Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

When Alexis was a baby, I was obsessed with the “milestone” charts.  Even after she was injured, I still would look at websites from time to time and think about where she would have been.

It’s been good and bad that we haven’t had many kids to compare Alexis to over the last five years.  She is an only child, with two cousins who are significantly younger than she is.  We live in a neighborhood with very few children, and none that are anywhere close to her age.  So it wasn’t until we got to school in the fall that we really started to see Alexis’ differences.  It’s not that we haven’t known they were there, we see other kids all of the time.  But this was the first time that we were really immersed.

It wasn’t easy at first.  Seeing her classmates do things like ride their bikes, hop off and walk into school.  Not only that, but we realized quickly that everything moved incredibly fast for Alexis in the classroom, compared to what most of the other kids were experiencing.  I was in awe when I watched other children write, draw pictures, color inside the lines, and read.

When we left the kindergarten orientation where the teachers outlined their expectations for the year, I was in tears.  They were talking about needing to know and recognize all of the letters within a couple of months, being able to read, and do math problems.  I told Brandon on the drive home, “We are still teaching her how to walk, how are we going to have time to spend on that stuff?”

The reality is that we don’t have a lot of time to spend on school work.  She has an IEP, a great team of teachers, and some wonderful paraprofessionals.  We are 7 homework assignments behind right now, because it takes her hours (with modifications) to do what I have watched other kids accomplish in five minutes.  So you would think I would be frustrated with school, right?  Much the opposite.

The last few weeks have been pretty magical.  She’s been invited to several birthday parties where I always stay to help her get around.  And because of that, I’ve got to witness some special things.  Here’s just one example of many.

My favorite moment is when we showed up at Chuck E. Cheese and a couple of the boys invited her over to play a boat racing game.  Alexis was standing beside the game watching, and she got startled.  Her right arm went flying up (she can’t control it) and it hit her friend in the head.  He didn’t even react.  He just reached over and grabbed her right hand and put it on the game console and held it there.  To him it was no big deal at all, he just knew that Alexis’ arm did that and immediately helped her out.  It seriously makes me cry every time I think about it.  Most 6-year-olds would get mad, but they know Alexis and understand what her body does.

I’ve had some fantastic moments with other parents over the last couple of weeks too, and it makes me realize I am not a lot different than they are.  All of us are still trying to get our kids to sleep in their own beds, not interrupt, or stop playing with the iPAD.  We all have our challenges.

I’ve been to swimming parties where one of her classmates can jump off of the high dive into 13 foot water, and watched as other ones stayed in the shallow water in floaties.  In the classroom I’ve seen kids just finishing the first problem on their math worksheet, while the kid next to them is just finishing the entire thing.

None of our children fit perfectly into charts or lists.  They are going to have strengths and weaknesses…just like we all do.  I think the less we worry about where our kids are on the “milestone” charts, and the more we appreciate the fact that there will be areas where they excel and others where they struggle- the better off we are as parents, and our kids are as kids.

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.