Special needs

Special-needs parenting: Milestones vs. inchstones

In the world of special-needs parenting, even the little steps towards independence mark a major milestone.

Syona-shoes

Syona put on her shoes all by herself. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Last week, as she does every morning, Syona was sitting on my lap as we put on her shoes together before school. I opened up the Velcro strap, slid her foot in and reached down for her other shoe. As I looked up again I noticed something amazing: Syona had reached for the Velcro strap and finished putting on her shoe. All by herself. Without being prompted.

It was one of those moments that many parents take for granted. But for us, this was a major milestone. In addition to the fact it’s a challenging task for Syona because of her fine motor challenges, we haven’t made mastering her shoes by herself a goal. Which means that, although we encourage as much independence as possible, we haven’t necessarily devoted extra attention to teaching Syona this one particular task. This was just something she figured out on her own.

So we took a moment to celebrate. I looked at her with a huge smile, planted as many kisses as I could on her face and told her how proud I was. And then we excitedly put on her other shoe, slipped on her coat and ran out to the awaiting bus. We celebrated again with her amazing bus driver as Syona proudly proclaimed that she put her shoes on “all by myself.”

I walked back into the house and carried on with my day—except that it wasn’t just any other day. It was a remarkable day. It marked the first time Syona put on shoes by herself.

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Those of us who have kids with special needs have a term for milestones like these: We call them “inchstones.” They refer to those moments that may not seem like milestones for other parents. For example, your child may show you affection or make a “ba” sound unprompted. Inchstones are often things that we don’t necessarily expect our child to do—they are goals that we (and our kids) work tirelessly toward. They are often moments that parents of children who are “typically” developing may take for granted.

I get where the term inchstone comes from. But for some reason, the term never sits right with me and I never feel comfortable using it. Because for us these aren’t inchstones. They are milestones. They are huge moments. And I don’t ever for a second want Syona to think that they are any less meaningful than anything any other child achieves. Not for a second. After all, what’s that old cliché? “Give someone an inch, and they take a mile.” Yep, that’s my kid. And I couldn’t be prouder.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.