The first half of the Callahan’s pregnancy was uneventful. The soon-to-be parents had chosen not to find out the sex of the baby, much to the chagrin of their less patient friends and family. But when a routine doctor visit turned up concerns, the couple’s first pregnancy became anything but mundane. Additional tests were ordered and revealed much more than the sex of their baby boy. The tests seemed to lead to more questions than answers. Specialists were consulted from all over the country, but none could interpret what they were seeing. Doctors prepared Larry and Christine for the worst, that their baby may not survive. Christine eventually spent the final three weeks of her pregnancy on bed rest in the hospital.
When the doctors felt that the baby’s lungs were strong enough, they planned a cesarean section. The operating room was filled with anticipation as well as doctors, nurses, and specialists who were prepared for anything once the baby arrived. All of the concerns from the barrage of tests, ultrasounds, and amniocenteses appeared to have been wrong; Larry and Christine were now the proud new parents of a beautiful baby boy. The Callahan family and the specialist never did get a definitive answer to the anomalies they had seen on those tests. Andrew Callahan entered the world and started his extraordinary journey, which has continued to astound everyone around him to this day.
However, when Larry and Christine became aware that Andrew was not meeting developmental milestones for children his age, they reached out to family, friends, their day care, and Summit DD for support and assistance. Their goal was to provide Andrew with all the available tools and supports available to develop to the best of his ability. Family and friends offered emotional support. The day care held fund raisers to purchase specialized equipment to assist Andrew with some of his suggested therapies. Summit DD was there to coordinate his services, provide training on inclusive environments for his day care, and eventually help the Callahans make the transition from Summit DD’s Early Intervention services into the family’s school district. From the beginning, Larry and Christine were strong advocates for Andrew and their perseverance has paid off for Andrew.
The Callahans have learned quite a bit in the last five years. They have learned a lot about therapies, medicines, and procedures. Their journey has been full of ups and downs, including specialists visits, a feeding tube for Andrew, and a few hospital stays. Christine even spends a few hours every other weekend, in addition to her full-time job, new baby, volunteer committees, and other community obligations, to blend and portion food for Andrew’s feeding tube, to ensure that Andrew is getting all the proper nutrients. Their weeks are not without challenges. “Sometimes it’s hard not getting feedback from him, because he is nonverbal,” Christine admitted. “But I also realize that there are challenges for any parent. We enjoy many of the same things with Andrew that other parents enjoy with their kids, like snuggling or cuddling. In fact, Andrew may even be the best at those,” Christine boasted.
The highlights of their journey have made the most lasting impacts on the family though. Christine talked about the greatest things that Andrew has given them. “Grace and community: those are the two biggest things that he has brought into our lives. Having Andrew has changed our perspective, for the better. We love him so much! He has brought many important people into our lives, including the teachers at his day care, who are now like family,” she reflected.
There is a myth that people should feel sorry for parents who have a child with a developmental disability. However, when you hear Larry and Christine talk about their son, pity never enters your mind. They will tell you that despite some of the extra challenges they encounter from raising a child with special needs, the fact is that they are the lucky ones. They are proud of Andrew’s accomplishments and are delighted with who he is. Their family experiences are very similar to those of families whose children do not have special needs. They enjoy giving him kisses and hugs, as any parent does. They get notes from the teachers detailing the great things that Andrew participated in during the day with his friends. Most recently, the family welcomed Andrew’s little sister, Claire, into the family. “Many times he will laugh when he hears Claire screaming,” Larry said with amusement. “Sounds pretty typical to me, seeing an older brother taking pleasure from his little sister’s unhappiness.”
The Callahans talked at length about how Andrew has blessed their family. There was no sadness as they talked. And why should there be? Larry and Christine are the parents of two wonderful kids who bring joy into their lives each day, one with a developmental disability and one without, each child bringing his or her strengths to the family dynamic. Andrew, now five, has made a difference in the lives of his family, his friends, and his community. He is part of the lives of the people who know him and he has been integrated into his community and day care from the very beginning. To his friends, he is just Andrew. To his teachers and family, he is sweet Andrew. But to his parents, he is perfect Andrew.