Thursday, January 2, 2014

My life has been touched by special needs, as have yours

At 18 years old, I graduated high school and began my college career as a music education major. I was going to teach and change the world. I smile at the nostalgia I feel looking back at that naive little girl. I thought I knew special needs because I had read a book. I thought I knew a lot of things back then, but it turns out -- I knew nothing. When Little Miss M was born in 2005, my whole world was rocked. She showed up nearly six weeks early, and I was terrified. At the time, there was nothing unique about our daughter. She was a baby. She screamed, she cried, she cooed, she rolled, she drooled and she was wonderful. She got sick a lot, but it wasn't until her first generalized tonic-clonic seizures in December of 2006 that my world perspective started to shift.

No longer was I looking at perpetually sunny skies, and a little girl who would grow up to fulfill every dream I had of her. No longer was I raising my best friend who would bake cookies with me, plan elaborate adventures or jump into spontaneous excursions. No, now I was raising Little Miss M -- a very special little girl with her own rules, her own needs, her own operating manual. What was once uncharted territories for me, became everyday terminology. From blood draws, to hospital stays, therapy appointments, insurance phone calls, routine rigidity, and so on -- my world view shifted to that of a very special population:  the special needs world.

I know the world is not split into typical and special needs; that there isn't a certain color t-shirt I wear to identify myself as a special needs mom. However, the world sure looks different. Will my child be able to navigate that bump in the road without assistance? Will the volume level in that particular restaurant be too much? Will we be out at medication time? You know that list of questions constantly rolling through your head? So, although the world isn't split into two, it must be approached differently for individuals with special needs.

It is very easy to be caught up by the weight of the special needs world. Whether you are raising one or multiple children, or you are responsible for their education or you care deeply, the negatives can slam you in the face. When Heather asked: "What is your most favorite thing about working with and being around individuals with special needs?", the answers read like a tribute or a beautiful prayer. The answers from our Facebook Fanpage are so heartfelt and honest, that I need to do little more then share them below.
Jennifer: My daughter is always smiling and always happy. She bring light to my life.

Teresa: Their love of life and everyone in theirs!

Amy: I love that my son will always believe in Santa Claus.

Karla: I have learned to slow down. I appreciate this more than I can express.

Laila: When I see in their eyes they are very happy and excited with our activities.

Brian: When they show you affection it is real, it is not done because it is what you are told but because they want to.

Kimberly: Their sense of humor.

Juliana: The "no pretense" factor. And with that comes truly unconditional love. I don't think I ever realized what that really was before having and being with these children.

Wendy: That my son makes me smile or laugh every day! Even when he's being a stinker!

Jenni: The joy they bring to my life!

Melynda: My favorite is when they learn something new and make themselves, their parents and me proud!

Gigiandgrandaddy: The smiles, laughter, humbleness, gentle loving hearts. Everything!

Jeannine: It's never dull

Donna: The sheer joy and enthusiasm for life!

Rita: Everything!

Sarah: That I become the student and they the teacher...


Samantha: I love being a teacher. All kids are special, those who come with extra challenges only make the end result more exciting.

Kerith: Watching the young people work with them!

Kristin: Trying to solve the puzzle of how to get them to communicate, and their joy of life.

Cara: Their unique perspective on the world.

Chandra: I work with children with Autism. Every day I am motivated to work as hard as I can because they are so kindhearted and trusting. I love when they make strides, either academically, socially, or behaviorally. When they start playing together and seeking friendships, I get ecstatic!

Alexis: Uncensored personality.

Jill: As the teacher we are the lucky ones! I love seeing them succeed at anything and everything whether it is washing dishes or doing math!

Kim: Some of my kids with special needs are the most dedicated and hardest workers. It is hard to imagine what my class would be like if everyone did that.

Amy: One of the best things, in my honest opinion, about our son having been born with Down syndrome, is getting to be part of the special-needs community! A loving, unpretentious, down-to-earth group of people if there ever was one! I love it.

Darlene: They have a great capacity for love.
Yeah, our fans have it right. It's so easy to get knocked down by all the negativity and by all the unsuccessful attempts. But, then look to the person in your life. By waking up each day, they are saying: "Okay world, I'm here and I'm doing my very best" -- what right do we have to diminish that effort because it's hard on us? It's honest to feel sad; it's honest to feel defeated -- it means you care. But, try for each and every time your feel that way to remember the good, the powerful, the happy, and the inspiring. Some days you will have to look harder then others, but I know you can find something to make you smile.

I promised Little Miss M years ago, that as long as she kept on trying and fighting - I would never give up. It certainly helps that she embraces almost every challenge with a smile and acknowledges her defeats with and "I'll try again tomorrow" attitude. My favorite thing is my daughter. She has to work harder to get out the door in the morning than most people do in week, but she's a fighter and she's inspiring.

She taught me that there is always a bright side, and I choose to embrace it!


Amanda is a mom who chooses to smile because every day is a precious gift!

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