At times, it's easy to feel the world is not on your side when you have a child with special needs. People may glare during meltdowns or just gape, period. Programs may turn your child away. But there are times when total strangers cheer your child on, restoring your faith in humanity. That happened this weekend.
We were at the Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch in Kerhonkson, New York. (Shout out to Meredith, a reader I bumped into.) Max was really excited to go horseback riding, and Sue at the stables was wonderful with him. He looked like a boss up there.
After roaming around the playground, Ben and I set off to find Max and Dave. He'd sent me some photos of Max tossing bean bags, and I wanted to see for myself. I heard cheering as I approached. It was for Max, who wasn't just tossing—he was lobbing, with impressive aim. The other players got props, too, but the ones for Max were the most enthusiastic of all.
I want people to treat Max typically, aside from accommodations he needs to level the playing field. I have an issue when kids and teens with disabilities get special sports treatment. Yet Max was doing a good job, and he thrives on encouragement. It's one thing when he's at an activity for youth with special needs and staffers lavish props on him; it's another to receive recognition from people who don't know you but can see your abilities.
And so, I was glad for the clapping. I also felt relieved to see Max being the center of good attention. Over the weekend, I'd watched children, teens and some adults staring at him. He doesn't yet notice. I do.
Max seemed pretty nonchalant about the applause and cheering. When his team won, though, he gave high-fives all around with the biggest grin on his face. As we walked away, I could tell: His ego was bursting, right along with his belly full of chocolate and vanilla swirl.