents would rather pray does not happen to them. For me, I prayed… I prayed when I found out I was pregnant at 7 weeks. I prayed even more when I found out I had German Measles at 10 weeks. And needless to say, I prayed more so when I found out my baby is different from any other. But never have I regretted my choice to keep him.
Looking back, 17 years later, I can hardly remember the hard times, to be honest. I do, however, clearly remember the small ‘steps’, even if they were made in hard splints, with a limp and not nearly as perfect as the steps of other children. I remember sitting alone at the bed of my 10-year-old after he had surgery on his legs, just so he would be able to walk with his feet flat on the ground. I remember him having to learn to walk all over again, and it taking about 8 months. And even though I know he will never walk "normally" and he walks with an ‘oh-so-proud limp’, he is unique in every way and has crept into the hearts of many around South Africa as I share his story in every training session I present.
It is a privilege to share this story. And with this, to see how parents, teachers, caretakers, grandparents, friends and family get to invite these amazing ones into their lives by giving them the gift of communication through sign language used as gestures.
I witnessed again, at Emmanuel Day Care Centre in Atlantis Cape Town, how the combination of love and signing can change a child’s complete nature and being. They are the pinnacle of examples of how children with cerebral palsy, and so many other challenges, can rise above all expectation! And this is but one place, where the light of hope is so brightly shined.
To me, looking at my Ethan, the greatest sign is that Jesus is good, no matter what and that He WILL use all things for His glory. That the good work He started; He will be faithful to complete. Daily, we are living proof of that. To Him the Praise!
Monita is the owner of Tiny Handz and presents regular courses on the use of sign language to families and professionals. www.tinyhandz.co.za