When my third son was 10 months old a friend suggested we take him to a physical therapist because he didn’t crawl. After several weeks of therapy he finally crawled but he refused to walk; after more therapy he finally walked at 16 months. The therapist continued to work on his other large motor skills but was concerned because he didn’t talk. So when he was two-and-a-half we finally took him to a speech therapist. After a couple of years of speech therapy his speech was only a few months delayed, but he couldn’t remember directions or how to spell his name, and he often seemed not to hear us at all. Because his hearing tested normal we went to a behavioral therapist, a tutor, and a vision therapist. Diagnosis and labels abounded: Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Developmental Delay. I studied, met with therapists, worried and fretted but no one seemed to know exactly what to make of this child. One day as I relayed some of my fears to a friend, she looked at Spencer playing quietly on the floor and simply said, “Maybe he’s just getting ready to make a difference in the world.”
Suddenly my perspective dramatically shifted and instead of seeing a broken child in need of repair, I saw a beautiful, intelligent child, slowly, carefully preparing for the life ahead of him. When I was finally able to let go of my image of what he “should be” and see him for who he is, I was truly amazed by this precious child of God. Instead of obsessing about his weaknesses I discovered his unique talents. By the time he was 5 he could beat me hands down at Connect 4, he tells long and complicated stories to his little sister that carry on for days, he draws with remarkable attention to detail and perspective and he can build amazing structures out of almost anything. Spencer will be 8 this fall and he is just starting to read, he doesn’t do written math yet. But last week he built the 5 stages of an imaginary animal’s life cycle out of Zoobs, his favorite games are chess, Othello and SET and he loves to listen to poetry and C.S. Lewis.
My biggest regret with Spencer is that it took me so long to accept him for who he is. He is so smart, creative and loving. I wish that I had allowed myself to enjoy him more over the years instead of worrying so much. In Matthew 5:15 it says “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” How sad that I spent so many years hiding his light under my bushel of expectations; expectations about how and when he should develop and about him reaching appropriate “educational markers”.
Every one of our children is a child of God and we have to trust that He has a very special plan for each of them. We should be more concerned about helping them become the people he wants them to become than we are about “grade expectations”. Some types of therapy can be beneficial for a child and labels can often help us understand the issues we’re dealing with, but it’s important to turn to the Lord first and trust in his guiding wisdom. I have to admit that I still have days when the worry creeps in, but when I take a step back and allow my son’s light to shine, it is bright enough to light up our whole house!
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