Alisha Langford // Contributor // Director of Client Care Team at Palladio Company
May 20, 2017 was one of the most terrifying and amazing days I've had as a parent in a long time.
My daughter Ashlynn was diagnosed at birth with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Doctors told me she would never walk, talk, or attend school. She’s now 17 years old and all of that has been totally disproven. As a parent, I have advocated, protected, cried for her and with her, through the many milestones (missed and achieved) in her life. Yes, she has seizures (some of which are very scary), and faces many other challenges. Yet Ashlynn never ceases to prove the world wrong.
At the beginning of the 2016 school year Ashlynn told me she was going to prom.
Every time the subject came up, I was slightly torn with anxiety. But together we created a plan for her and a friend to attend. Normally, I do as much recon as possible to ensure her safety, support, and that nothing can go wrong; to make sure her environment is perfect for her success. This time I didn't do that. I did email the school to let them know she would be there and to update the chaperones of her seizure protocol. Nevertheless, I realize that the older she and I both get, I won’t always be there to recon her life before she lives it.
My stomach was aching with anxiety as I drove her and her friend to the prom venue. I was worried about everything you can imagine.
We stopped across the street from the venue. I wanted to put on my hazard lights, leave my car in the middle of the road, walk in with her to make sure she would be safe. Instead, I filmed her as she got out of the car. The minute she opened the car door, kids standing outside exclaimed, "Hi Ashlynn, your dress is so pretty!" She ran across the road and started taking selfies with all the rest of the kids. Natural inclusion at its finest!
Reluctantly I pulled away, white knuckling the steering wheel. I parked a few blocks away and sat there waiting for her to call, saying she needed me. After 20 minutes of radio silence, I finally drove home. From there, I Facebook-stalked Ashlynn to no avail, other than coming across posts from other moms with "typical" kids, expressing the same fears. They were also waiting by their phones, waiting for their kids to need them.
A few hours in, Ashlynn's friend sent me a video of her dancing the night away. I burst into tears as I watched the joy and happiness that was pouring from her body. She had the time of her life that night!
The lessons for me were: all moms worry about their kids the exact same way, all the fears I had were mine, and not Ashlynn's, and my fears have nothing to do with being a mom of a special needs kid, and everything to do with just being a mom!
Although, I try very hard to allow her to have her own experiences, there have been times that I have talked her out certain things based on my own fears. I'm very thankful that I kept my fears to myself that night and let her be included, because inclusion isn't always about the rest of the world including our kids. Sometimes, it's about us, as parents, allowing our kids to be included. Regardless of what that looks like, no matter how terrifying!
Alisha Langford // Contributor