“Oh! Look at how well she is doing (insert everyday something here)!”
If this was a statement about my son, our special needs child, you would not be surprised.
However, from time to time, it is what is said about our daughter, our typical child.
Our daughter is fine.
She is good.
She knows how to do and can do what she is supposed to do.
She is not disabled.
Sometimes this confusion comes from friends and family.
Sometimes from strangers.
But it is confusion all the same.
She is able, capable, and strong.
She is her brother’s biggest cheerleader.
She is his friend, caregiver and tormentor.
You know, sisterly duties.
So this is really about her this time.
Not directly anyhow.
This is about the carryover, the overflow, the wake from having a special needs child and how it changes everything.
If we only had our daughter, folks would not comment on how well she plays with others, runs, jumps, or how nicely she draws.
They wouldn’t notice.
She is three.
These are things she does, all the time and should be doing all the time.
Sometimes, it is not all good.
They have become so sensitive to your disabled child that they don’t know how to turn it off for the one or more that are not.
I know nothing practical about psychology other than what I had to memorize for college elective credit.
But maybe there is something that keeps us from making a differentiation once an association has been made with a particular group of people.
In this case, my family.
Just our son.
My wife and I get tired.
But what parents don’t?
It is not some special level of exhaustion held out separately for parents with special needs children.
It’s the same exhaustion that parents with a screaming newborn have.
Might even be a little easier sometimes.
My son sleeps through the night.
So there’s that.
I grew up with a friend who is deaf.
He has the best sense of humor and it serves him very well in life.
You’ve heard about people, or seen it first hand, who yell at the deaf in an effort to have them hear.
As my old friend would say, “I’m deaf stupid, stop yelling”.
My advice for the peripheral folks to the special needs family in your life?
Use the same logic, but for the non-disabled members of that family: “we’re not disabled; you can act accordingly”.
That might mean you treat them differently, and that’s ok.
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