Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter, has apraxia. I know very little else about Daniel Radcliffe. I don’t know how old he is, I don’t know what other acting he’s done, I don’t know his favorite ice cream flavor. I read a little interview with him once though, and I will always remember the apraxia, because that is the one diagnosis we received for Spencer… a whole decade ago, back when we were still in “the system.” I think it’s cool that he decided to speak out about it, and Spencer thinks it’s cool that it’s something he shares with a celebrity.
In short, apraxia is a motor-planning disorder. With Spencer, it is most noticeable in his speech (verbal apraxia), but it can also affect other motor skills to varying degrees. Things like tying shoes and handwriting (two things that Daniel Radcliffe specifically mentioned) can be difficult.
The first couple of years, I researched until I could research no more. I’m truly glad that I learned what I did about apraxia, because it helped me to understand, and understanding is always a positive thing. But just as positive – if not more so – is the fact that I no longer spend my time thinking about it. Some of the beauty of homeschooling is that your kids are not bound by labels. There’s no one trying to “fix” them, no one trying to make them fit their octagon shapes into round holes, no one trying to get them “caught up” to the herd. Spencer, like the rest of my children, can BE. His not being able to tie well or write neatly are not an issue unless he decides they’re an issue.
A couple of weeks ago, we returned home from a week-long trip to Colorado. It was an odd trip… a frustrating trip… a fun trip… a sad trip. A stomach bug took down three of the kids, and teased the adults as well. I recognize that as stressful as it was at the time that it’s just an unfortunate part of life. Lousy timing to be sure, but we didn’t let it ruin the vacation. We hiked, we went on a mountain drive, we enjoyed the hot springs, and we toured a wildlife sanctuary. We actually had a few days of good health in between sick days, and did not take the beauty of the area for granted.
The whole album is here.
When we returned back home (yes, I’m still on the subject of Harry Potter and apraxia. Stick with me), we desperately needed to go sneaker shopping. The younger boys’ were getting too small, Spencer’s were falling apart, and my trusty old Skechers that I’ve had for around 6 years had finally decided to give up the ghost and left their soles on a mountain somewhere. They never even made it home, deposited in the trash bin before we left the resort.
Just like Daniel Radcliffe, Spencer usually chooses non-tie shoes. He seemed to hesitate this time though,and browsed through some of the lace-ups as well. We told him that if he wanted to get shoes with laces that we could help him practice some more, or we could get those things that go on the ends so you don’t have to tie, and can just slip them on and off. We talked about Harry Potter again. He asked me, “Can Harry Potter do the first part? Because I can.” I told him I didn’t know. Still undecided about the shoes, he decided to take a day to think about it, and we’d go back when he made up his mind.
That night, I was laying in bed thinking about Spencer and shoes and Harry Potter.
This is what moms do…. we lay in bed when we can’t sleep and think about our kids, and how we can help them solve problems. I thought about the question he’d asked me, and it suddenly occurred to me that if he could do the first part (the part where you cross the laces) that he could just do it again with the “rabbit ears” method, instead of struggling with the “loop, swoop, and pull.” I was so excited that I had to force myself to stay in bed instead of getting up then and there in the middle of the night.
The next morning I told him what I’d realized, and showed him what I meant on my own shoes. He sat with my shoes for just a few minutes, and ultimately showed me this:
He was more excited than I’ve seen him in a long time, and told me that now he could choose any kind of shoes he wanted, without worrying about it. I loved for him that he found a way that was easier for him, but more than that I loved that it all happened when he decided it was important to him. I loved that it was never a battle, never an issue… that it happened like everything else should happen: naturally, in its own time, in its own way.
That is why I do what I do.
That weekend, he requested a smoothie to celebrate (Strawberry Surf Rider, thank you very much), and we took him back on that shoe-shopping trip. I don’t think he really did want a pair of tying shoes after all, because he ended up choosing – and was very happy with – another pair of slip-ons. I suspect that he just wanted to know that he could tie if he wanted to. And he can.