There are times when I am around friends and family, and it is obvious my son is different. He may laugh when he is not supposed to, giggle at something he just thought off, wander into his own world or play puppets with his fingers. I confess I rather enjoy his quirkiness and, I don’t know if I would want him any different. I sometimes think, if he was different would he still be the brilliant painter he is today? Would he still want to hug and kiss me in public as he turned older each year? Would he still be excited over birthday parties and Christmas?
Media can train a parent to be expected to feel a certain way. It can bombard a parent to feel if a child does not grow to be a "successful independent adult" failure has begun to turn its wheels. To help the parent with a child with a disability feel "good" social media bombards the special needs parent with feel good inspirational quotes. While many may like the notion “Special Parents Have Special Children”, I tend to shy away. I loved my child when I saw him, and I loved him more when I found out others thought he was not perfect.
It does not take a special person or a special mother to raise a child with special needs. It takes a person who is accepting and can love differences. That is the secret. Coming to the point of all acceptance is a journey on its own. It requires , not only soul searching, but questioning the status quo, religion, and trying to answer the question “Why” Once beyond all of this, it is easy to connect and accept. The realization there is no difference is not an illusion anymore. If we can accept people of different races and religions, than why not person’s with different behaviours. Why not your own child, your brother, sister, family member or friend.
A recent trip to south Africa with friends and families triggered some real feelings and insightful thoughts. I observed the children, and in some cases young adults of the families that accompanied us. The differences in my son that were so apparent to me, were of no consequence to the children. They carried on and included my son as any other friend. They accepted his differences with pride. They spoke slowly to him, helped him, laughed with him, included him, and ran by his side when he wandered off. It was full acceptance of him as a person. It was not just about “taking care of him” It was true inclusion with acceptance. I thanked them at the end of the trip. The children were clearly offended. It was with happiness I responded with a dignified apology.
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