Sunday, January 07, 2007

Excellence

Life comes easily to some people. They seem to naturally suceed in all areas. For others, life is a seemingly endless struggle. They never get ahead, it is tremendously difficult for them to even get by. I believe most people fall in the middle some place. I think the majority of us excel in one or two areas, and struggle in a few areas as well. In many cases, the difference in the two areas is slight. Perhaps you made straight A's in English courses, but in math, you never could make more than a B if you worked your very hardest. For some people, the divide is much greater than that. Watching KayTar develop has been quite the lesson in this area.

For a while, she didn't excel at anything. She was way below average in all her developmental areas. In retrospect, I still can't understand why we didn't see it sooner. We just thought she was taking her sweet time, I guess. When we switched doctors and began evaluations, it was striking how far below the curve she fell. But as we've travel this road, many things have become apparent.

Her brain seems to work differently than most people. Learning sign language seemed to flip a switch that had been in the off position for her entire life. She has a natural propensity for signing. Her therapists "Oooh!" and "Aaah!" over how well she's picked it up. Usually once a session she uses a sign they don't know and they exclaim, "Wow KayTar! You know more sign language than I do now!" She doesn't thrive the same way using her "words", though. Speech is used solely for naming objects and people. She doesn't use it to communicate wants or needs or hold conversations. Speech is not an area she excels in. But sign language? She has picked it up miraculously.

She has fixated on letters, she can identify almost all of them now when asked to do so (when she is feeling compliant). She is signing or saying at least half of the alphabet already. She is even beginning to connect the beginning letter sounds of words to the letter they start with. We are amazed by this ability! A child who does not use speech as her main mode of communication having such a natural knowledge of its workings is surprising! BubTar is a smart cookie (as shown by his report card earlier this week showing 100% knowledge of the things they have been taught this semester), but even he has just begun to learn these things this year in PreK. But KayTar just knows them.

She struggles so greatly with her gross motor skills. Her body just won't behave in the way that comes so naturally to most children. She can't stand, walk, run, or jump. She is almost two and has been left in the toddler dust in this area. But she is a beautiful artist. She hold her pens, crayons, and markers expertly and has for a few months now. She makes beautiful swirls and lines across the page. Her pictures often resemble a swirly flower garden. Most of her peers are still "scribble-scrabbling", as BubTar calls it. She thinks out each stroke it seems, "More detail here, less over there, and perhaps a touch more color right about here." She can build amazing block towers, exceeding the norm for 5 year olds. She can successfully stack up to fourteen blocks, and might be able to stack more if her arms weren't so short.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, but most are not so obvious as KayTar's. Watching her grow into herself is such a learning experience. We have gone through stages of sadness over the things she can't do or may never do normally. We have grieved over the loss of her "normal" life. We worry about her future, about how she will function in this world that so values sameness. We worry about the areas she struggles in. But then we are surprised by her natural excellence in some areas, and we breathe a sigh of relief. Some things do come easily to her. Some things will not be a struggle. She does shine and she will continue to shine as she grows. Maybe she will never be one of the people that life comes easily to, or maybe that gap between strengths and weaknesses will close and one day life will come easily to her. Either way, one thing we have learned is that anything is possible and that anyone can shine if they are given the chance. That is something we will remember forever, no matter who our sweet KayTar grows into.


10 comments:

bubandpie said...

You should post a photo of one of KayTar's drawings! I would love to see one - Bub's still very much a scribble-scrabbler.

Beck said...

Your kids are so lovely. KayTar sounds enchanting, with her signing and her towers - and you sound like a wonderful mother, someone who works so hard to help her kids.

Karianna said...

Oh, she is so wonderful. Her visual-spacial abilities are amazing.

ewe are here said...

MF scribbles a bit; nibbles a bit; and likes to dump the crayons out of the tin all over the place.

Love to see some of your girl's artwork; think it's going to be a while at this end! ;-)

Red Rollerskate said...

I love the part about the swirls. That is so cool.

Anna said...

She sounds like an angel. I love the sign language idea. I teach at a mothers day out program..and am always amazed at some of the sign language our kids know at such a young age.

raehan said...

Awesome! Amazing.

No way could my kids do that at KayTar's age. In fact, I'm not sure they could do that now.

raehan said...

Did my comment get lost again? : (

Anyway, she is truly gifted.

Jen said...

I just wanted to take the time to say that I linked to you through Catherine Newman's blog and I'm really REALLY enjoying yours.

And not that you necessarily need the reassurance (you sound like such a wonderful mother!) but I wanted to let you know---as a 25 year-old woman with Cerebral Palsy who had numerous developmental delays as a toddler and has gone on to live a happy and productive life---that although she may always struggle, it sounds as though KayTar's abilities will serve her well and allow her to thrive. She will absolutely shine, no question!

Thanks for existing, and congratulations on raising such sweet kids!

Blessings---

Jen.

Em said...

She is, quite simply, amazing!

I know what you mean about a curious mix of delay & brilliance. G can be like this - frequently she will seemingly learn to do something overnight without instruction and W and I look at each other and wonder how on earth it happened.