Four days after Ben was born, a specialist told us, “He may never walk, talk, or go to school!”
I wasn’t sure what he wanted me to do with that statement. I mean, how are you supposed to respond?
Maybe … “Oh, ok. Thanks for letting me know…”
If he was trying to convey a suffocating feeling of hopelessness, he did a fabulous job.
At the time, I remember asking one of my siblings (a physician) why such a cruel statement would be made. The answer was that doctors are trained to “hit” with the worst news first because parents will cling to even the slightest glimmer of hope.
I wasn’t clever enough to respond 26 years ago but looking back, I now see how ridiculous that statement was, too. Why does a doctor get to decide if you should have hope or not?
Here’s an idea. Rather than leave young parents (us) with the belief that their newborn child would essentially be a blob for the rest of his life, why not say something like,
“Ben is going to have a lot of serious and significant challenges ahead. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that something as basic as learning the skills to walk, even talk, is not going to be easy. However, there are lots of supports that this hospital and the community can provide as he grows. When you’re ready, our patient navigator will help you get started.”
None of that was said, of course. Back then, there were no patient navigators. It was just Mike and Jan to face the world.
If you know Ben’s story, then you know that this medical expert’s prediction was way off the mark. It’s true that Ben certainly doesn’t talk the way you and I do, or walk on his own, but so what?
Neither of these are pre-requisites to getting an education.
It goes without saying that every one of us need an education to develop and prosper. So why was it ok to throw in the “may never go to school” part?
Ben was only 4 days old. Who is thinking about school when you’re sitting in the paediatric intensive care unit?
Fortunately, Ben didn’t listen to those experts who kept telling us he had little potential.
We got tired of listening to them low-ball his abilities and searched for people who could see beyond all the problems and what was lacking.
We found those people in caregivers, education assistants, teachers, professors, social workers, disability advocates, student support staff, therapists, a few special doctors, and of course, friends and family.
We call them “champions”. Those who believe in Ben and see him as a person first.
They supported him in learning to walk.
They cared for him through his seizures, illnesses, and surgeries.
They adapted their teaching styles to help him learn.
They gave him the gift of words.
They found the right path for him to graduate from high school.
And, they welcomed him in his pursuit of a university education.
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So what is the right response to that opening statement of never walking, talking or going to school?
The right response is no response.
The right response is simply to put one foot in front of the other every day. Surround yourself with champions, everyone you can find who will build you up.
They will show up at exactly the right time, bringing new energy, new ideas, and new teachings.
Oh, and by the way, Ben just received his final mark in his last course … meet Ben George, University Graduate!
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“Finding Your Champions” is one of the 7 keys to living with unlimited hope. Learn the other 6 with this FREE guide.