Andrea Wilson sits at home with her five-year-old daughter Jonnie Wilson, a victim of tuberous sclerosis. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo
Raising a child with mental retardation can cause moments of both frustration and joy.
Andrea Wilson, the mother of a 5-year-old daughter with tuberous sclerosis, has learned to take the good with the bad.
â€œI try not to treat her differently, even though I know sheâ€™s different,â€ said Wilson, the mother of four girls.
Wilsonâ€™s daughter, Jonnie, has had seizures since she was 6 months old due to tubors in her brain. The tubors also caused mental retardation and autism.
Since her childâ€™s diagnosis, Wilson has worked towards providing a relatively normal life for her special needs child.
Legally, Jonnie could stay at home under parental supervision and have a tutor for an hour a week, said Wilson.
Instead, Jonnie attends a special needs class at Battleground Elementary School.
â€œI want her to be around other kids,â€ said Wilson. â€œShe has that right.â€
Finding out information about a mentally handicapped childâ€™s day is not as easy as asking them about their school over dinner.
Teachers slip information into Jonnieâ€™s backpack to send home.
They also keep a daily log stating Jonnieâ€™s behavior for the day. Wilson uses the daily log as well to tell teachers about changes in her daughterâ€™s medicine.
When Jonnie gets out of school she becomes the center of her motherâ€™s attention. Unlike other children, Jonnie doesnâ€™t want to sit still and watch television or color.
Her sisters sometimes take turns playing games with her to keep her entertained.
â€œShe likes to play ring around the rosy and patty cake,â€ said Christy Wilson, Jonnieâ€™s 8-year-old sister.
The familyâ€™s oldest daughter, Mary, acts as a â€œmother henâ€ to Jonnie, said Wilson.
The girls have learned that Jonnieâ€™s condition makes her special.
â€œShe gets 95 percent of my attention when everybodyâ€™s at home,â€ said Wilson.
Wilson has sat down with her other daughters to make sure they understand why Jonnie needs so much of her time.
â€œI guess she does give a little more attention to Jonnie because she does need it,â€ said Mary.
At school Jonnie has a one-on-one caregiver to take care of her. Even so, reports still come home about tantrums and time-outs.
Wilson doesnâ€™t see the tantrums at home.
â€œHere at home, she knows what she can and canâ€™t do,â€ Wilson said. â€œAt school sheâ€™s testing.â€
When out of school, Jonnie is rarely taken care of by anyone outside of her nuclear family.
â€œThereâ€™s just not a lot of people that know how to handle her,â€ said Wilson.
Jonnieâ€™s caretakers have to deal with more than tantrums. They also have to know how to stop her seizures by running a magnet across her Vagel Nurse Stimulator (VNS).
Like a pacemaker, the VNS was put into Jonnieâ€™s chest through an operation.
Since she has had it, Jonnieâ€™s seizures have lowered from clusters of 20 to 25 seizures 15 to 20 times a day to two to three seizures a day. by Sarah Grano