Christian Taylor Buchanan

Christian Taylor Buchanan

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just The Way You Are - Tennessee Early Intervention Systems

            Anyone who has been involved in the world of disability for any significant amount of time knows about a program called Tennessee Early Intervention System.  For those of you who don’t, though, I’d like to share with you some information about a wonderful, state funded program that Tennessee offers to its special needs and developmentally delayed children ages birth to 3.             Tennessee Early Intervention System, also known as T.E.I.S., is an educational program that is offered free to special needs children and those at risk for a developmental delay.  Kathy Long, a Service Coordinator for T.E.I.S. describes it this way, “I want parents to know this is really a partnership where we all work together, parents and professionals, to meet the needs of their child.” It is completely voluntary, but in my opinion, it would be a disservice to any developmentally challenged child to keep them out of this program. T.E.I.S. works with a wide range of children, including those who are blind, autistic, deaf, have Down’s Syndrome, and even those with nothing medically wrong if they are at risk for a developmental delay. To keep it simplistic I’d like to explain it this way: a developmental delay is characterized by a child not reaching those “milestones” that most children do, such as sitting up by 6 to 8 months of age, saying their first words by 14 months, and the list goes on. Of course, it gets much more complicated than this, but don’t fret if your 7 month old isn’t sitting up just yet. Every child develops differently and that is why T.E.I.S. offers knowledgeable people to help you if you are concerned about your child’s development.  Your child’s pediatrician is also a great partner and a good first step in helping you to determine if your child is reaching his or her milestones. 

This all sounds very nice, but what does it mean? In practical application, T.E.I.S will come to your home and evaluate your child. They look to see if your child is at risk to be delayed in any area. If they determine that your child qualifies for T.E.I.S., a Service Coordinator will sit down with you and write out an Individualized Family Service Plan or IFSP, which is essentially a set of goals for your child. You and the service coordinator determine what areas your child needs help with and things that you are concerned about, and together you come up with a set of goals that you want to accomplish with your child. Once T.E.I.S. begins providing services to your child, someone will come to your house or the child’s daycare, once a month, or up to once a week, however often you’d like. They work with your child to see where they are developmentally and what they need to work on. They can show you ways to help encourage your child’s development, come up with ideas to motivate your child to reach his or her milestones in a fun way, address questions and concerns that you may have, and much more. My son’s T.E.I.S. teacher has signed him up to receive free Braille books, brought him toys, and has even done research for me to find answers to questions I’ve had. The list of what they can do is limitless. What is important to know is that they tailor their work to your child’s needs, and to promoting his or her development.  They find ways to do it that your child will enjoy. Once your child is about 2 ½ years old, T.E.I.S begins working to help you transition your child from T.E.I.S. into the school system.
            T.E.I.S. is an invaluable resource to families of children with special needs. The name “Early Intervention” isn’t just a name. Taking affirmative steps towards helping at risk children to reach those milestones makes a world of difference for these children. It allows them the chance to learn and grow to their highest potential in the critical years where they are developing at the highest rate. Having a special needs child is hard enough on its own, so having T.E.I.S.‘s helping hand makes all the difference. It takes a lot of pressure off of already stressed and stretched parents to make sure their child doesn’t fall behind. Most people are not experts in the field of child development and especially special needs child development, so to have someone in your corner who is, makes all the difference. If you would like more information on Tennessee Early Intervention System, you can visit the State of Tennessee website at or call 1-800-852-7157. And as always, if you have questions for me or if I can be of any help to you, please contact me at

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just The Way You Are - Introductory Article

Just The Way You Are

                Welcome to the first piece in a series of articles on special needs, disability, and the people whose lives it affects. My name is Lacey Buchanan and I want to thank you for taking the time to allow me to share with you something that is near and dear to my heart. If you enjoy it, please continue to follow this column, as I will submit articles often. If you ever have any ideas, questions, or concerns please e-mail me at
                I would like to start my first piece with an excerpt from a story. In a children’s book by Lisa Tawn Bergrenm , a curious baby polar bear asks her mother where she came from, which leads into an adorable discussion about her mother’s pregnancy. “Umm, Mama? I was wondering . . . Did you ever want a different baby? One like Samuel the seal or Fredrika the fox?” “Never,” Mama said. “Never, ever, ever. Your Papa and I wouldn’t trade you for the world.” “Why?” Little Cub asked. “Why? Because God gave us you.”

             Having a child is one of the greatest joys in life. But sometimes, that joy can turn quickly into other emotions, such as fear, sorrow, mourning, depression, and anxiety to name a few. Why, you ask? Nothing can break an expecting couple’s heart more than a phone call from the doctor with news that they are concerned about the health of the unborn child. I know, because in August of 2010, my husband and I received that call. Six months later, a bouncing baby boy, Christian Taylor Buchanan, was born to us. He was diagnosed with blindness in both eyes, a Tessier cleft lip and palate, a clubbed foot, a hypospadias, and a cutis aplasia on his skull (if you don’t know what these are, just Google them).

             We were devastated to say the least, but that is not why I am writing this article. It has been since Christian’s birth that I have come to realize how little most people know about disabilities, the lives of people who live with disabilities, or how to handle situations in which they come in contact with someone who is disabled.

              It is also astounding to me the lack of compiled information on the topic for people who need to be educated on the subject. Even as Christian came home from the hospital and we were sorting out how to make sure he had all of his medical supplies, got the medical care he needed, and even just how to do the proper things to make sure he developed correctly, I found that all of the information I came upon happened by chance.

               For these reasons, I asked the Cannon Courier if I could, and they so graciously allowed me, to write an article so that I can do my part to educate the public and to help those seeking out information on the subject to find what they need.

            How did all of this come about, you might ask? It all began when I started taking Christian out to places in the normal course of our daily lives, such as the grocery store or a restaurant.  It didn’t matter where we went really, we always received the same reaction. People would stare at Christian, whisper behind my back “Look at that baby,” and some even got the courage to ask me what was wrong with him.  It got to the point where I would put a blanket over his carrier, and when people asked to see the baby, I simply refused. Then one day, I changed my mind. I was not going to hide the face of my child, the child that I thought was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on. Although I realized the severity of his facial deformities, I knew it wasn’t me who needed to change what I was doing, but others that needed to change the way they thought about people with disabilities.

                And so, for Christian, and for every other person out there who has to live with a confinement that most of us will never know and wouldn’t have the strength to bear, I am fighting. I am fighting for the stares to turn into smiles. I am fighting for the whispers to turn into words of encouragement. I am fighting for the “What’s wrong with your kid?” questions to turn into respectful, caring questions. I am fighting so that those who live with a disability will feel like they belong in this society, not as outcasts who are looked down upon. I am fighting so that they may know that they are as important as anyone else, so that they may know that they are as valuable as someone who has perfect use of their legs, or eyes, or mind, because I believe with all my heart that these things are true.

              So about that children’s story that I introduced at the beginning of this article, I never got around to telling you the point.  I read this story to my son last night and it resonated with me. No matter what difficulties we have to face, and no matter what things my son will never be able to do, I would never, ever, ever want another child instead. Why? Because God gave us Christian.


Just The Way You Are

As Christian grew and I became more accustomed to raising a child, and raising a special child, I learned not only about the many joys that come with, but the pains as well. Many of those pains are unavoidable, such as watching Christian go through surgery. But many we encounter have been brought on by people who meant no harm, but didn't know how to approach us, what to say, or when to keep their mouth shut. At first it was stares that got us. We got ALOT of stares. The reason it bothered us so much I think is because we never even thought about or expected to get stared at! It was a shock to us the first time we went grocery shopping and we literally could not go down a single isle without getting glances. We realize that Christian looks very different, we are not naive, but we also didn't realize that people would actually whisper about us within earshot, or make it so obvious that they were staring that they would turn completely backwards while walking and walk into things in front of them. It was surprising to us, and heartbreaking. We literally began keeping Christian's carseat covered with a blanket most of the time.

When we weren't getting stares, we would get questions. People who were brave enough would approach us and ask about him. Many were so kind in their approach. You could see pain in their eyes for our child. Some would even cry, and almost all of them would light up with a smile when we began telling them how healthy he is and how crazy we are about him. Many, however, did not season their words with love or think about how what they said would affect us. We had people walk up and say "Hey, what's wrong with your kid?" or "What happened to his eyes?" without any regard for their tone. Children would go "Mommy what is that?" "Are his eyes bleeding?" Most of the time parents would come up and apologize to me for their children, but a few would not. I never minded if children said unkind things because they are children and if they've never encountered someone different then how would they know how to react. So I also used it as a chance to teach them how to treat children like Christian. But it did bother me when a child would say something rude and a parent would just let it slide, never correcting the child or explaining that some people are different and that it's ok. But whenever we would go out, the trip would take twice as long as it should've because we spent so much time explaining to people.

The most painful experience I had was before Christian was 3 months old. I was in the checkout line at Wal-Mart and there were 3 guys in front of me., around my age or maybe in college, since we were by MTSU. They turned around and started talking to me and of course they noticed my covered baby carriage. So they asked how old the baby was and the normal questions. And then the one I hated, they asked to see him. I was still trying out different responses then, and at that time, I was explaining about Christian BEFORE pulling the blanket back, because just pulling it back had not produced results I enjoyed. As I stumbled over words trying to tell them that Christian was different, one of them said something to the effect of "What are you about to show us? Is that even a baby under there?" And I said "Yes, he's my son. He just looks different because of a birth defect." So when I pulled the blanket back, all three of the guys gasped. Two of them put their hands over their mouths and one of them jumped away from Christian in fear. They were all totally shocked of course. I almost burst into tears right then and there. I could feel the anger and pain coming up in my throat, and I yelled, "Hey! This is my son. I told you he looked different. Thank you for making something painful hurt just a little bit more!"  I guess they saw the hurt on my face, and they all began to apologize and started saying things like "He's gonna be ok. He's a tough guy. He's got a good mama to take care of him." But that experience left a scar on my heart, and the harsh reality of how people would react to Christian really sunk in.

But I was determined not to let it be so. I decided that I would teach people, if I had to do it one person at a time. I would show people that Christian is just a child, my child; that he is wonderful, and beautiful, and that God created him just how he was. Then I began thinking about other people who had probably been through the same thing, and how the pain I felt was not a pain that only I knew. So I began thinking. I started brainstorming about what I could do to make a difference, to educate people, to show them right form wrong, and it hit me. The local paper! So I asked a friend who worked for the paper about writing articles, and they agreed. I was thrilled! I was so excited! And so it began, I began writing articles, and the responses were great! I've had parents of special needs children write me and tell me that my articles have helped them through difficult times. I've had people with healthy children write me and tell me that they just admire Christian. I've had lots of responses and I hope to have more. I entitled my column "Just The Way You Are" for obvious (I hope) reasons. I want to celebrate children with special needs. I am tired of hearing "I'm sorry,"
I want to hear "congratulations!" God made Christian and every single other human being on this earth, and because He made them, I can say in all honesty that they are perfect just the way they are. I want to celebrate those differences as differences. I hate the word "handicapped." It creates images of a pityful, helpless being, and Christian is so far from that. He is a vibrant, charming, lovable, sweet little boy who is very loving and full of energy. Does that sound handicapped to you? Nope. Didn't think so. Christian doesn't use vision to learn or get around or do things. He uses sound, and touch, and smell, and vibration. That's not handicapped. That is different.  So I want to teach others that differently abled peole are perfect just the way they are, and so that is my quest.

Many people have asked me how to read the articles if they don't subscribe to the paper, and there really isn't a way, so I am going to start posting my articles on my blog. What a better use for it? So, here begins my first article on the next post, and all that I've written to follow. Please follow along and enjoy! And please! Feedback is always welcome! If you have questions, ideas, comments, whatever it is, I would love to hear it! :) Enjoy!