“Raising any child is never easy. When deciding to adopt a developmentally delayed, fully blind child, we expected to be challenged and to face frustrations day to day. Despite our insecurities, we took an enormous leap of faith–and it has resulted in a million-fold return.”Joyce’s Mother
Joyce was born with “aniridia” (lacking the iris in each eye) and developed glaucoma as a baby. She was left at an orphanage that did not provide optimal nutrition or attention. By the time she was adopted, at age 3 years and 10 months, Joyce suffered from a number of ailments, including severe damage to the retinas in both eyes, which has left her blind. At the time of her adoption, she was in the bottom 0.3 percentile for height and weight. She had terrible gingivitis, and her teeth were covered in black scale. It was clear that she had not been bathed regularly, and it took several weeks to slowly remove the layers of smelly, dead skin built up all over her body. Her facial muscles were so weak that she could not speak, although she understood basic Mandarin and Cantonese. Every doctor she saw after her arrival in the United States projected a grim outlook for Joyce’s future.
But, Joyce had other plans! And, three years later, Joyce is strong, smart, outgoing, and ready to take on the world!
Immediately after her adoption, we started Joyce on a regimen of healthy food and exercise. We took her to the dentist right away and, after five cleanings, she was able to enjoy a gorgeous, pearly smile. In short order, she began working with a physical therapist and an occupational therapist regularly, leaving her fit and well-coordinated within less than a year. Our insurance company would not cover speech therapy, so we provided make-shift, amateur speech therapy at home, using what we had learned from our older child’s previous experience with speech and language pathology and by watching YouTube videos. Joyce was potty trained within a month and began uttering her first words within a few months after that.
At age four and a half, Joyce entered the special ed. preschool program at our local public school, where she began working with her Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI) and an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Instructor, along with a life skills counselor. She still could not speak well, but she began picking up English at a reasonable rate. In Kindergarten, Joyce continued working with her TVI and O&M instructor, while sitting in a regular classroom with “typical” peers. She learned to read in Braille and began communicating much more clearly. She struggled with math and grammar, so we spent extra time working with her in those areas after school and over the summer.
Joyce 3 Years Later
Now in first grade, Joyce has not only caught up to her peers but has become one of the top students in her class. She reads at grade level (in Braille) and is now advanced in math. Joyce earns straight A’s in all subjects at school and has won several awards. She is in the 46th percentile for height and the 27th percentile for weight, and she can do over 100 sit-ups and 50 push-ups, and bar-hang for over a minute at a time. She makes her bed, dresses and grooms herself, organizes her backpack, clears her plate, and folds her own napkin every day. She does household chores to earn a weekly allowance, just like her sighted siblings. Joyce can swim independently in our home pool and is quick to navigate new environments with her cane. She also plays the piano brilliantly, especially for someone who has taken lessons for only a year. Looking at Joyce today, you would think she were an entirely different person from the frail, little “bug” we brought home from China in 2017.
It was not easy to help Joyce overcome her rough start to life. There were times our hearts were broken, like whenever she felt excluded from activities enjoyed by her sighted siblings. Whereas there is no shortage of after-school programs and summer camps in our area for sighted children, we have had to search harder for extracurricular activities that she could safely and meaningfully pursue. Sometimes, it has taken a lot more time and effort to teach her new concepts and vocabulary words that a sighted child could learn simply by looking at a picture. Still, Joyce is worth it!
Raising any child is never easy. When deciding to adopt a developmentally delayed, fully blind child, we expected to be challenged and to face frustrations day to day. Despite our insecurities, we took an enormous leap of faith–and it has resulted in a million-fold return. We never imagined just how much Joyce would change not only our lives, but the lives of everyone else she encounters, for the better. Always smiling, and always determined to do things for herself, Joyce is an inspiration to all. Parents of her peers have even told us that having Joyce in the same classroom has brought out leadership, compassion, and other positive qualities in their own children. Strangers stop and stare at Joyce, in awe–as she confidently tackles all obstacles in her way. Hardly a day goes by that she is not complimented on her quick wit, her good conduct, her musical talent, or her charm. Through Joyce’s perseverance, through her accomplishments, we are reminded each day that there really are no (well, very few, anyway) limits to what we can achieve. The countless other “special needs” children waiting for a home, all they really need is a chance. We encourage you to give them one, if you can
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