Meet The Child Behind The Special Needs
Dear Parent On The Playground/Parent At The Birthday Party/Parent At The Mall,
It’s come to my attention that you have noticed my son, mainly because you are staring. I would like to think you’ve noticed him because he is so handsome, but I have a feeling you are trying to figure out what’s up with him. He looks “normal,” you may be thinking, except for the fact that he’s drooling a bit. And, wait, he wobbles a little when he walks. And he’s not talking like the other kids, or using his hands as they do.
At this point, you might form some impressions of my child, who has cerebral palsy.
You may feel badly for him because he is not “like” other children. You may think his life is lacking, or even pathetic. You may wonder how hard things must be for him. You may think he experiences less joy than other kids do.
I might think that stuff, too, if I didn’t have a child with special needs. So many of us grow up without ever having a kid with disabilities in our lives, our opinions formed only by what we see in movies, assume or imagine. I never had a person with special needs in my life until I had my son.
And so, now that I’m a bona fide expert, I’d like to clear up a few things for you.
My son doesn’t think that he is unlike other kids. He considers himself a kid like any other who loves chocolate ice-cream, trucks and Lightning McQueen. He is quite pleased with who he is, and what his life is, as long as he is fed copious quantities of chocolate ice-cream and allowed to watch his new Cars 2 DVD. Someday, he might be aware of differences that exist between him and others. But I hope he continues to see in himself what’s more alike than different, what his abilities are rather than his dis-abilities. I hope other people see that, too.
My son’s life is no less joy-filled than another child’s. He may enjoy things in different ways but he still gets plenty of bliss out of them. Just because I help him up the sliding pond at the playground or spoon up birthday cake for him does not make them any less pleasurable.
My son may have more medical appointments than other children do, what with the therapies and various doctors who care for him. But at this point, they are a normal part of life. He takes them in stride and even has fun, since therapists who work with kids usually know how to show them a good time. Although, like his mama, he goes a little wackadoo when stuck in a waiting room for too long.
My son is not constantly frustrated by his limitations. Yes, he gets riled up when his mouth is unable to clearly articulate something in his mind. But we are lucky that he has a speech app to help him communicate. Mostly, he works around his physical challenges. It’s second nature to him.
My son is just as funny/personable/determined/crafty/imaginative/intrepid as other kids. Mischievous, even, at times. His physical challenges do not shape who he is on the inside.
My son is not pathetic because he is not like other kids. He is unique, just as your child or any child is.
My son is standing at the playground or birthday party alone because sometimes kids are hesitant to come up to him. You could keep looking at him and wondering…or you could say “hello”—and encourage your child to do the same.
He’d really like that.
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