If you were around during the 80's and early 90's, you're probably familiar with musician Jeff Healey. He wrote and performed the rock ballad “Angel Eyes,” did an amazing cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and was the house band singer in the Patrick Swayze classic Roadhouse.
Jeff was also blind. Kind of ironic for a guy who wrote a song dedicated to a girl and her “angelic eyes.”
You're probably seeing where I'm going with this and you're probably right. Jeff Healey, much like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, was a blind musician who didn't let his special need—his blindness—stop him from becoming one of the most reknowned guitarist and vocalist to ever live.
So at what moment did Jeff Healey become a personal inspiration for my family?
Well, Cody and I are both children of the 80's, so classic 80's rock can often be heard in our house. VH1's Totally 80's has become a Saturday morning staple in our house, along with Pop Up Video, Cooper's personal favorite.
One particular Saturday morning, my favorite Jeff Healey song, you guessed it, “Angel Eyes” was one of the featured videos on Totally 80's. To our surprise, Cooper knew nearly every word and stayed glued in front of the television, playing his own air guitar. He has his own real guitar but didn't want to leave the room to go get it.
Cooper has been fascinated by music since he was born, likely because I attended so many live music shows when I was pregnant. Cody and I have a pair of friends who perform together as an Americana/folk music duo. Cooper recognizes their singing voices on the radio each time we hear them on Pandora because we often take him to see one of their shows if it's in a family friendly environment. When he's listening to music, he usually beats on his drum and stays in rhythm.
As we watched Cooper sing and dance to Jeff Healey's song, Cody and I began to discuss the similarities between our son and the musician. Both have what some would call “handicaps,” both respond to music, both are incredibly special people. We realized that we had to look at Cooper's strengths, instead of focusing on his weaknesses.
And that's exactly what we did.
We've bought out the instrument section in Toys R Us. We have family band and bang out noise that bares at least some resemblance to music. During homework time, we often make songs out of the subjects we're studying, then we sing them in the car on the way to school to help Coop remember.
We address Cooper's needs. I worry about them more than I should. But we don't look at Cooper's delays as a handicap. We don't think he's less smart than most kids his age. He's just excelling in different areas than others, particularly his creative side. Since he's the son of a writer and a talented painter, what else would anyone expect?
Are you a working special needs parent?