In 1992, my daughter Tessa was born. And within 10 minutes of her being born, we learned she had Down Syndrome. The only experience I had of being around people with Down Syndrome was when my mother worked at an institution for children and adults with special needs. I basically went into shock for about 48 hours not knowing what life had in store for my family. And frankly, I just didn't have a clue about raising a child with special needs. But ultimately, I had one main goal for her. I wanted her included in life in every aspect possible, and I wanted her to have great social skills. At the time, I was going back to college to become a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher so badly, and I thought this event was going to keep me from reaching that goal. Little did I know that my little package of joy would be my best teacher.
I could go on and on about what all that entails in setting expectations and holding the bar high in raising a child with special needs. But I will save that for another time. This mom is extremely proud of the young lady she became last night when she informed me that she had practiced a speech to say at my oldest daughter's wedding. I was teary-eyed on the couch as she practiced it for me. I asked her, "How did you think of this idea?" And she replied, "I've been practicing watching wedding movies." If you know my daughter, she can be very shy until she gets to know you. But last night, she stood up in front of 200 people at the front of the room and gave her speech.
The quality of the video is not good as it was captured by my quick thinking niece (Thank you Kara). And the sound is the same. Here is her speech:
"My name is Tessa Griffin. And I wanted to say that I love you. And I want to say I love you. And I love you Brandi. And I love you Shane, my brother. Thank you."
So for all of you teachers who work with children with special needs, whether it be all day in your classroom, or for just part of the day. Academics are important. But to parents of children with special needs, social skills are what get you through life and lead to moments like this. Moments that are so special that words cannot come close to express how I feel. Learning social skills empowered my daughter, who has faced many challenges in life, to get up in front of a crowd and appropriately and effectively declare her love to her sister and new brother. And to politely say, "Thank you, " at the end of her speech. No help from mom - no help from family - just something she felt was right.
Thank you for letting me share a part of my world with you. As I watched one daughter become a beautiful bride, I watched another one take a step forward to independence too. Have a great week. This mom is going to sit back and enjoy this special moment today. And here is a special thank you to all of her former teachers who believed in her too.
Stop by again soon.