Evelyn Mann is a special needs mom living with her husband in Tampa, Florida. They are raising their six year old son who was born with a rare form of dwarfism called Thanatophoric Dwarfism. You can follow their journey on their website.
“Did you see my son hit that baseball out of the park!” the excited father yelled to everyone in the stands. Everyone stood at the same time watching the boy run from base to base and then slide to home plate.
“Safe”, the umpire declared.
Everyone erupted into a wave of cheering and triumph as the play won the game for the team.
The father was understandably proud of his son. We parents cheer whenever we see our children triumph. Some parents though are experiencing a different journey where victories for their children are not so clearly seen. There is a whole world of special needs parents raising their children and also cheering each victory. Those victories are quite different from an able bodied child. Though different, each victory is celebrated as if the child hit a home run.
Ask any therapist of special needs children and they will tell you that the smallest victory is cause to celebrate. Therapists are schooled to be patient as they wait for these wee ones to display even the most inconsequential accomplishment. For one child it may be eating their first bite of solid food. For another it may be grasping a toy for the first time. Able bodied children also experience these first’s but for many special needs children these victories are years in the making.
Each journey for a special needs family is different. Some disabilities are mild while others are profoundly debilitating. What is the same of all these children is that most parents are fiercely proud of their children no matter what the diagnosis.
What would special needs parents want other parents to know about their children? They are children, perhaps in varying degrees of growth and development, but children none the less. What is the biggest compliment you can give a special needs parent? Pay attention to their special needs child. Talk lovingly to the child even though they may not be able to respond. How can you support special needs parents? If you are curious, ask about the child’s diagnosis instead of wondering and never knowing. Ask the parent what their biggest blessing is in raising a special needs child. Ask what their biggest need is and how you can help. Listening can be the best gift you can offer. Many parents have no support group with which to share their joys and struggles. Simply knowing that you care can mean so much to a special needs family. The next time you see a child who is a little different be bold and reach out to the parent. You will be glad you did.