Her way.. One half turn at a time.

When Zoe was almost 5, I published an article about her differences, and the importance of raising her to believe she was ” just like everyone else” and  capable of doing anything, her own way..  I wrote about the way my daughters danced together back then ”  Dressed in matching dance outfits, feather boas and princess crowns, they danced side by side across the tile on our family-room floor. Zoe rocked her shoulders back and forth to the beat while Olivia sang, shimmied and twirled circles around her. And then Zoe, singing along to the same music, would join in spinning her walker on the floor, twirling effortlessly, just like her sister, doing it her way,  one half turn at a time” …

Zoe is social, outgoing and loves life- her spiritual energy overpowers the true physical energy her body has to spend. Over the years, Zoe has asked to try many things that typical kids do- even though her ability to maintain her balance, stand unassisted, and independently is limited to mere minutes. When Zoe asked to fly a kite at the park, I found a toy dazzler ribbon- a long wide ribbon made of kite material attached to a baton that Zoe held, as she drove the sidewalk in her power wheelchair at the local park.

And when she was a baby, I could see that music captivated and soothed her, but teaching her to sing along was a process. For the longest time, she was reluctant to sing because the music moved to fast. It was music therapy that helped her find her voice, not only did we slow the music down but also taught her that it was okay to sing just some of the words.

Zoe is almost 9 now, and loves Miley Cyrus, and Tyler Swift and sings along in the car every morning on our ride to school. She has mostly typical friends at school. She is the only student that uses a walker, the only student that uses a wheelchair- and she realizes this in a whole new way. All of a sudden, she has looked around and realized that she does things differently than everyone else, and its my job to teach her that is okay. To celebrate these differences and not hide behind them.

Fast forward the years -and now it’s time to teach her that yes, she is different, but its okay to do things her way, that she is not the only one. ( Like at school, like at church, like at the park or in the neighborhood) . Today I am looking for opportunities that expose her to other kids, dancing, singing , having fun, playing sports with walkers and wheelchairs.

So not a day later after Zoe came running down the hall  of our house in her walker, appearing before me to imitate the big finish dance number in High School Musical, her physical therapist sent me an email about a new Special Needs Cheer Team at the local gym.

I told Zoe about it later that night.. finishing with .. ” What do you think ?”.. ” Well, she said.. I don’t know.. they would go too fast for me, I think.” And when she looked up at me I could see the tears gathering in her eyes. I knelt before her, eye to eye and began to speak gently.. ” No, Zoe. this cheerleading is special, I think they would go slower and let you do it your way. They want it to be fun for you. There is even another little girl, in a walker, just like you. ” She thought about this, and I could see this surprised her. ” I guess I could try, Mom” she said. ” But I don’t think I want to . Maybe I will watch. Will they have pom- poms? ” Oh yes, I assured her. And I bet I can find you pink sparkly ones.. ” She was smiling now and as I  wrapped my arms around her shoulders, drawing her into me, , I could see her in my mind, shimmying in her walker, happy- and for once not the only kid doing it differently, her own way.. one half turn at a time. “

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