Yesterday, my sensational girl participated in her fifth dance recital. She was just a little over two years old when she showed an interest in dance. It was also a time when the letters SPD were not yet a part of our vocabulary but the behaviors and the meltdowns were at their peak. After two failed attempts at dance class, I gave up. Whatever was plaguing this little girl clearly overruled her ability to conduct herself in a dance class the way the teachers expected. And although her dance experience was far from successful, she kept asking to go back. So a friend of mine suggested I try a third studio. She heard amazing things about the teacher. Fast forward five years and this amazing teacher has turned my overstimulated little toddler into a confident, successful and happy dancer. So here we are now, replaying all the great moments from yesterday’s show, which included my youngest child’s first ever turn on the stage where she, like her sister before her, danced her tiny, little heart out. We are celebrating this milestone with my daughter for five years of hard work which will soon be rewarded with the eagerly anticipated Five Year Dance Trophy.
This trophy was something my now 7 year old girl has talked about all year long. She is counting the days until that shiny token of achievement will be placed in her happy, little hands. However, no one is more excited for her to receive this trophy than me. You see, this trophy does not only mark a major accomplishment in her life as a dancer but it marks many major accomplishments in her life with SPD..three letters which now are as familiar to us as our own names. So, as I sit here and write, I can’t help but reminisce about the other milestones this trophy represents because this year has been, by far, my girl’s most successful year to date since we started this journey five years ago.
This year, my girl took her first plane trip where she talked herself through the first few frightening minutes of liftoff before I even had the chance to comfort her.
This year, she has taken her first trip to Disney World, experiencing the magic with wide-eyed excitement as any other child would.
This year, she attended the Halloween dance at school, looking forward to dancing the night away with friends. Last year, she cried until we got there and clung to me until the end when she had finally gotten acclimated to the noise and chaos.
This year, she has been declassified from special education, not because she no longer has any issues but because those issues no longer interfere in her life as a student in a significant way.
This year she has gone on her first amusement park ride, skated at her first roller rink, attended her first local fair, gone to her first non-sensory movie or show, taken her first shower where she actually stood under the water…and the list goes on and on.
Five years ago, this little girl embarked on her journey as a dancer but it was also the year she embarked on this journey of self-awareness as a person living with SPD. So many people are always giving me the credit for her success, but when I look back, I feel that I really had very little to do with it. She is the one who has completed five years of therapies, doctor’s visits, and evaluations. She is the one who has taken the tools and coping strategies she has learned and implements them when needed. She has been able to push herself past the point of discomfort more than any person I know and, even when pushed too far, she has gotten back up and started over again. She has learned to vocalize when she needs to bow out, regardless of what anyone around her may think.
This amazing girl was born with passion, determination, empathy, and compassion for others. These are qualities that cannot be taught. In exchange, she had to learn how to train her brain to get used to the environment around her…something most others are born being able to do. She may not know it yet, but she was the one determined not to let SPD get the better of her and she has not only succeeded, she excelled.
The reason for most of her success in life comes from those innate qualities I had nothing to do with. She was given to me that way just as she was given to me having SPD. So, I may have been the one to get her evaluated and take her to therapy sessions but she is the one who internalized everything she was taught and applies it on a daily basis.
Dance is something my girl does from the heart..you can see it when you watch her. It is the reason she has stuck with it for five years, even when she struggled with the overstimulation that came with it. She will always be someone who leads with her heart. It will be her greatest asset but also, at times, her greatest weakness. I know because I have seen this in her already and also, because I realize, I am a lot like her.
Five years ago, I didn’t know what the future had in store for us and I worried about the kind of life my child would have because of this obstacle we knew nothing about. Five years ago, our story had just begun. Now, I look forward to what the next five years bring..and the next five after that. But no matter where our girl takes us, I do know one thing for sure. My girl will continue to approach life with the same determination and passion that has driven her to overcome anything life has thrown at her. She will fall, and before I can stumble over to help her, she will already be on her feet back at it again.
So, just as those 99 tokens still sit in our house as a daily reminder of SPD, this Five Year Trophy will sit right next to it..standing taller and overshadowing that tiny plastic cup that symbolizes my girl’s greatest challenge just as my girl’s greatest qualities now outshine any difficulties brought on by having SPD.
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson