By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC
What young Joshua had would have concerned any mother. What arose from their experience has benefited many people with disabilities.
Nancy Churnin is theater critic for the Dallas Morning News. In a telephone interview, she said, “My youngest child (Josh) was not speaking at age 3. The doctor thought it might be because of meningitis he had when younger. We didn't know how serious it was, but entered into the special needs community to get him therapy. It turned out (what he had) was a speech impairment and he was able to overcome it.”
During her three-year stretch involved with disability-affected families, and while believing her son had a disability, Churnin began re-thinking parenting and how society viewed the worth of children. For example, she said, “I learned to love children for who they were and not on what they accomplished. I saw that in the (special needs) parents and it made me a better parent.”
Though Joshua didn't have a disability, the Churnins stayed connected to the organizations and families they had grown to love. For instance, now at Austin College and playing varsity tennis, Joshua is a Special Olympics coach. His mom said, “I'm proud of his heart and feel the reason he connects so well in Special Olympics is because he realizes we're all the same (as people).”
As for Churnin, years ago she was critiquing a play, The Signal Season of Dummy Hoy. It's about the greatest-ever baseball player with a disability, Dummy Hoy, who many insiders believe should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (This columnist included.) Hoy was deaf, played outfield in 1888-1902, and made the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.
Blown away by Hoy's life story, Churnin began corresponding with Steve Sandy, a champion of the “Hoy for the Hall” movement. That correspondence led to a children's book authored by Churnin: The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game.
She said, “I hope it inspires kids to believe in themselves, not give up on their dreams, and have an open heart to others who are different. Hoy was told he was too small and couldn't hear. He not only found a way to play, but used his lack of hearing to make the game better.” Churnin desires to write other books that encourage children, and help parents and teachers see every child's potential.
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