Ah, my darling Katie. There is so much to say. I found her in the paper one Sunday morning - a Sunday's Child, up for adoption. She was said to have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and moderate retardation. But, worse than this, she was said to have very severe behavior problems in school, such violent whirling, kicking, screaming, spitting fits that it took five adults to hold her down. They called her a whirling dervish. (They asked me if I thought I, as a single mother, would be strong enough to hold her down all by myself! I am a big woman. I assured them that I was certain that I could, and they left it at that. But I NEVER, NEVER saw her throw a fit, and I NEVER had to hold her down. Something at that school must have given her good reason to be so frustrated.) Katie could not pronounce, or recognize her own name. She knew no colors, and could barely speak. I asked many questions, talked many hours with her foster mother on the phone, went to visit her several times, at her school, (where I saw some of what must have frustrated her severely) and in her foster home. I knew that this was my little girl. I became her mother, when she was six years old.
Katie was a sweet, sensitive child, eager to help, but barely able to talk yet. "I hewp, mom!" She was fond of asking to go outside, and would choose a sibling, then ask me "kin-us go out?" After about a year, she learned to say "may we go outside?" I was so happy to be done hearing "kin-us." But this is an example of how hard Katie has worked to learn to speak, and enunciate. She has a speech impediment, but all she really needed was a family of her own. She heard all our talk, and worked to learn to speak in sentences, and imitate our enunciation. She soon was talking a mile a minute, and is still going!
Katie showed me no behavior problems at all. She was intensely observant, and saw that her many older brothers and sisters minded me. She saw that I was firm and fair. I gave her as few rules as possible, and made certain that she knew her rules precisely, and what would happen if she disobeyed. Katie has been an extremely obedient and delightful child. She just needed a noisy busy family to match her noisy busy self! Katie had bountiful energy, and she put her energy to good use. Katie had waited in her foster home, while baby after baby came, stayed, then got adopted. Ever since she could remember, she had been waiting for her own time to be adopted. She was more eager than any child I ever knew, to bond with me, stick by me, and make me happy. This in turn, of course, caused me to bond quickly with her, and want very much for her to be happy. And happy she was! It was an adoption made in Heaven. Katie would play imaginative games, like climbing in a box, and having her sisters and brothers stick books through a crack, thus, "mailing" them. This was a game they seemed never to tire of. She would get out, and they would take turns being inside. Peals of laughter. I even got my movie camera out one day, and filmed this game.
When Katie tired of playing, instead of getting into other people's things, or doing something she shouldn't, she automatically came to me wanting to help. She learned to clear and wash the table, load and unload the dishwasher, pick up her toys, put away her clean clothes, and clean her room. All this while she was still six. My Katie has always been a go-getter!
Katie did some very funny things. She was, and still is an inventive and fascinating person! One night I went in to see if she needed covering up, before I went to bed, and she was not there! Not in the bed, not under the bed, not in the whole house! I was beginning to get scared, when, with one more look in her room, I happened to look up. There were two bare feet on the top shelf of the bookcase! Here, upon closer examination, was my little girl, sound asleep on the bookcase, six feet off the ground, with a baby blanket covering her. She had taken down the stuffed toys that belonged there, and climbed up! I took a picture, which we treasure to this day. Then I lifted her down, and tucked her back in bed. She went on sleeping. At least this child slept well, bless her little heart!
She was excellent at working with her hands, like building buildings for herself to crawl into, with large cardboard blocks I found in pre-school and kindergarten catalogs. She could not put together the simplest pre-school puzzles. (However, by twenty-two years old, she could put together 1,000 piece puzzles, which I have no patience for at all. She then glues them to cardboard, sprays them, and hangs them on her wall.) She could not draw a human form. Her attempt was a circle, with uneven numbers of sticks sticking out from it. She did not know her colors, and I was told she was color blind, but she certainly is not. She absolutely loved being home schooled, and I loved teaching her. She eagerly absorbed everything I read her, or told her. I read to my children an hour every day. Her eyes were glued to me in fascination the whole hour. She especially loved science, and still talks occasionally, about some of our science experiments. But math, reading and writing proved to be extremely difficult. She worked endlessly, year after year, trying to learn to read and write; to add and subtract. But she had a very severe learning disability in those areas. In every OTHER area, she was as bright as a new penny. She could always remember where things were. If anyone lost anything, they would go to Katie, who had a photographic memory, and could find it right away. It was amazing.
Later, as she grew older, I found that she had a real gift for putting things together, like furniture, or other things that came in the mail, and needed assembling. Later still, she demonstrated an advanced ability to program VCRs, cell phones, DVD players, and anything that needed programming. This is a God-given gift. It certainly did not come from me! She is now much better than I am, at these things.
So my precious daughter, whom they told me was very retarded, certainly was not. This daughter was supposed to be very emotionally disturbed, but was certainly not. She did not need the Ritalin she was on, because she handled her own hyperactivity so very well, and put her energy to good use. Also, she was able to concentrate very well. So I took her off of it, and that was a complete success. My daughtery Katie is a very bright person, with a severe learning disability in a few areas. There is a huge difference between retardation, and learning disabilities.
Of course, the learning problems do make her honestly disabled. But her determination continues, working to learn everything she possibly can, and overcome everything she can overcome. She is the most progressive and motivated learner I have ever seen.
We have been working together on her learning to cook, since she was six, but on a formal learning basis since she was twelve. I found a cook book for retarded teenagers, which is heavily into pictures, instead of reading, and back then, when Katie could really not read very many words at all, she learned a bunch of recipes, and began to cook. She learned with difficulty, to measure out ingredients, and even more slowly, to figure out what things like 1/2 meant. That was a very difficult concept for her. By fourteen, she was learning new recipes from a CD rom on our computer. By sixteen, she was inventing some recipes of her own. Now, at twenty-two, she just brought me that old, battered, food spattered cook book, and asked me if she could take it with her to her new apartment! Well, I should say she has earned it! (It's got really good cookie recipes in it, too!)
She has continued to learn to read slowly and steadily, over the years, and is still learning. I believe she will continue learning all of her life. I believe she will be able to drive some day, once she can read the driver's ed. booklet. Remembering what she learns is no problem. She has good common sense, good reflexes, and good concentration. But at this time, she still must be driven. (She couldn't afford a car, anyway, at this time.) During the past year, she has learned to utilize our county transportation system, which is a company which picks up people like Katie, in the mountains, and takes them where they need to go. This is expensive. But she is moving down the mountain, 33 miles away, to the little city where this system originates. She will then be able to use, for very little money, the transportation for grocery shopping, since there are no buses in her little city. Thankfully, the state pays for transportation to her doctor's appointments. She found herself a doctor in the city, and for nearly a year now, she has made her own doctor's appointments, gone by herself, filled prescriptions by herself, and come home. She had to have two corneal transplants, due to an eye problem no one ever knew about, and has gone to twenty-three appointments by herself, to the eye surgeon. This is about 130 miles, round trip from our home. She follows his directions exactly, and precisely, and her eye is healing well, and slowly recovering vision, praise God.