Life Not Typical shares Jennifer Shaw’s story of how parenting a special needs child changed her faith, and changed the direction her music ministry took.
Jennifer had trained as a classical vocalist, and received a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the Manhatten School of Music. She performed in the theater, then later performed with the Columbus Symphony. She also became a Professor of Music at Cedarville University, and became music director of her local church. In 2003 she suffered a miscarriage. Shortly after that, her father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and deteriorated rapidly. Then her son, Toby, was born. Toby suffered frequent ear infections, and was diagnosed with severe hearing impairment.
Toby’s behavior became almost bizarre! He couldn’t touch anything, or be touched, couldn’t eat anything, and he made no sounds, except for his near-constant crying. The Shaws became very concerned, because it seemed like Toby was simply shutting down! It was during a speech therapy session that the therapist asked if they’d heard of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). When the therapist described what SPD is, it was as if she was describing Toby exactly.
Throughout the book, Jennifer shares the journey they embarked on with therapy for Toby, as well as walking through the dark time of losing her father, and even the need to walk away from her classical music, to writing and performing contemporary Christian music. She also began touring, speaking about her journey in regards to her father’s death to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and Toby’s SPD and therapy, and the dramatic changes therapy made. Life Not Typical also has appendices, explaining more about SPD, interviews with some of Toby’s therapists, and a list of some helpful resources.
I was especially interested in this book, because my youngest also has SPD, and has spent years in therapy. While reading, sometimes I would just cry, because I have felt some of the same feelings Jennifer expressed. My boy has other special needs in addition to SPD, though.
“Someday” is Jennifer’s most recently released album. It contains a mixture of ballads, worship songs, and classic hymns, which really moved my soul. It is worth listening to over and over.