My husband Gil and I live in Devon and we have two sons Bradley, aged 16, and Travis who is now 12. Bradley has slight Asperger syndrome as well as profound hearing loss. With extensive speech therapy he is able to communicate verbally, and he had a cochlear implant when he was seven years old. As a young boy growing up, he easily captured people’s attention with his blond hair, blue eyes and the winning smile that is always on his face. He is now a typical teenager, but does have some problems socialising with his own peer group.
The doctors could give us no reason for Bradley’s special needs, and when we were thinking of having another child, we were told not to worry – the problem would not happen again. But it did!
Travis was born 10 weeks prematurely. He was not expected to survive the first week, but with a lot of prayer from our church, together with the skill of the medical staff, he pulled through. Travis was also deaf and we were then told that the deafness was genetic! He also has part of his brain missing which causes problems with his emotions and behaviour.
Alongside his challenging behaviour problems and deafness, Travis has problems with his mouth which means he is unable to speak properly. He uses a mixture of sign language and speech to communicate. Of course this meant that Gil and I had to learn sign language (not easy), and we are still learning! Travis also had an operation to be fitted with a cochlear implant when he was four years old. Despite all the challenges he has to face, like his brother he has a winning smile for everyone he meets.
Bringing up children with special needs can put a big strain on your relationship
Bringing up Bradley and Travis with their complex needs has not been easy. Gil and I learnt that it was important to find time to talk to each other and be completely honest about the way we were both feeling, especially if we were not coping well. Bringing up children with special needs can put a big strain on your relationship and I really believe that honest communication between Gil and me, and a lot of prayer, has kept us strong.
We also had to adapt our family life to fit in with our children. We would sometimes look at other families and realise we couldn’t do all the things they did, however we decided that we had to find things to do that worked for us as a family.
Having Bradley and Travis, however tough it has been, is something I would not have missed, for they are a great source of joy to us. I cannot tell you how very proud of them I am for all they have done and will go on to do. We love them dearly just the way they are.