Wisdom Wednesdays: Thoughts on Parenting a Child with Vision Issues
Joshua is our ninth child, and our fifth adoption. We adopted him along with Joy, our sixth adoption, in December 2011. I have to tell you that way back in 2003 when we started our first adoption, we told our case worker in no uncertain terms that we were NOT capable of raising any special needs children. Each of the five children we’ve adopted has come from the waiting children list, and they have been the greatest blessing I could ever have been given. What we came to realize is that ANY parent at any time could become the parent of a special needs child.
Joshua showed up one morning on Amy Eldridge’s Facebook page as a boy who lost both eyes due to retinal blastoma; his name then was Song. For some reason, both Lori and I were drawn to this remarkably precious child, however, we didn’t tell each other, but we both read his story and learned as much as we could about him. After a while, we approached each other about this child. We felt that God had lead us to Joshua, and we became convinced he was ours.
Although it seemed crazy, we requested his file and then submitted our letter of intent. We were certain that due to his condition and the size of our family, China would not give us their approval, but within a week we had it!
We had NO experience at all with any vision issues. None. All we had were our preconceived ideas of what it was and what it required, and most, if not all of that, was completely opposite of the actual facts. Still, we proceeded and began to contact as many people as we could to learn more about his condition and how to parent such a child. So many of these people all told us the same thing — that his condition is really more of an inconvenience than a disability — but we simply couldn’t comprehend that. Those of us with sight really do struggle to understand.
When we were in the waiting room in Fujian waiting for Joshua arrive, both Lori and I were terrified. Although we didn’t tell each other until much later, we both had the same thought…RUN!!! We still didn’t really know what to expect and felt we were completely incapable of caring for a child with his condition. But we didn’t run, and in a few minutes, he was there. I can honestly say that from the moment I saw him, ALL those fears vanished.
Joshua has the most engaging personality, and even at his age, his compassion for others was evident. Even at this most traumatic time for him, he was making us comfortable. He did grieve, and us along with him, but we bonded very quickly. I would hold him close on my lap and whisper his name, “Zi Song”, and he would always whisper back, “Baba.”
Joshua quickly amazed us with just how normal he was, and then with how extraordinary he is! He has the most amazing vocabulary. Everywhere we went in China, he would engage people. He would always have the waitresses at the restaurants gathered around our table. Everyone, including our guide remarked how well he spoke and how very polite he was. People cannot resist him. He is just charming!
It has been a little more than a year now since Joshua has been with us. He is just as fluent in English as he was in Mandarin, or “Fujianese “, as our guides described it. He has now been fitted with prosthetic eyes. These are necessary so that his facial features will continue to grow properly as they would have if his eyes had not been removed.
There is little Joshua cannot do just as his siblings do. He runs and plays and rides his bike just as they do. He rarely walks down the stairs but prefers to bound down them as if it’s a game full of adventure. He loves to ask questions and help around the house. He enjoys being held and cuddled! He has proven that every fear we held about him was unfounded and he is a pure joy. He is starting kindergarten and attends a special class for the visually impaired. Other than that class, he is homeschooled like all our other children. While there are some special considerations you have to make for the visually impaired, they’re not nearly as overwhelming as you might assume. It’s just one more thing you get used to and move on. If there was only one thing I could say about this condition, it’s this: we realized that no matter what we chose to do, Joshua would always have this to deal with. If he can do it, then so can we.
Because of our experience with Joshua, we are now in the process of adopting another child with similar vision issues. She turned four on Christmas day 2012, and we hope to travel to get her and another LWB child this fall!
Do you have a child with vision issues? What special parenting challenges and strategies do you have?