Her Ballet Slippers

Jodi Shenal's avatar

by Jodi Shenal

If you were to walk into the living room of my home, you would see things typical of a household with a four year old little girl.

There are scattered toys, stacks of books, various musical instruments; odds and ends that really hurt when stepped on!

There are dolls, interactive toys and stuffed animals also adorning her play area. 

Aside from these everyday childhood play things, you would find a standing frame, a wheelchair, an iPad filled with communication apps, and a therapy bench. 

You see, my daughter has multiple disabilities. 

She is unable to walk or talk. 

However, she is beautiful, happy, silly and absolutely strong-willed. 

She displays more determination in her daily life than most people could begin to imagine. 

While many mothers delight in their daughters taking dance lessons and wearing pretty pink ballet slippers, my daughter wears corrective ankle foot orthotics. 

They are chunky and clunky and they come up to her knees. 

They provide support for her legs, that severely lack muscle tone. 

These AFOs (we Special Needs Parents love our acronyms!) are not made of soft canvas, satin or leather. 

There are no frilly bows accenting them or giving them a sense of dainty girlishness. 

They lack soft, flexible soles for easy movement. 

They are fashioned of hard plastic, and have thick rubber soles. 

In place of delicate lacy ribbons are strong white Velcro straps. 

To make them remotely appealing, I chose to have them made in purple with little butterflies printed on them. 

In helping her learn to stand and hopefully someday to walk, they are part of her daily wardrobe. 

I cried when she received her first pair of AFOs. 

They were such a cold reminder of DISABILITY to me. 

A clinical-looking symbol of what my daughter could NOT do. 

They made me more aware of her limitations and I hated that she needed them. 

They weren’t the slippers I would have chosen for her to wear, or the ones she was supposed to wear. 

But slowly, over time, I began to see the magic in them. 

I started to realize how they were helping her bear weight on her tiny feet and take actual steps in her gait trainer. 

It soon became clear that they were aiding her foot positioning and assisting in promoting a sturdy stance. 

They were giving her strength. 

What once was a hindrance had quickly become an extraordinary benefit. 

My daughter is gaining a graceful sense of freedom from them and my eyes are now open to seeing the amazing things that she is ABLE to do. 

They are her ballet slippers. 

And someday, I am hopeful to see her dance.


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