PARENTS

Learning To Walk At Two And A Quarter

14/08/2014 16:50 | Updated 22 May 2015

The secret diary of a special needs mum: Learning to walk at two and a quarter

My amazing son who I'll call J, is two, and was diagnosed soon after birth with a relatively rare genetic condition. We don't yet know how it will affect him as he grows older, but so far he has battled an array of medical problems. One thing's for sure, our little family's life will never be 'normal'...

Yesterday, a well-meaning man who saw J whizzing around with his baby walker asked me: "Is he one yet?"

"Actually, he's two," I replied. I've got used to strangers assuming J is half his age. When he was nine months old, people complimented me on my newborn.

I don't think about J as having 'special needs' all the time, and in many ways we are very lucky that he lives a fairly normal life at this point.

But when we're with other children his age, the differences become more obvious.

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J is small and somewhat physically fragile. And in developmental terms, J has done everything late; in some cases so late that we have worried he will never move onto the next step.

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He was the baby in the neonatal unit who needed the CPAP breathing machine for much longer than others. My husband and I feared he might be on it till his teens!

When his little friends were sitting up independently at nine months, without me J would topple over. While his peers crawled, J had hours of physiotherapy to go onto his tummy even for a moment. He first crawled when he was about 15 months corrected, and the frustration he'd been crying about for months evaporated - he could move on his own, at long last! He was so excited that night I saw him crawling in his sleep.

By that time his friends were all long since walking. But although J started cruising around 18 months corrected, at nearly two-and-a-half he still hasn't taken a step unaided.

He is making terrific progress - the last few weeks he has learned to walk with one of our hands instead of two; and started to stand on his own; the record as of yesterday being an incredible 16 seconds. He's so proud of himself; it's adorable.

When I say to people that I can't wait for J to start walking, they think I'm worried he never will, or that I mind him being behind the others his age. That's not it at all - I just want him to feel less frustrated.

For instance, in the lovely sunny weather this spring, J wants to walk across the grass in the park, but it's too difficult for his baby walker to roll over the grass, which upsets him. And he can't climb and run around in the playground like his friends.

When your child finds routine things difficult, especially when it's your first child, you start to wonder how any child learns to do things so easily.

When J couldn't breathe unaided, I wondered how other children knew how to breathe, and now, I wonder how others just get up and walk.

I'm not embarrassed or ashamed of J being different; I love him all the more for it.

In fact, I've come to enjoy us, as a pair, being the odd ones out, the ones people look at questioningly. Perhaps that's because I'm so very proud of J and everything he's so painstakingly achieved.

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