We just celebrated my daughter Rebecca's 29th birthday. I am amazed when I think about what a wonderful, full life she has, and as a result, what it has enabled me to enjoy as well.
There are memories of that dark time in the life of our family when the diagnosis of a pervasive developmental delay seemed like the end of anything feeling familiar. She was less than a year old. How could this be happening?
None of us, not my husband, my son, nor I, were prepared for the new territory we were thrust into instantly. We felt helpless, as if our world was collapsing. Everything we planned came crashing in.
Our hopes and dreams for our baby girl were dashed.
Or so we thought.
We set out on a path of discovery. We grieved. We were angry and felt isolated. We were disbelieving and refused to accept that she would be defined by her limitations.
Through it all, though, we learned that Rebecca is a teacher to all of us. She has an enormous spirit and is a joyful person who will not be denied. I sometimes joke that she must have been royalty in some other life. She is engaging and relentlessly insistent that she be treated with respect. She gets nervous and has learned to self-soothe.
She has a voice and a powerful, clear sense of herself.
You know when you are headed in the right direction because everything gets easier. Even the struggles seem to ease. We didn't feel alone. We found a community of like-minded families and professionals. We dared to dream and it all paid off.
Today, Rebecca lives independently in a home in Glenview with three other young adults. They have staff who assists them when needed. She attends an art studio and has become quite an artist. She works in the community one day a week. She loves music and has friends. She is safe and happy. Life is not without challenges, but Rebecca has a sense of purpose, positive self-esteem and an identity as someone whose life means something.
This is what every parent wants for their child, and it confirms that the vision her father and I had for her was possible beyond anything we might have dreamed.
Diane Turner is a mom of two and author of Heart Wisdom: A Concise Companion for Creating a Life of Possibility. She lives in Glenview.