As an infant, my daughter missed all of her developmental milestones. Cooing, babbling, crawling, walking, talking…all delayed.
At well-baby checkups, I would express my concerns to the doctor but he reassured me that all babies are different and we would continue to monitor her development.
But by the time she was 12 months and not yet crawling or making the verbal sounds she should have, I was even more concerned and went in for a second opinion.
I knew in my gut something was wrong. Always trust your gut.
We were referred to a teaching hospital, where they put my baby through a battery of tests. After what seemed like forever, the nurse called to say the results were back and I should come in for an appointment.
I was brought into a room where a team of specialists were. In a grey room with chipped paint and a lonely framed picture of a mama duck with her ducklings, sat a developmental pediatrician, geneticist, physical and occupational therapists and a counselor. While the counselor scooted her chair closer to me, they proceeded to tell me that my daughter had a rare genetic disorder and would have physical and mental challenges. She had weak muscle tone so she might not be able to walk and they didn’t know if she would ever be able to talk.
I looked down at the sweet baby girl in my arms sucking on her pacifier. This baby of mine might never call me mama or be able to walk. I was devastated. Then the counselor spoke. She told me that from what she heard everyone saying, I should not expect too much from Breanna. I told her I had hope for my child and would never give up.
Two weeks later, I met with the same counselor and she lined me up with all the resources we would need to get us started on this long road. It has been a great deal of hard work but we’ve made sure that Breanna lives life to her full potential.
Our family has helped her face all the challenges that came her way. With a great support team, we taught Breanna to use sign language to communicate her needs and then once she started talking, we continued working with a speech therapist. Once Breanna started to walk independently at age four, we started her in sports. She absolutely loved it and excelled.
In her 22 years, Breanna has worked with regional centers, speech, occupational and physical therapists, physicians and nursing staff. Mixed in between the hard work of therapy, we make sure she has plenty of fun by encouraging her to find things she enjoys doing. One of those things is her participation in the Special Olympics, where she has met some great friends – including her best friend, who has autism. Through the Special Olympics, they are able to play basketball, soccer and run track and field.
We also found an awesome program run through Little League where she and her fellow athletes can play baseball:
“The Little League Challenger Division is Little League’s adaptive baseball programs for boys and girls with physical and developmental challenges. There are currently over 900 Challenger programs in 10 countries around the world. Over 30,000 athletes participate in the Challenger Division every year.”
What’s great about this program is that there are buddies who assist Challenger athletes. My son Gabriel is one of these buddies. He and his fellow buddies (mainly high school baseball players) help the Challenger athletes bat, run bases and play defense – but only as needed.
(To find a Challenger Division near your community, visit our League Finder or email challenger@LittleLeague.org.)
Finding an activity and having great friends brings such happiness to my daughter. Life isn’t always easy for her and for children and adults with special needs but I’m thankful for programs that exist to support them.
The child who was told she may never walk now has more Special Olympics gold and silver medals than she knows what to do with. The child they didn’t expect to talk now is constantly on the phone talking to her friends. She’d also be the first to tell you to never give up!