Hoping to someday find M's brother adopted in the U.S. -
Myckola Oleksandrovych Markov - 8/26/2003

Thursday, June 11, 2015

To the Teacher Who Kept Clipping my Daughter Down for Running

A friend of mine who also has children with special needs told me that I should start doing the writing prompts for The Mighty.  I have a hard time keeping things short, but I figured I'd give it a whirl.  Whether it gets published or not, it felt good to write it.

Dear Teacher,

When we met at Open House at the beginning of the year, there was so much I wanted you to know about my daughter.  She's 8, but she's only been mine since she was 4.  When we met her, in an impoverished orphanage in Ukraine, her hair was buzzed off and at 24lbs she was the size of a 2 year old.  

She was born severely premature and suffered a stroke that damaged parts of her brain shortly after birth.  Due to a lack of medical treatment for her Cerebral Palsy, she was completely unable to walk and could barely sit the first time we saw her.  

I wish you could have seen her then so you knew how far she has come, but in some ways I'm glad you did not.  What I really wish you knew is how many times she was left out and left behind simply because she couldn't walk.  Its been 4 years and she still remembers all of the other children going to music class while she sat alone.

What you saw when we came to your classroom was a seemingly social and extremely inquisitive little girl, small for her age, but loud.  She's always been loud.  At the orphanage it was the only way she could get attention from anyone.  She couldn't walk so she yelled.  I wish you knew how I could tell when she was feeling left out by the volume of her voice, always trying to get someone, anyone to notice her.

I wish you could have seen how at 4 years old, she didn't know what crayons were.  While children in the U.S. get therapy, she got stuck in a crib.  I wish you could have seen her when she tried to eat the PlayDoh we bought for her because she had no idea what it was.  In four years, no one had ever given her paper to scribble on.

When we brought her home and first took her to the CP clinic, I wish you could have heard the doctor tell us that she'd never walk.  I wish you could have felt what I felt that day.  Sad. Indignant. Determined.  

I wish you could have been there when the developmental pediatrician who charged $450 to walk in the door took only 10 minutes with my newly adopted 4 year old then asked her to replicate a tower of blocks.  She didn't like him, so she wouldn't do it.  I wonder if you would have agreed with him when he told me that she would always be at the low end of the IQ scale? I never took her back to see that doctor.  He saw the traumatized, neglected child in front of him and missed the child she could become. 

I wish you knew how many hours of physical therapy I've sat through so my daughter could achieve her potential.  I wish you could have heard her screaming at me in Russian those first months home every.single.night. as I did stretches with her.  Her tears and mine together; I'm still not sure what she was calling me.  My arms would ache as I supported her weight while I did exercises with her to strengthen her legs, but that feisty spirit of hers is why she's here today.  

I wish you knew what it was like to hold your screaming child down in an exam room while a doctor injects a needle full of Botox 12+ times into her legs and arm in the hope that it provides temporary relief of the constant spasticity.   

I really wish you knew what it was like to watch her take her first independent steps as a 5 year old.  I wish you could appreciate what its like to have to teach a 5 year old how to put her hands out in front and behind her when she falls.  I wish you knew how proud we were of her the first time she fell backwards and finally got her elbow down first instead of her head.

I wish that you could experience what its like to navigate an airport and fly on a plane with a disabled child in a wheelchair with the hope that the surgeon you're going to see will be able to give her the ability to run.

I wish you knew what it was like to be a little girl that can't run, but believes one day she will.

So when my daughter came home clipped down to yellow like she'd done something wrong, and the note in her agenda said, "Running in the hallway."  I wish you could have known what that felt like for me.

Maybe now you understand why I wrote back, "You know, I was told she'd never run."


SammE said...

Hooray!!! I do wish that teacher could understand how huge this is! Some people just are not cut out to teach our children. Those who don't want to look and see each child for who he or she truly is, who doesn't care how far a person has come to conquer adversity of any kind, who doesn't believe that every child has something wonderful to contribute, and who tries to encourage the best in each student, isn't a person who should be teaching. At all.
You are an amazing mother to your family. I wish I could give you a hug! samm

Carolina said...

Way to go, Mariah!

Thank you for sharing this. :)

Freedom Hollow Farmgirl said...

hahaha! Way to go Mariah! I am a special education para professional and I work one on one with a cerebral palsy. She just started walking independently right before the school year started. By the end of the school year I often had to remind her not to run in the hallways!! I would NEVER have her clip down for "running"!

Sometimes these gen ed teachers just don't get it. I worked with one this year that didn't believe in modifying work, even though the child's IEP said worked could be modified. She had my student place all work not finished in her chair pocket to finish later! UGH!!

Keep fighting for your kiddos. So many parents send their kids to school thinking the school is doing what it supposed to be doing for their kids, and sadly, it is not happening.

Have a great summer,

Adriana Mallozzi said...

While it was a major milestone, she was still breaking a rule. This kind of shows that her teacher didn't see her as different - you know how great that is? I have CP and had quite a few teachers who would give me special treatment when all I wanted was to be treated like everyone else. Perhaps said teacher would have handlled it differently if she knew your daughter's history. She could have said "Great job, _____! You must be so excited! How 'bout after we finish, we can go to the gym or outside to run for a bit."

Tonia said...

Hi Erin,

I found your blog via The Mighty after reading a couple blog entries you wrote about your daughter with CP. I'm an adult (in my 30s) also with CP. I've also submitted a couple blog entries for The Mighty. Anyway, I just wanted to put myself out there as a resource, should you ever want or need to speak to an adult with CP. I blog at toniasays [dot] blogspot [dot] com.

Jo said...

Oh Erin. I bawled. Love this post.

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life; but those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,are carried on the wings of destiny; and placed among us by God's very own hands. --Kristi Larson