You’ll remember back in April when I gratefully opened my blog to the writing of my friend Andrea Haefele who shared her story of her daughter Bella and their life with autism (read the blog post here). Bella would soon be competing in a du-athlon and her family had submitted a video in the FilmPossible Film Festival.Here is an update from Andrea.
Thank you to our good friends Heather and Royan for sharing their personal blogs with us. Through social media, we were able to share our family’s journey with special needs. Over 1000 people have read our story and have shared it with their own family and friends.
We were astounded by the number of views of Bella’s video, created by the very talented Jesse MacNevin. With his talent for photography and videography, he was able to capture the joy and spirit of our beautiful Bella. With your continuous daily support, Bella’s video finished #1 with the top number of votes and comments in the Bloorview Filmpossible contest, making her a top 10 finalist placing 4th overall.
Even though we did not win the contest, we have triumphed in the positive feedback, shared stories, and new contacts that we have made by sharing a glimpse of our lives. For the past 5 years, my husband and I have been on a difficult journey. First with wondering whether our baby was developing ‘normally’, then in testing to obtain a diagnosis for Bella, processing the fact that she was developmentally delayed and on the severe spectrum of Autism Spectrum Disorder, figuring out the best tools and therapies for her to achieve the best of her potential, and accepting our daughter for everything that she is. Needless to say, it has been toiling, both emotionally and physically, as well as incredibly rewarding to witness each step that she has taken. No one knows what the future will hold. We constantly wonder what Bella’s life will be like: Will she be able to get dressed on her own? Will she be able to write her name? Will she have friends who want to play with her at recess? Will she ever tell me that she loves me?
All we can do as parents is give our kids our best, and help them turn their cant’s into cans.
On Saturday, May 31st, Bella proved that she could DUO! She participated in the Family Fun Fit East End Kids KOS Duathlon , and proudly ran 50 metres, rode her bike for 600 metres, followed by another 100 metre run. To our family this race was not only an extension of our passion for physical activity, but a great step in our pursuit to bring visibility to disABILITY.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. This is what Bella has taught us. Since she was an infant, she was born with challenges. Despite these obstacles and the medical predictions and assumptions of what she would and would not be able to do, she has constantly surprised us with her abilities, from the time she took her first step to walk at the age of 2, to the first time she used her communication book to request for her favourite shaker.
When I stepped into the world as a parent of a child with special needs, I thought I would have to teach my child about the world. I thought I would have to focus my energy in teaching her how to sit quietly, play appropriately, and behave in a way that others would perceive as ‘normal’. I was wrong. It turns out I have to teach the world about my child.
By sharing our story, we hope that the next time you meet someone with special needs, you have a better understanding of that person’s struggles, but also of his or her accomplishments. We hope that, if you were to meet Bella, you would see a person who wants a friend to play with, who perseveres through challenges and never gives up, who radiates happiness with her ear-to-ear grin.
Yes, “special parents” have it pretty rough. But, like all other parents, it’s not like we were given a choice. We just tough it through, each and every day, and have impressed ourselves with all that we can and continue to do… Just as Bella has impressed us with all that she can and will continue to do. I’m often asked how I find the strength to push on. The following quote provides the answer and truly embodies our family: “Children with special needs are not sent to special parents. Children with special needs make parents special.”