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Yesterday was our annual eye appointment day.  For those who do not parent children who have special needs, that probably doesn’t sound like such a big deal.  Rush in, get the kid’s eyeballs checked out by a friendly doctor, stop and pick out some cute frames on the way out….and BAM! It’s a done deal.  Easy peasy.  Clueless little lambs, aren’t they?  Lordy, “clueless” is such a distant memory for me.  (basking in the memory for a moment….basking still….OK, that half a second is over, so we can move on now.)

Have you ever attempted to give a kitten a bath?  As you begin to dip your delightful, fuzzy, domesticated little friend into the warm water, he suddenly transforms into a wire-haired demon from the pit of….well, if you’ve ever had this experience, then you know.  The sound that comes out of that creature is unearthly, and what you thought were four paws of slightly sharp claws becomes a whole slew of razor sharp daggers aiming straight for your face.  For the rest of us, those who DO parent special needs kiddos, taking our harmless angels to a doctor’s appointment, and I mean ANY doctor’s appointment, is very much like bathing a kitty.  Think about it.  There IS a reason I put off Hope and Charlie’s annual eye appointment until the very last day of the year.

Consider for a moment what it would be like to be nine years old and non-verbal.  You have thoughts, opinions, fears, and needs….but you have a difficult time expressing all of those things without words.  Pretty tough life, huh?  Now imagine being pulled into a room full of rather large, strange looking equipment that requires a stranger to hold your face perfectly still while she “attacks” your eyes with that same equipment.

The room looks like this:


But to my Hopey, I would guess the room looks very much like this:


So, what’s a parent to do?  That is the question. When Hope was a baby, I was fortunate to have Barb Hargrove in my life.  SuperBarb came in and saved many of my most harrowing days.  In the beginning of our time together, she taught me a simple massage technique that began with Hope’s right shoulder and worked clockwise all the way around to her left shoulder.  We rubbed each finger, each toe, each arm, each leg, and pressed hard on the sole of each foot.  The massage technique was firm, not “limp and sissy” (SuperBarb’s words…not mine), and I was instructed to utilize it with every diaper change, which I did, religiously.  The purpose was to “wake up” Hopey’s muscles by reminding her brain they were there.  Willing to do anything and everything to make my baby’s path as easy as possible, I became a special needs mom on a major massage mission.

Over time, I noticed that Hope, even as a tiny baby, began to anticipate those massages.  Stretching her arms and legs out as far as they would reach, she reminded me that it was time for her rub down each time I pulled out a diaper.  I even made up a song to the familiar “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” tune to sing along with the frequent massages:  “Little Hopey had an arm….E-I-E-I-O….And on that arm there was a hand….E-I-E-I-O….with a rub, rub, here…and a rub, rub, there….here a rub, there a rub…everywhere a rub, rub….”  And because she loved her massages so much, I never stopped.

Hope’s rub downs are no longer used for diaper changes; they’ve morphed into something much more useful and relevant.  Whenever she feels anxious or unsure about anything, out pops one of her arms (or sometimes a leg).  The girl can’t speak with words, but she shouts volumes with actions.  Yesterday was no exception.  In the eye appointment, when we walked into that windowless room and spotted the ‘eye care chair of torture’, her arm shot straight out to me.  I expected it.  Was ready for it.  That arm represented the beauty of silent communication between me and my cub.  As I knelt and massaged those precious little fingers, the doctor never seemed to notice me humming the old familiar tune.  She was busy doing her job while I was busy doing mine.  But Hopey did notice, and she relaxed.  (Thank you SuperBarb!)

This is a tip that works for me.  Leave a comment and let me know what works for you!