This may be the hardest blog post I’ve ever written. It’s hard because it may offend people who had good intentions. And I’m thankful for those intentions. But at some point life must be lived and explanations must be given and teaching moments should take place.
My daughter is legally blind. She was also adopted at 5 1/2 years old. This creates a complex set of issues that we, as a family, deal with on a daily basis. The blindness/visual impairment… honestly not a big deal. The attachment issues and past trauma… really big deal.
This summer marks four years home for our daughter and we decided that it was time to let her fly a little bit. To go and do all the fun things that our other children were doing. We have NEVER restricted her from activities due to her vision condition. She has gone on the tallest water slides, rope climbing courses, swam in the ocean… you name it, she’s done it. However, we did restrict her from activities that involved adults and older teenagers because she has difficulty discerning who she can and cannot attach to. When an adult shows her attention she thrives on it and begins to seek an inappropriate amount of attention from that adult.
Here’s what we have learned in the past several years. People often do not know how to react to children with disabilities such as blindness. They are either intimidated, over-indulgent or hands-off. Fortunately we have met people who reacted appropriately, but honestly those people are few and far between. It seems incredibly difficult for kids and adults to treat her like a typical child. Rather we frequently get two extreme spectrums: the celebrity treatment or name-calling and excluding. Neither of these are healthy for our daughter, yet we can’t seem to convince people to treat her just like any other kid.
No child is more special than any other child. They are all created differently yet deserve equal treatment. Elevating a child and giving them extra attention because they have a disability can be incredibly crippling. Lola’s life is going to take a lot of extra work and she can be just as successful as any other person. BUT if she is surrounded with people elevating her beyond her peers and making life easier on her she will never learn to work as hard as she needs to. Lola needs the chance to be treated like every other child her age.
Our difficulties in this area are compounded because our daughter is also struggling with attachment. When adults give her extra attention, more than other children, it causes a bigger rift in our relationship. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given adults guidelines such as: please don’t hug Lola, please don’t call her name with huge high-fives EVERY time you see her, please encourage her to play with other children when she tries to hang out with you… only to have these guidelines completely disregarded.
When she returns from a place or event where she has been showered with attention and allowed to do things her way without question our home becomes chaos. We are placed at square one again, no matter how much work we’ve done on the front end. All of our efforts are completely wiped out.
I am explaining all of these things because you may know our family or a family like ours. We desperately need your support to help our child grow emotionally. We need you to allow US to give the hugs and compliments and we need you to provide structure, boundaries and normalcy when you happen to be with our child.