The Voice of Ability Series

Voegeli - Mother writes about how she is blessed with a special-needs child

By Darla Voegeli
There are times when I will say to my friends and family “Sometimes I wish Lexi had some distinctive features, like those who have Downs Syndrome.” Lexi has the personality and the strong will of a child with Downs, and her level of educability is low. So, when strangers see her, they don’t understand her disabilities until they have spoken to her. As a result, a lot more is expected from her.
One of the hardest things my husband, Phil, and I ever heard was when we were told our child had a learning disability. You go through a lot of emotions and your mind starts to go to the future – which can be overwhelming. The dreams for your child and what they could accomplish are shattered.
Instead, you take a day at a time, a week at a time, and pretty soon you realize a year has gone by. It’s amazing because you have survived and she has thrived. It’s a God thing. I wish I would have been more trusting in God, because Lexi has brought so much love and learning for me, Phil, and her six siblings.
We were worried about her not being in a regular school class. She only worries about her purses. Lexi has wonderful friends and loves to do all the things most kids do. One of the most crucial activities she has been involved in is the Youth Education Summer Socialization Program camp through the Arc of Sedgwick County. It’s a summer day camp that lasts for two months. The kids go to school through the Wichita school district in the morning and then have many activities in the afternoon. She has made lasting friendships with so many different kids and has learned many valuable lifetime lessons.
That brings me to another lesson we have learned. I was told a long time ago, that teen kids with disabilities go through the same emotions most teens go through. They want their privacy, they get embarrassed with their parents, they want to feel wonderful at the prom, and they want to eventually move away from their parents, and so on. Lexi is experiencing all these things, but the nice part is we still get kisses and hugs and lots of loving – unlike some other teens.
If you have a child with physical disabilities, understand that when someone is staring, many times they are either just curious or wondering if they could be as strong as you. If you happen to be the person staring, please take a moment to say hello, or just give a wave. It may turn into a wonderful friendship.
Lexi has a favorite saint, St. Catherine. My mother’s name is Catherine. Lexi knows Jesus and understands more about our Lord than I thought she did. She will always have a child-like faith I would love to have.
Being blessed with a special needs child will bring happiness, joy, education, frustration, and feelings you have failed at times, but all the while your child embodies values that are difficult to learn without them.
No one knows that better than her brother, Father P.J Voegeli, who gets a lot of homily material from her.

Return to Articles