The Owen’s family is a favorite of mine and I’m sure you’ll love them too. Karen is mama to 6 bio/adopted children who has wonderful insight to share – specifically on her journey to teach her four non verbal children how to communicate. Her family is a breath of fresh air because while society has made it seem as if being non-verbal automatically equates to an inability to learn, the Owen kids are not only learning but they are thriving! So much to learn from the Owen’s family, but here’s a quick glimpse from Karen:
1). There is a lot of learning when you become a parent to a child with cerebral palsy. What’s one thing you have learned so far?
My Family is capable, strong and we can do hard things. I have learned my strength as an individual, a wife and a mother. Having multiple children with severe CP is life changing in so many ways. Learning and embracing my inner strength as an individual and our strength as a family has allowed us to no longer be a “family with special needs children” but rather just a normal family, living a really cool and amazing life.
2). Life wouldn’t be life without its ups and downs. What have been your highs and lows in raising children with cerebral palsy?
We have lost a child after fighting a terminal illness. I know very well what’s it’s like to regress. Cerebral Palsy, while life altering, is all about hope. When your attitude and motivation is in the right spot you will be able to witness first hand, progress, amazing progress that has been fought for. Although watching our kids with CP struggle can be difficult at times, we choose to use the struggle as a lunching pad to change things up — to adapt, improvise and overcome and make things possible.
3). There are a lot of misconceptions about special need parents/children. What’s one thing you wish everyone knew, or something you wish people would stop asking/saying?
The whole idea of “special needs” and “special needs parenting”, really is a huge turn off for my family. Truth is, CP and any other disability does not define us nor my children. My kids are not special because they have Cerebral Palsy. They are special because of their gifts and abilities. They are smart, capable individuals who were not put on this earth to be angels to “ooh” and “ahh” over. They were placed here with purpose. My children are not spectators but active participants. It is our job as their parents to equip them for a future with as much independence as possible. This means that we keep expectations high and presume competence. They deserve access to full education, robust language and a life full of normal kid experiences.
4). There are parents who have a child with a disability who are just starting out on this journey and are scared, feeling hopeless, and don’t know what the future holds. What’s a piece of advice you would share with them?
I always tell parents this: You are more capable than you think. You do what you need to do. Get the job done. Don’t feel like you need to rely on the hours of therapy and specialist that are often recommended. You are strong. You will soon learn your Child’s unique abilities and struggles like the back of your hand. When medical reports tell you one thing — choose to believe something else — something better. No one can predict your child’s future. You will play a huge role in their outcome. Fight for them and fight for your family. Most of all — just enjoy life. Every child no matter what diagnosis or lack of diagnosis is a gift. Embrace what you have been given. Treasure them.
I want to thank Karen for sharing with me and for allowing so many of us in on their journey. I think it is absolutely important to reiterate what Karen touched on: Kids are not inherently inspirational on the basis of their disability. They are amazing and special because they are each unique and have a distinct purpose and contribution to give to the world, which is something that applies to everyone (with or without disability). You can find out more about Karen, the kids and PODD through FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM!