Still, she didn't need to mention the fears/challenges of raising a kid with special needs nine times. In general, I thought her attitude toward kids with special needs could use some adjusting. And so, in the spirit of that special needs connection we share, I thought I'd offer up a few footnotes to snippets from her essay. Because, you know, she regularly reads this blog.
"Yes, raising a child with special needs is a unique challenge, and there's still fear about my son Trig's future because of health and social challenges; and certainly some days are much more difficult than if I had a 'normal' child."1
"He may not be the next Wayne Gretzky,2 but our hearts are filled with so much pride watching Trig giggle with his sister's puppies or...."
"My family knows that Trig will face struggles few of us will ever have to endure, including people who can be so cruel to those not deemed 'perfect' by society. The cruelty is more than made up for3, though, when someone simply smiles at our son. Nothing makes me prouder.4 5
"Todd actually makes Trig's pureed baby food!"6
1 Please, quit thinking about Trig as "not normal." It does him no good to compare him to other kids, or to compare him to anyone. He is his own normal. Try to appreciate your son for what he can do, for what he does do, and for who he is. Be his cheerleader.
2 Every kid with special needs has his own unique abilities for doing well in this world. Think of Trig's success in terms of his capabilities, not Wayne Gretzky's. Realize, too, that he's very young with so much potential, and you don't yet know what he's capable of. Rethink your idea of success, just like you had to do following a certain presidential race.
3 Sorry but, perhaps you've inhaled too much hairspray? N-O-T-H-I-N-G makes up for people's cruelty toward kids with special needs. Cruelty comes from ignorance and stupidity. You can't cure stupid, but you can make clueless people more aware that kids with special needs are kids like any other kids—and that they are not an entirely different species.
4 I'm wondering if your press person slipped in this line and you didn't notice, because I have a hard time believing that you're more proud of people's smiles at Trig than you are of Trig himself. Forget what people think. The only validation you need of Trig's awesomeness is Trig himself, who has surely overcome many challenges in his four years of life and who has surely been making progress. Look to Trig and take pride in him.
5 I've seen the way strangers smile at my kid and others with special needs, and often they are not "Isn't he cute!" smiles. More typically, they are "Oh, that poor thing, isn't he cute!" smiles laced with pity. Sometimes, people have even said "Poor thing!" Teach the world not to feel bad for your child. That's one of the greatest gifts you can give him—and all of our kids with special needs.
6 Props, Todd! Special needs dads don't get enough credit for all they do. Perhaps, though, you could have a little chat with your wife about that whole "not normal" thing?