Thursday, January 12, 2012

Our kids' secret strength


Last weekend, Sabrina saw a commercial for Soul Surfer and kept asking to watch it. The movie's about Bethany Hamilton, a pro surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack at age 13. I thought Sabrina was maybe a little young to see it, but I got it from Netflix because the lessons of overcoming physical hardships and doing things to the best of your abilities are good ones for her. We watched the movie together (two thumbs up!) and afterward we talked about how someone with a disability can be a great athlete. "You mean Max can go surfing?" she asked. "Maybe he will," I said, "especially if they come out with a Cars 2 surfboard!"

As I watched people cheer on Bethany, it occurred to me—as it has many times over the years—just how critical determination can be for people with disabilities. Despite the physical challenges Max has, with determination he has sometimes overcome them or compensated for them or, more often, figured out ways around them.

Max is blessed with an abundance of determination, something I've known since he was a tot and his chubby little hands struggled to grasp a toy. But he'd keep right on trying, finally getting ahold of whatever it was and clinging to it for dear life. When Max decided he needed to get around, he did it in the only way he could: commando crawling like a soldier, pulling himself along on the ground using his arms and legs. And man, he was fast. "You training him for war?" people would joke. It was a wonder to see.

Max's arms and legs needed to get stronger for him to crawl on his hands and knees; that happened when he turned 2. Getting a walker helped him learn to walk, but it was his spirit that propelled him. Max took his first steps at 3, and he's been going, going, going ever since.

In recent years, Max has determinedly learned how to use an iPad, ride a bike, read words and torture his sister. The other day, when we ordered in Chinese food, Max decided to try chopsticks. They weren't even the kiddie kind, attached at the top. You know how hard it is to grasp chopsticks, even if you're a fully functioning adult. Now imagine a kid with cerebral palsy who has serious fine-motor-skill challenges trying to use them.

But Max tried, tried, then tried again.




And he did it.

Sabrina, of course, was not to be outdone.

What sort of stuff have your kids been determined to do lately? I'd love to hear.

21 comments:

  1. That is AWESOME. We use chopsticks at home sometimes and my daughter has started to reach for them and try to copy us. She doesn't have the coordination but she, like Max, definitely has the determination. Love this!

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  2. Go Max and Sabrina!

    For me that's what's most inspiring about being Norrin's mom. When I see how hard he works to do the basic things that so many of do without thinking or blinking an eye - it just makes me realize anything is possible if we work hard enough.

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  3. yay! i love that he figured out the chopsticks!

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  4. Did your copy of movie have the extras? I thought they were just a good as the movie.

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  5. Didn't you love how the mom in the movie balanced independence and encouragement? She was amazing. I'm still overjoyed everyday to watch how my non-verbal cognitively impaired son drives a power chair. I can't believe I ever doubted him.

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  6. Amazing!! Olivia has done too many things to list here but my favorite is her English accent. ;)

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  7. Chopsticks! I can't even use them. Way to go Max.
    My daughter is also filled with determination. As a tot she used to figure out all the functions of her toys, right down to the tiny little sensors that made all the sounds and lights appear.
    She has continued to push through whatever challenges she faces and prove everyone wrong. Such a proud mommy.

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  8. BW aka Barbara from BostonJanuary 12, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Great that you let Sabrina watch Soul Surfer. I just watched the last half of it even though I laughed at myself for watching a self help, chick flick type of movie. It possibly gave Sabrina even more empathy with Max and others who are differently abled, as am I.

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  9. i can not use chopsticks wtg max

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  10. GO MAX!!! I have tried to use chopsticks many times and can't figure them out!

    Thank you Ellen for such a great post. When I am having a down day I can always count on your blog to make me feel like things will be ok. When I read about Max's progression and think of N's current place (crawling using arms only) I remain hopeful that he is on track to walk someday.

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  11. YAY Max You are awesome I find it hard to use my right hand (i was practicing typing with both hands a few hours ago I haven't mastered it yet but i will soon you watch this space me, Max and all the other people with special powers will rule the world someday because we know that you can only fail if you stop trying).

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  12. Way to go Max! I wondered if you could teach my husband how to use chopsticks. ? Are you available for tutoring?? Keep up the great work!

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  13. Way to go with the chopsticks Max! I can't even use them no matter how much I try.

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  14. Can I just say...I'm a 27 year old NT girl, and -I- can't figure out chopsticks. Very, very nice. :)

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  15. DUDES, I can barely use chopsticks (I neglected to mention that). Come to think of it, using them would be a wonderful way to lose weight because I'd barely get any food in my mouth. There you go, my Million Dollar Idea: The Chopsticks Diet!

    I didn't get to see the movie extras (we streamed it thru Netflix, I'll go back and see if they were there). And, yes, I thought that mom was inspirational.

    Barbara, that's it exactly, I was hoping the movie would help her see her brother as someone who can achieve, not someone to feel sorry for. I think she sometimes feels sorry for him. When she's not teasing/torturing him back, that is.

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  16. Yay Max! I know some adult American men who have to travel to Asia that could learn a thing or two from Max!

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  17. My daughter is 2 and has CP. I love that recently she has so much self-confidence. Shen she has trouble feeding herself she assumes it's the fault of the spoon she's using. So she tries to trade with me, again, and again, and again, because the spoon is working for me when I use it!

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  18. I am going to show this to my husband, who has CP, when he gets home from work. No more excuses that he just can't "do" chopsticks.

    On a more serious note, I think the will and drive to do things is so important with SN kids. That is the one thing my inlaws did amazingly right with my husband. They taught him anything was possible and pushed him to live life like "everyone else." If your kids grow up believing they can do it, they will. Hooray for Max!

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  19. I cant use chopsticks at 34! Yea Max!

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  20. I'm 12 and can use chopsticks, but to see Max do it impressed me.

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Thanks for sharing!