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26 Milestones on the Special Needs Journey That Deserve To Be Celebrated

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Sometimes, without realizing it, we take completely amazing feats for granted. Think about it. We just expect to be able to talk, right? We don’t stop and think about how cool it is that we’ve actually developed a skill. At The Mighty, our readers are learning every day that no victory is too small to celebrate. That’s why we asked them to share some of the most important milestones they or a loved one have reached in their special needs journey.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “The first time my son, who has Erb’s palsy, was able to reach out to me with both arms. Those were my first tears of joy after his birth injury.” — Erin Stubbs Braun


2. “When my daughter spoke her first three-word sentence. She told me about the bath water, saying,It’s too cold.” After a year of therapies, it took everything in me not to call the speech teacher right then and there.” — Amy Holler-Bender

3. “Absolutely everything my son does melts my heart. He’s just started taking independent steps at 4 years old, and he’s nonverbal but is starting to use sign language now. I nearly cried the night he took himself off to a proper bed (he usually sleeps in a special one), waved at me and cuddled in to fall asleep. He amazes me every single day.” — Gemma Blelloch


4.When I saw my kid playing with his classmates and being included, not just tolerated at a local indoor playground during a day off from school last fall.” — Bethany Parker

5. “When our son with lung disease was finally able to blow hard enough to make a noise on a whistle. Kids and whistles are usually so annoying, but for the first time the sound combination was like a symphony.” — Kate Sytsma

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6. “When my daughter smiled for the first time about a year after a severe brain injury.” — Jillian Swinkels

7. “When my nonverbal quadriplegic son and I discovered our own way to communicate. We have our own language now and it’s amazing. Even his older 4-year-old sister uses it.” — Priscilla Zahner Rosenlund


8.My son learning to walk, finally, at nearly 2 years old.” — Anna Powers

9. “The small milestones are really countless but the greatest is that George is here, and very much alive.” — Gill Broadhurst

10. “When, after almost a year of trying to get my child to acknowledge my presence as something more than just the hand that gave him food and drinks, our speech language pathologist (SLP) managed to get him to actually throw a ball back and forth to me. It was the best 10 minutes ever. Now he’s 3 and finally calls me “Ahme” (mommy) and, as I’ve told all my friends, he can sit and say my name all day long. I will never get tired of hearing it.” — Mika Clardy


11.Hearing my daughter say ‘Mama.’” — Shen Mager

12. “When my daughter holds conversations with me before bedtime, we usually play this card game before I tuck her in at night. But just this year she decided she wanted to talk about her school day and what went on with her friends and her. It used to be that she would bring home a communication chart every day to tell us what she did in school that day and who she played with. Now she tells me everything that would be on that sheet all on her own. I praise speech therapy every day for this little gift.” – Jamie Rankin


13. “My son is almost 6 and has epilepsy, cerebral palsy and a few other things. He doesn’t walk or talk yet. He may not be able to do those things, but he can crawl and he can feed himself some things. He can hug, he can give kisses and he can communicate a few basic wants. These are all things we never thought we’d see. I’ve never heard him say ‘I love you, Mommy,’ but I feel it with every hug, kiss and smile.” — Megan Churchill

14.My son saying ‘I love you’ back to me when I said it to him, just this year. He is 11 years old.” — Kelly Naumann

15. “My absolute favorite was my son’s first smile. It wasn’t his first ever. He was a typical kid until he contracted meningitis. After nearly losing his life, he was left with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, profound hearing loss and a significant cognitive delay. He didn’t smile and mostly cried for three straight months. When he first smiled it literally took my breath away.” — Rebekah Rhodes McClelland


16.When my son, who was nonverbal, signed his first sentence: ‘Look, Mama, raining there (outside),’ in response to a sudden downpour outside our house. He said a similar sentence a few months later and hasn’t shut up since.” — Adrienne Braddock Conroy

17. “When my daughter was able to sit on one of her big sister’s favorite toys at a game arcade. I couldn’t control my tears and it was pretty embarrassing.” — Tala Rifai


18. “Our 3-year-old daughter, post hemispherectomy, just learned to jump with both feet — a goal we’ve had for six months!” — Sandra Schiffli Salerno

19. “My daughter’s first milestone was leaving the hospital at 8 months old. Her second one was taking her first drop of food orally at 3 years old. The biggest milestone was proving the doctors wrong. She’s 20 now and walks, talks, breathes on her own and is still here — all of which I was told would never happen.” — Laura Kroeger Wright

20. “When my daughter, who has high functioning autism, brought her doll to the table to eat with us. She was 5. She’d never pretend played with her dolls before. I had a party for her and that doll that evening.” — April Charisse

21.My daughter learning to hold a spoon at 3 years old. She has no interest in grasping, unless it involves food.” — Lacey Smith

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22. “When my son was being tube-fed for over a month, and the doctors told me I’d never be able to feed him normally. I brought him home and got him on the bottle in a week. That was his first milestone, but he has overcome many others since. He’s my champion.” — Glenda Henzie

23. “My son who wasn’t suppose to ever talk or walk proved everyone wrong and is now running everywhere and chatters all day long.” — Ashtin Schissler

24. “When my son Brody started looking into my eyes to express his feelings.” — Laurie Ann Phillips


25.When my nonverbal daughter started trying to sing along to the film ‘Frozen.’ She doesn’t sing the words, but the pitch and length of her sound is exactly the same. She amazes me every day.” — Gemma Bryan

26. “Her first birthday. It was so sweet after almost losing her.” — Melody Statham Cameron


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Originally published: March 14, 2015
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