I know, I know. A Haven update is very long overdue here. I am so grateful to all of you who reach out periodically to ask me how our sweet girl is doing. I really appreciate it.
Haven has been home for six years now. Hard to believe. For those of you who have journeyed with me for a while, you will know that it’s been a road filled with many lows, but also with so many amazing highs too. We learned early on in this journey that the only way to go with our Haven was slowly. Very, very slowly. PTSD is a nasty beast! PTSD and developmental delays to the point of losing your ability to speak due to such profound orphanage abuse is just beyond human understanding. We’re still learning as we go. God continues to lead and direct us daily in knowing how to best meet Haven’s needs and help her to become as independent as she can be in her life–no matter what that looks like.
Haven still does not have any words. Her therapists continue to work with her several times a week, but nothing. Her severe apraxia means that she is unable to make the sounds come out as they should. And that’s okay. She lets us know of her needs and thankfully for the most part we know when she’s stressed, when she needs a change in environment, or has a basic need. She’s smart at letting us know what she wants! Developmentally, her receptive language was recently diagnosed as being that of a two and a half year old. And that’s okay too.
For the past few months, we have been feeling like Haven needs a little more than she’s getting at home. She knows her family. She knows she’s safe here (safety is everything!). She knows that no one will hurt her. But as far as her learning goes, she has plateaued. After much research, I reached out to our local school district and spent weeks in conversation and visiting different classroom situations that they have. I knew what Haven needed, but nothing really seemed to fit. The school district was truly incredible and worked with us to find an environment that would be safe and accommodating to Haven’s needs. They listened and worked with us.
Before making a decision, I took Haven to the classroom to see what her reaction would be. Obviously, we needed to know that she was open to it. I observed her carefully–looking for telltale signs of anxiety. Any hesitation or stress on her part and I would have run out of there with my girl!
She LOVED it! Oh my goodness! Haven instantly engaged in what they were doing and smiled the whole time we were there. I sensed God taking us down a new road. Our sweet girl was emotionally ready to try something new.
We prayed and felt sure in our hearts that we needed to give it a try. We started by sending her just a couple of hours a day and gradually increased the time. It’s been an amazing thing to watch unfold. Haven cannot wait for her special little bus to pull up outside our house in the morning! Sweetest thing! She puts on her backpack and waits until she sees the bus and then goes to the door for me to say goodbye.
Anthony said to me this morning that while he was putting out the trash, he could see Haven’s face as she was approached the bus down the walkway from our front door. (Normally, we see only her back as she walks away from us toward the bus at the curb.) So Anthony saw her face for the first time and said it was GLOWING! She wore the biggest smile as she was about to board the bus with her friends. For this season of her life, it has been such a huge answer to prayer.
Haven is part of a very small, self-contained classroom. I understand that most parents want their children to be integrated, but for Haven, that would be an absolute disaster. She is one of six children and has an aide with her at all times. She spends her days in her little classroom and is taken out onto the playground, etc., when the rest of the school isn’t there. She is never mainstreamed simply because she could never handle that. She needs a small, safe, protected environment and the school has provided her with exactly that.
She loves it! Really loves it. It has been a wonderful opportunity for Haven to gain some independence away from us and to learn that the world outside of our home can also be a safe place. Her teacher is amazing and every staff member who works with Haven during the day loves her dearly (how could they not?!). She is learning new things and is having the best time doing music therapy and going on community trips every week with her friends.
And at the end of the day, as I wait outside her school, she comes out of her classroom with a huge smile on her face.
Parenting children who have special needs is such a journey. Every day is different. Every year is different. Needs always change. We have learned to take things one tiny step at a time. We have learned that one size really does not fit all. Every child is so unique and so precious and their needs can change from month to month. I pray that our hearts are always wide open–listening and willing to try new things.
I am so thankful that Haven is learning and growing and that God’s hand is upon her in her little classroom. She touches the hearts of everyone who meets her. She is loved and protected there, and every person who works with her is helping her to learn every day. She’s just so special.
And as much as I miss having my sweet, quiet, beautiful and amazing young lady right here with me for those few hours during the day, I know that she is right where God has placed her….for such a time as this. We don’t know what next year will hold. We don’t even know what next week will hold.
I guess that’s why the Father says that we don’t need to worry about tomorrow.
Because He’s already there.