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Oleg and Sveta
My son turned 10 years old several days ago. He has only a part of his left arm - up to the elbow.
Now I would like to list all he is able to do.
He is able to attend to himself completely (to zip up his jackets, boots and button his clothes); wash his things (if necessary); clean the table (it’s his responsibility); he is able to wring out cloth, to tuck blankets into blanket slips; he KNITS and CROCHETS (better than my own daughters at his age!); plays vibraphone and glockenspiel; goes in for swimming in the “Olympic” and has recently taken part in his first competitions. Also he plays hockey in the yard; skates and carries shopping bags for me… I do not explain him how to do anything, just say: “You try to manage it somehow!” and he adapts himself to different things, which is why he is able to do so much.
Oleg is perfectly coordinated; he has excellent logic thinking; he reads a lot and is very artistic (this is speaking about the work of the left and right brain hemispheres). He has completely compensated himself.
Oleg is an adopted boy; I adopted him three years ago. It happened that at the time I was working in a children’s home for children with developmental disabilities, where he lived. But it was clear that Oleg’s intellect was within the norm though he had a corresponding diagnosis. At the time we were thinking of adoption of another child, having our own two daughters (now they are 11 and 16). But it turned out that Oleg had to be transferred to another children’s house (again for developmental disabilities), and I became worried for him and felt pity. First I started to look for a foster home for him but later when no one agreed to adopt him I asked myself a question “Why not me?”. I kept quiet for a month and didn’t say anything to anyone about it: I was making my mind and was trying to “integrate” the child into our life. And as everything was taking a good shape I made up my mind to adopt him.
Oleg used to be like a Maugli: seven years of life in social institutions told on him severely… Certainly, there was an evident delay in the intellectual growth and development and his vocabulary list was very poor. I didn’t have time to deal with his arm because the main thing was to develop his brains to correspond his age. But the “mental deficiency” diagnosis was withdrawn as a result.
Three years have passed. Certainly, there were hard times, but at present the family has accepted the strict “structure”, the children have distributed their roles among them, and we live having the same problems that all the other families with many children face. And my son speaks so much now that I sometimes ask him to keep silent for a while. He is a real good leader; children play with him with pleasure and pay attention to what he says. Oleg learns at the second grade of the Valdorf School (Moscow, Serpukhov St.). Valdorf pedagogic is initially oriented so that it allows for presence of up to 5% of children with special needs per class – the teachers know how to work with them. Oleg fits there well; in addition, half of the school had visited the children’s home where he had lived earlier. The class likes him very much and the boys consider him the cleverest among them. The school was getting used to him for about a fortnight and later after having asked and having touched him enough (children like to touch and to examine his arm) everyone stopped to notice his peculiar feature.
For some time I was worried by the issue whether an artificial limb is necessary. As a result I decided to order it only after the boy is 13-14 years old as a kind of “cosmetic” and only in case the boy will suffer from youth inferiority complexes. It seems to me that an artificial limb does not give its owner a possibility to take a convenient position and only interferes with this. Not long ago I had a talk with two girls - swimmers (they are 20 and 14 years old, one is missing a hand and the other one’s arm is the same as Oleg’s), so both of them told me with confidence that artificial limbs are inconvenient. They both used theirs only for “cosmetic” appearance and advised me not to speak to my son about this matter until he is 13-14 years old…
Certainly, we draw a lot of attention and response, for example, in the underground or in the clinic. I explained this to my children saying that we became like actors. There’s nothing to be done, we can only accept this as reality. But here, a lot depends on the mom’s attitude. One doesn’t have to treat people like enemies, it’s much better to stay well-disposed to them. Russian people are compassionate by default; their natural reaction is like “Oh, dear, how can I help you?” even if they pronounce some different words at the same time («What’s up with your arm?», for instance, at the same time giving me such a look as if I have bitten it off myself!). Certainly, one has to get used to this. Sometimes I start talking to people explaining everything. Sometimes I talk them off the subject intently. For cases when I am in a low mood I’ve taught myself to make such a look that people lose their wish to ask questions.
Sometimes people slip money to my son in the underground or treat him to some tasty things… But he is an orphan, so giving something to him people give it to God and I don’t have any right to reject it. So I thank them and have taught my son to say “Good God, bless this person”
That is the way with grown-ups. As for children, at the beginning they usually stare at Oleg with their eyes wide open and go around him in circles, and later some of them ask if it’s possible to touch his arm. Certainly, it is. So, half an hour later they usually don’t care about this arm any more and play with him as equals. And if it happens some parent hisses to his child not to come up and to ask my child questions, I start talking to such children myself saying “You don’t understand what’s up with his hand? Here, look. He was born that way. If you want you can shake hands with him!” Besides, I usually start to speak about other kinds of disability and turn their attention to other things, for instance, how to help a blind person.
My second higher education is in specialized psychology. So my task is adaptation of disabled people in the society. “Common” children should know how to live with “special” people. As for my son, only his personal traits, ethics and ability so socialize matter to me; any handicap is easy to get used to.