Every time I see a picture of Laurel my heart shatters.
Her smile could light up a room and yet she is in an institution because her limbs don't work like everyone else's.
I too have limbs that don't work like everyones else's but at 15 I was not in an institution.
I was fortunate enough to be born into a society that was ready to help me reach my fullest potential despite having arthrogryposis in all limbs but Laurel's parents were likely encouraged to put her in an orphanage.
Laurel's arms and legs look so much like mine do and it stings to know she was rejected because of her arm's and leg's, I too have experienced rejection based solely on my disability but not to the degree Laurel has.
When I compare my life at 15 with Laurel's life at 15, it takes my breath away.
I started High School the year I was 15. I was studying Earth Science, Civics, Algebra and English. I had a right to an education under the I.D.E.A. Law and the ADA required my school to be accessible. My school district also got a $12.5 million new school that year, pictured below.
Photo credit: http://elainenye.myclassupdates.com/id3.html
Laurel has probably never been formally educated. She is 15 and probably can't read or write or do simple math because nobody has ever taught her....
By the age of 15 I had stopped receiving physical and occupational therapy because I was extremely functional. And I hadn't had orthopedic surgery for 6 years. I was able to stand, walk, climb and go down stairs, I dressed and undressed myself, I could use the bathroom independently, I could shower independently, I could feed myself, and I could prepare food. I could do all of this thanks to extremely dedicated parents, constant physical and occupational therapy for the first 9 years and orthopedic surgery. The surgeries and therapies paid for by government programs and my parents private insurance.
Laurel has probably never been treated by an orthopedic surgeon and she has probably never been treated by a physical or occupational therapists. Therefore she is likely very, very dependent on other people to meet her daily needs because she has never been given an opportunity to learn to self-help skills
On a Friday night I was hanging out with my friends
Laurel's Friday nights are probably like every other night, someone probably just puts her in her bed...
At 15 I started drivers education and at 15 and a half I received my learners permit
Photo Credit: http://www.allarounddrivingschool.com/Schools.htm
At 15 and a half Laurel has just SIX more months at her good orphanage (I don't care how good an orphanage is, its still an orphanage)
My 16th birthday was a VERY exciting day! Not only did I have the day off school for a federal holiday I was now legally allowed to test for my drivers license and a few months later my Dad bought me a used car to drive. My Mom made by a pumpkin roll (our tradition since I was little). I passed my licensing test the first time 6 days after I turned 16 and drove away from my parents house by myself a week after I turned 16.
Laurel turns 16 in August... and shortly thereafter a car will pull up in front of her orphanage and instead of being given the keys she'll be put inside and driven away from the only "home" she's ever known. She may not even be allowed to take her wheelchair with her (her only form of mobility right now). That car will take her to adult mental institution where she will likely be confined to a bed all day, every day. She will legally be un-adoptable.
By the time I was 17 I started taking college classes
If Laurel isn't adopted by August turning 17 will be completely uneventful for Laurel, she may not even be told its her birthday.
Please share this so that when Laurel turns 16 she wakes up in America with her family celebrating her existence on this planet!