Guest Blogger Amy Reece: Parenting a Child with Special Abilities

by | Guest Blogger | 30 comments

I haven’t had the privilege to meet Amy Reece yet, but I’m very close friends with her fantastic sister Melissa Tagg, whom many of you know and love. Melissa and I share a common bond–we are aunties to the most amazing kids. My niece Lilly is my sunshine, the light of my heart (or blueberry if you read my acknowledgement in Lakeside Family). Melissa’s nephew Ollie is a beautiful child with a constant smile. One look at him and you will fall in love. I asked Amy to be a guest on my blog to share her joy in parenting a child with special abilities. Yes, children with special abilities face medical and physical challenges, but they possess such an amazing joy that is so contagious.  

My son was laying on his back with his hands in the air, and was opening and closing his hands as if he was trying to sign “book” to me.  He had a strong look of concentration on his face, so I just watched him for several moments.   When he stopped, I asked if he would like to read a book.  He didn’t quite seem to make the connection, so we proceeded to another activity. 

A short time later, I asked him again if he would like to read a book.  He looked down at his hands and very clearly and deliberately signed book to me three times in a row!

My heart melted and tears came to my eyes as I realized I had just witnessed my son discovering a new word of communication!

My son, Oliver “Ollie” Lelan Reece was born two years ago with Down Syndrome and two major internal and external heart defects.  In Ollie’s young life he has endured two hospital stays totaling close to eight months, and survived four open-heart surgeries.  In addition, Ollie battles vocal cord paralysis, congenital heart disease, hypothyroidism, low muscle tone, tracheal malacia, reflux issues, developmental delays, and requires the aid of a ventilator, trach, and G tube. 

Because of all these factors, Ollie sees a multitude of doctors and participates in a substantial amount of therapy.  But despite all these difficulties, Ollie lives life with so much vitality!

While my son faces so many challenges, he is still like any other child full of smiles, energy, and the desire to explore his world and conquer new skills. 

It seems often when people find out that our son has a disability and medical needs it can make them uncomfortable.  

My husband and I have always felt that the term special needs or disability should instead be referred to as “special abilities” because we see Ollie as Ollie, a child full of amazing talents and a phenomenal personality and attitude, not as a child defined only by his Down Syndrome.  

My son is truly one of the most amazing people I know. I feel so privileged and honored to be his parent.  While I am able to teach Ollie skills like a new word in sign language, Ollie teaches me to never let challenges or differences hold me back from living life with great passion and joy!! 

Your Turn: Are you a parent or a relative of a child with special abilities? Or maybe you have a friend who parents a child with special abilities? How have these amazing children helped you to view life?

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  1. Lisa Jordan

    Amy, thank you so much for being my guest today and sharing more about Ollie. I’ve heard so much about him through Melissa that I feel like I know him already. He’s such an incredible little guy.

  2. Melissa Tagg

    Awww, seeing this was the best start to my day ever. 🙂 Ollie’s smile and Amy’s words are the perfection combination. And I’m already counting down to the days ’til I get to visit them next.

    Ollie has helped me view life through a new lens that’s for sure. His life is a reminder to me of God’s miracles and human perseverance. Because truly, I’ve seen Ollie persevere through SO much…and also Amy and Chip, too. And I know it’s only possible because of God’s goodness. Most of all, Ollie teaches me what innocent, trusting JOY looks like…

    Thanks for having Amy as a guest today, Lisa! And thanks for writing the post Amy and making your sister cry…hehehe… 🙂

    • Lisa Jordan

      I love what you said about Ollie teaching you what innocent, trusting Joy looks like. I feel the same about my Lilly.

  3. Roxanne Sherwood

    Lisa, Thank you for having Amy here today. Amy, I have delighted in Melissa’s videos of Ollie. He’s such an amazing little boy! I’m adopting your term “special abilities” because my son, Peter, is special too with autism.

    I love Melissa’s comment: “Most of all, Ollie teaches me what innocent, trusting JOY looks like…” Peter’s laugh is contagious and he’s brought joy into my life when it was otherwise hard to find.

    Thanks for this heart-warming post. It’s a great start for my day!

    • Lisa Jordan

      Roxanne, in every picture I see of Peter, he has a huge smile on his face. He sounds like a delightful child. I hope to meet him someday!

  4. Alena

    Wonderful post. I have a friend with a child who has “special abilities” and I love watching how they’ve overcome challenge after challenge with joy!

    Thank you Amy for sharing your story!


    • Lisa Jordan

      Alena, they’re a great testament to perseverance, aren’t they?

  5. Casey

    What an absolutely beautiful post. I’ve loved it anytime Melissa posts a pic of Ollie–he does have that never-ending smile and joy! What a Christ-filled reminder in a life that can become so dark. I’m so glad to “meet” you here Amy. The love you and your husband have for each other and your son is such a godly inspiration. I’m so glad you opened your heard to us today. 🙂

    • Lisa Jordan

      Casey, one thing I’ve learned with my niece is children with special abilities don’t always see themselves as different. And Ollie’s smile is so contagious!

  6. Beth K. Vogt

    I experienced the absolute joy of meeting Ollie (and yes, Amy and Chip too) last week! Having been part of Ollie’s “Prayer Brigade” these past months — and what a privilege that is — finally having the chance to meet this delightful little guy was … well, now I’m at a loss for words. Quite a moment for a writer.
    Amy and Chip’s home is filled to overflowing with love, warmth and hospitality. And Ollie? Well, he stole a bigger portion of my heart as I watched him enjoy his truck and sign “book” and blow kisses …

    • Lisa Jordan

      Beth, I’m so delighted you had an opportunity to meet Ollie in person! What a God-ordained event. I hope you gave him plenty of hugs from all of us!

  7. Pepper

    This is a beautiful celebration of life lived WELL!
    I spend my days working with kids who have special abilities and am continually humbled, awed, and reminded that our God does not make mistakes – but instead showers blessings on His kids!

    Love it! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story.

    • Lisa Jordan

      Pepper, I’m sure your job brings you incredible blessings. And I’m sure you’re a blessing in return. I love the reminder you said about God not making mistakes. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

  8. Delores Topliff

    I love this info. and emphasis–yes, these children have very special abilities affecting and blessing all those in their family circle and far beyond. How neat that he signs “book.”

    • Lisa Jordan

      Dee, you’re right about these children blessing others!

  9. Reba J. Hoffman

    Oh.My.Goodness! What a very special post. Thank you Amy. I feel like I know Ollie… and you. But how did I miss the fact that you and MTAGG are twins? I must have napped during that part of the conversation.

    • Melissa Tagg

      Haha, Reebs! If you think Amy and I look alike, you should see pictures of my other sister and me as kids. We’re ten years apart in age, but photos of me and photos of Nicole as a kid could be interchangeable! 🙂

    • Lisa Jordan

      Reba, getting a glimpse into Amy’s heart and hearing so much about them from Melissa does make it seem like we know them even more, doesn’t it?

  10. Nicole Tagg

    🙂 This post made my day!

    • Lisa Jordan

      Nicole, I’m sure you’re just as blessed by Ollie as his other auntie is. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  11. Lindsay Harrel

    Oh, what a sweet post! I can’t wait to meet Ollie someday (it better happen, Mel!), but I can already tell what joy he brings. I love what you said, Amy, about Ollie not being defined by his Down Syndrome…even if others would define him that way. He is so much more than that, and I love that you see it. I pray others do too, and that he touches many, many lives.

    • Lisa Jordan

      LindsAy, in his two years, he’s touched more lives than others have in their whole lifetime. He’s an amazing child, isn’t he? And just think–God has a whole future mapped out for him.

  12. Chip Reece

    You all should know, since Amy wouldn’t say it about herself, that my wife is an absolute rock star when it comes to caring for Ollie!

    She does his physical therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, trach care, baths, walks, playtime, calls and coordinates all his appointments and supply orders, and much more every day by herself. She really is a super mom, and the best mom Ollie could ever have. I’m a lucky man to have her as my wife, and a better man because of her!

    • Lisa Jordan

      Chip, when I read Amy’s post, my eyes filled with tears. But now, as I read your comment, I’m tearing up again. Your sweet words about Amy are what more men need to hear. Thank you for being *that* guy! And I’m sure Amy would say you’re a great support to her and Ollie…I hear Melissa saying it, so I’m sure it’s true! Thank you for sharing your wonderful family with us.

      • Chip Reece

        My pleasure, and a joy to share! 🙂

        • Beth K. Vogt

          Having seen the family together, I will say Amy and Chip are a wonderful team. Opening their home to a stranger (me), who just wanted to meet their precious son (and them too, of course) — and they were as welcoming as if I walked in with Melissa. Their home overflows with love and peace.

    • Amy Reece

      I can only take good care of Ollie because you are the most amazing and support husband ever! You completely provide the means to make it possible for me to stay home with Ollie. Thank you for all your hard work!!! You are a wonderful daddy! I love you!

      • Jamie Martin

        You guys are just super amazing and such a blessing to be around! We miss you Chip, Amy, and Ollie! Ollie really has so many gifts and such a loving and tender spirit! Joel and I are glad that we had 3 good years with you! Very good article:)

  13. Pat Trainum aka P. T. Bradley

    I’ve been privileged to enjoy Ollie’s sweet smile through Melissa’s FB page and her posts at My Book Therapy. He is such a blessing to people he will probably never meet. Keep the pictures coming!!

  14. Amy Reece

    Thank you for allowing me to share about my son! We are so blessed by all the support we have received, and are thrilled to tell others about our incredible son! We know God has a very special plan for his life! He has already touched so many people’s hearts; and I know he will continue to do so in the future!!