(NEW YORK) — Last Christmas, newly adopted Angela Owens sat motionless in her toddler-sized wheelchair, unable to interact with her new family because of her disabilities, which include cerebral palsy and a genetic disorder called 1p36 deletion, which renders her unable to speak.
But a few days ago, the 3-year-old accidentally knocked over the family Christmas tree as she tested her little legs on a walker. As her mother tried to grab the tree, she saw that Angela was laughing.
“Those things are just miracles for us because last year, she had no mobility whatsoever,” said Karen Owens, who brought Angela home to stay on Dec. 10, 2011. “This year, she’s going to steal the show.”
Now, Angela can use her hands to communicate with an iPad and she’s learning some basic sign language. She even vocalizes a little bit.
Karen and her husband, Adam, have adopted two children with disabilities since their son Gavin died of mitochondrial disease at age 3 in 2009. They didn’t want the skills they’d honed taking care of him to go to waste, so they requested to adopt children from the foster care system who had special needs, Karen said.
The Owens brought home the newest addition to their family over the summer, a little boy named Jayden. He has injuries from shaken baby syndrome, and came to the Owens with “broken bones from head to toe.” He, too, was introverted back then, but now he’s “spunky” like his sister, Karen said.
“He’s finally starting to understand what it means to have a mommy,” Karen said. “Adam and I feel like we were destined to do this, and Maddy, too.”
Maddy is the Owens’ firstborn, who is now 7 years old. She’s embraced her new siblings and doesn’t see their disabilities, Karen said.
On Thursday, Maddy posed with her brother and sister for Karen’s blog, GavinOwens.com, hanging onto the back of Angela’s pink wheelchair and Jayden’s green one.
In an older photo on the site, a younger Maddy gives baby Gavin a one-armed hug as he sucks on a pacifier from his throne of medical equipment.
“We always know that someone’s missing,” Karen said. “But then stepping back and taking a look at our family, it’s just amazing. God used the darkest situation to create the most beautiful situation. We hope other people can see the hope.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jen Christensen, CNN
Jenni Marsh, CNN