I think one of the most challenging obstacles in having a special needs child is having a child that cannot communicate with you. I have said time and again if only Elizabeth could speak this would make raising this child so much easier. I know she understands me, in fact there are times that I am completely taken back by how much she takes in and actually gets. I have always been adamant in including Elizabeth in activities and have always encouraged her teachers to do the same. I don’t want anyone to think that just because she cannot speak to you she can’t participate and understand that she is a part of what is happening around her.
Some years ago Josh and I were met with the possibility of Elizabeth having to undergo hip surgery. It wasn’t something that we were in total agreement over and sought several opinions. I remember this one appointment as if it were happening right here, right now. Sitting in a room at Arkansas Children’s Hospital waiting for one of the orthopedic surgeons to meet with us … the door opens and introductions were made. He stands over Elizabeth and asks her what is your favorite color? I look at Josh who looks back at me with that oh so familiar look of “don’t say a word just yet …” and I say to the doctor that Elizabeth cannot speak. So he then begins a series of questions with me. What is her favorite song? What is her favorite TV show? What is her favorite food, really how do you know that is her favorite? He is throwing these questions at me so fast that my brain couldn’t catch up to tell him that I honestly didn’t know because she can’t tell me. When I am finally able to tell him that he asks me how do I know she wants a hip operation. WANTS?? I don’t know of anyone that wants one but I did know that she was in pain, she was developing scoliosis from a hip that was 100% out of socket and that was why we had just driven 3 ½ hours to talk to this man. This surgeon tells me that since Elizabeth has no way to communicate with us then how can he make a decision on whether or not she needs surgery and sent us on our way. I was so frustrated, more so that I could not answer his questions than that we were leaving still not knowing if Elizabeth was going to undergo surgery.
This is where my mission began to find out just exactly what are Elizabeth’s favorites. I was going to give this girl a voice for herself. I have spent years telling people that I am Elizabeth’s voice but I have come to realize while she may not be able to use the words that you and I can use she can tell me what is going on up in that head of hers somehow, someway! We started with something easy … yes and no answers. Growing up Nathan was always trying to get Elizabeth to do some silly trick. He taught her to stick out her tongue, blow raspberries … if she coughed he would say things like “oh Elizabeth, what a bad cough …” and she would cough again. I knew she understood so I began to teach her to click her tongue for yes and shake her head for no. It caught on very quickly with her however there were times that Elizabeth would agree that the Queen of England would be joining us for dinner on Sunday evening! From here we went to choices. Just two were presented but she learned she could move her arm just enough to motion to us what she wanted. So I learned that she loves dark chocolate M&M’s, is not a fan of the movie Les Miserables, for a 48 hour period Frozen ran on continuous loop and miss thing must have Pioneer Woman on 24/7.
The irony of Elizabeth being so into Ree and her cooking is that Elizabeth eats so very little by mouth now. I on the other hand find myself making more 16 minute meals than ever and the weekends are now spent pouring through the DVR trying to determine what next feast she has aired will land on my dining room table that night for dinner. Elizabeth’s morning begin at 5:00am with her first feeding, this is where my day begins with Ree. From here we just move down the list of recorded events. Now one would think that after 2 or 3 episodes Elizabeth would grow tired. Oh no, not only is this on at any given moment that she is home but every night we set up her iPad and she falls asleep to some yummy dessert baking away in the kitchen of the Drummond household. I can’t explain what it is about The Pioneer Woman that has Elizabeth so engaged but today our shout out goes to our favorite chef for helping make #LifeWithElizabeth a little sweeter.