Friday, April 22, 2011

The First Few Years

Kalisha was conceived thirteen years after our fourth child was born. Many people asked if this pregnancy was a surprise or a mistake.  It was neither. The 'surprise' pregnancy had happened two years prior and although it ended with a miscarriage, we had become so excited about adding another child to our family, that this was a planned pregnancy. Kalisha was so eager to start on this journey of life that she made her entrance into the world in the hospital hallway, delivered by a doctor who just happened to be walking down the hall!
She was a happy baby, but didn't really want to cuddle as my other children had.
When she was 6 months old, she had a seizure that scared me to death. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she went limp in her sister's arms. She was rushed to the hospital, although she seemed fine after a minute, but nothing was found. I was told that occasionally baby's have petit mal seizures for various reasons. (I didn't even know what a petit mal seizure was.) The doctor's office called on the following Friday, telling me they found some abnormalities in her blood, but they would let me know more on Monday. I had a sister that died of lukemia when she was 2 years old, so that was all I could think about. Needless to say, that was one of the longest weekends of my life! I held her, rocked her and prayed until Monday.

The illness was mononucleosis! I was rejoicing!! Even though the doctor had never seen it in a child that young, I figured I was probably the only parent who ever thanked God that their child had mono.
I had been instructed to keep a journal of any seizure activity, and although she never had another seizure like the first one, I did notice that occasionally, she would seem to be in a trance, just for a few seconds. I convinced myself that it was my imagination. Kalisha laughed and giggled, but never said any words like Ma-Ma or Da-Da. She also didn't crawl. She could scoot on her belly, but made no attempt to pull herself up on anything. All kids develop at different ages, right? When I expressed concern to the pediatrician, he told me to stop worrying!

I knew something was wrong, but had no clue what it was. Note: In 1984, there were no computers, internet or Google. Finally, at 15 months, he scheduled a test for her. This was a ridiculous test, using totally unfamiliar words; frankfurter instead of hot dog, etc.
After the tests analysis came back, the pediatrician told me, quite bluntly, that Kalisha was mentally and physically handicapped and I should start looking for a facility for her because she would never get much beyond where she was right then! It was like being hit in the head with a 2x4. I left his office, strapped her into her carseat, got behind the wheel and cried. Handicapped?! Handicapped?! How could he possibly say that about my baby?? Up until this point in my naive life, handicapped meant blind or paralyzed.
Never being one to think about anything too long without taking action, I dried my tears, stopped at the first pay phone I came to (no cell phones, either) and called the only association I knew about that dealt with mental retardation; ARC of Indiana. I tried to explain, through my tears,  what had just happened and ask how to get some information. The receptionist asked where I lived and when I told her, she curtly told me that I was in the wrong county and she couldn't help me and hung up. As you can see, my first foray into this new world was not too encouraging.
I found an agency in my county and it was wonderful! After some testing, Kalisha was classified as DD or developmentally delayed. I was strongly urged to enroll her in their preschool. So at 18 months, my little girl started going to school three days a week. A van would pick her up and bring her home. I can't tell you how hard that was for me, but it was the best thing I ever did. The van drivers were absolutely wonderful and the person in charge of the "BLUE SCHOOL" (it was in a small blue building and was always referred to as the blue school) was a phenomenol lady named Peg. She not only taught Kalisha, she also taught me so many things.
Kalisha was taught sign language until she finally learned to speak words. Once she learned, she never stopped talking :) She could walk, although stairs were difficult.A physical therapist told me that Kalisha's center of balance is so far off center that she really shouldn't have learned to walk...but she did! She thrived at the blue school. One year, she was the poster child for the United Way campaign in our county.

 United Way campaign brochure


  1. After stumbling around in "that world of help" myself I can not imagine doing it with out the internet!

  2. When people use the term special needs I beleive that there is alot of meaning to these words. Ecspecially,when you have had a connection with someone that has a physical or mental disability. I beleive that all in this catagory are truly special as God created them to see the uniqueness of each individual. Autism is definately in a catagory itself with many questions unanswered. Knowing Kalisha as a baby and working with the disabled I am so grateful to have them in my life as I see the world from a different angle. It is one of the miracles of life that God will give us the answers to someday. I am so proud to follow your blog thanks for including me. Kathy



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