Coral is Off the Charts

A report from a developmental assessment for Coral arrives. I open it and begin to read over the results. I come to a chart. The chart has standard scores for each area of development (physical, adaptive behavior, social-emotional, cognitive, and communication) listed on one side and corresponding percentiles- as compared to kids of the same age- on the other side. I scan down, down, down on the chart. I find Coral’s line- a zig zag connecting the dots that show her percentile in each area.

Coral is off the chart.

I sit staring at the paper. Emotions rush in. Thoughts race through my head, as tears run down my face.

After awhile, I reflect: Why do I feel so sad?

Yes, these results remind me how hard Coral has to work to learn every new skill, of the challenges Coral and our family face on a daily basis, and of the exhaustion and loneliness I often feel at times on this long journey.

But, I am not sad that Coral is who she is.

I feel sad because I know that some people will never see Coral for who she is; they will only see these results. The results do not tell us about Coral. Rather, they illuminate society’s narrow parameters for development along a fixed linear progression.

I feel sad because we still have not come up with an alternative way to ascertain what Coral (and kids who are similar to her) know. The tests currently used are created for typically developing kids; they continue to try to determine if my Coral fish can climb a tree.

I feel sad because Coral was born into a world that struggles to see her life’s value. This is a world that wants to quantify her life and compare her to others.

I feel sad because I know that our family will always have to advocate for Coral’s place in this society- for her inclusion.

I feel sad for the people who will never allow themselves the opportunity to get to know Coral; instead, they will let their perceptions and fear of disability dictate their thoughts and actions.

I feel sad that this test requires me to compare Coral to other kids her age, when there is no comparison to make. Coral is uniquely herself, making progress in her own way and on her own timeline.

In so many ways, Coral IS off the charts.

The way Coral sees and interprets the contrasts of colors- both in artistic designs and in the combining of shadows with light- is unlike anything I have seen from a two-year-old. With focused and curious looking, she explores the designs with her whole self.

Coral feels the vibrations of music. Not only does she listen, she places her ear against the music to feel it. When tones change, she smiles. Through music, she finds presence in the moment.

Coral is off the charts.

Coral works harder than any two-year-old I know to learn things. She never gives-up. When walking, she still falls countless times. She always gets back up.

Coral is highly motivated to learn. With the right motivation, she demonstrates unbelievable skills.

Coral is off the charts.

Coral’s abilities in the water are nothing short of amazing. She floats on her back, holds her breath, spins, and moves with ease in the water.

When she sees the ocean, she rushes towards it- seeking the sensations of both the salty water against her skin and the whitewater push from the incoming waves.

Coral is off the charts.

Coral loves unconditionally- her dad, her mom, her brothers, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, and her cousins. She never asks for anything in return for her love. She never requires others to be any way except exactly how they are.

Coral is off the charts.

Some of the beauty Coral brings to this world is in her ability to be content with exactly who she is- on or off the charts.

She reminds us that fulfillment and happiness in life are not a result of being on or off the charts. Rather, Coral finds these as she strives to be her best self every single day.

Coral is off the charts.