Monday, June 19, 2017

When you compare your child with disabilities to his peers with disabilities

I tried not to stare, but I couldn't help it. I was at an event with Max this weekend, and two young people with disabilities were talking with each other. Their conversation had gone on for a good 15 minutes, and I kept looking over as they smiled, laughed and nodded. I wondered what they were chatting about. I wondered when Max would reach that level of engagement with a friend.

I've been having all the feels these past couple of weeks, with Max graduating from middle school. He's growing up, fast. But the reality of him going to high school (HIGH SCHOOL) has me pondering his progress.

When Max was a tot I used to regularly compare him to typically-developing kids his age, a habit that caused serious anxiety and pain. Would Max ever walk like the other children? Talk like the other children? Play with toys like the other children? Spoon birthday cake into his mouth like the other children? Climb up the jungle gym at the playground like other children? Ride a trike like the other children? Be anything like the other children?

Sometimes, I'd reach out to other parents of babies who'd had strokes and ply them with questions: At what age did their child pull to stand? At what age did their child sit up, crawl, walk, babble, talk? Hold a cup? Hold a spoon? Hold a toy?

Eventually, the compare-a-thons stopped as I grew to accept Max for who he was, and embrace that he was on his own timeline and nobody else's. There wasn't one particular thing that helped me to do that; it was the passage of time and Max's continued well as my own. I've often said that as Max has made my progress, so have I. It's been an evolution for both of us. I suspect that will always be true.

And so, I was surprised to find myself comparing Max to these other teens, and feeling both wistful and a little bummed. Max is plenty social and chatty. "How are you?" he regularly asks me and others, and he means it. He's just not at the point where he has extended conversations with peers, and it hurt to watch the other teens enjoying each others' company in a way that Max can't yet.

As self-aware as you may be as a special needs parent, it doesn't stop those old yearnings from resurfacing.

The hurt ebbed away after we left, only to be replaced by a reminder that Max loves life as he knows it, and that I need to quit projecting my wants onto him. This week, the parent of a student in Max's class had stopped by as they watched something on the whiteboard, and came upon Max holding her daughter's hand. "They held hands the whole time I was there," she said.

I welled up as I stared at the photo she sent.

He's content. He's got friends and relationships, even without conversation as I know it. He's happy.

And once again, I packed my feelings away and took heart in the reality of my beautiful boy.

Image: Flickr


  1. This is such great insight. It's common, I think, to compare (yourself, your kids) to others. When the results don't match up, it's easy to think "I am not as good," or "My kid is lacking in this area." But the best thing I have learned over the years, and now as an adult with CP is that 'different' and 'less' are not synonymous. Different is just different and different is okay.

  2. love that photo. Our son is going to high school next year too and I have been having some of the same feelings. When he was a toddler there were a group of kids just slightly older than him that we were friendly with, but because of the way everyone's birthdays fell, they were able to start school a whole year earlier than him. I always felt like we were chasing these kids, that he wasn't ever catching up to them, that he'd always be a little bit less than them. And then on the playground, a mom of a boy just a little bit younger than him said "I hope A can do as good as P one day, I kind of think of him as a role model for A." and just like that, my whole perspective changed. They are who they are and it's all ok, they're all ok. Love to you and Max!

  3. Those comparison feelings are so hard. I feel like whenever I meet another mom of a disabled child I'm always asking the walking questions. I had a moment though last week where i realized verbally and socially my daughter was ahead of her other special needs peers and it was a nice change of feelings when compared to how limited she is physically.


  4. I believe this is a continuous battle. I still strive to win it. :-)

  5. Every achievement comes at a price.

  6. Different is just different and different is okay.



Thanks for sharing!

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