It is graduation time around here and probably in most every community in the U.S. We have several parties to go to over the weekend from two different schools. I hope we can get everybody visited.
As happens at this time of year everyone is buzzing about what each other will be doing next year: going to college, tech school or working. Most people have some dream or ambition about which they are excited. And for most people they will achieve whatever they set out to do within reason. Some people will far exceed their ambitions.
But for special needs kids and their parents graduation is a frightening time. My youngest will graduate next year and she has been worrying herself about what she will do with her life for many years. I have put her off of it for a long time telling her it isn't necessary to worry about it. But with it now looming into our field of vision, I can't do that much longer.
Most kids have so many options that the world truly is their oyster (whatever that actually means). But whatever their "disability" is, special needs kids have unique situations that make it a bit harder. I have a friend whose daughter is super smart but who happens to live life in a wheelchair. Sending her off to college is a bit more of a daunting thought for her parents.
My daughter has an invisible disability. Although she has cerebral palsy which affects her left leg, that hasn't stopped her from doing life. She embraces sports and loves them with her whole heart--she just never really gets to succeed at them. My heart nearly broke recently when we were at a track meet and she came over to us in tears and said "will I ever succeed at anything?"
My darling girl wants to be involved in everything life has to offer her in school. She just never gets to be the best at anything. So while other kids are getting awards for sports, arts, music, drama or grades, she just sits there wondering why she has to suffer with being inflicted with a life that she did nothing to deserve. Don't get me wrong, she works harder than anybody I know and every single teacher she has had has said the same thing. So many days she comes home and in her frustration with her life she labels herself "stupid" because she is not like everyone else her age. I don't allow her to have social media because she doesn't need to compare herself to others any more than she already does and she also doesn't need to see all the times she is left out of social activities.
She won't know that I am writing this. I'm trying not to sound or be bitter. Having a special needs child is harder than anyone could ever imagine. There are some kids who would look at my special needs kid and think she has the world by the tail. Everyone's disabilities are different. But if you don't have a child with special needs you don't realize how left out they feel or how frightening the future is for them.
We didn't set out to be parents of a special needs kid. We knew that when we adopted we were getting a child with a "slight problem with one leg" but the other stuff, the FAS stuff, we didn't know about until it began to show itself and explain why sometimes things were harder for her. No one sets out to have a special needs kid unless they are intentionally adopting one. There are a lot of people who just end up living in that foreign country of special needs and never got to read the guidebook to know where they would be going.
But I'm thankful for what having a special needs child has taught me. It has made me more compassionate and understanding of kids with learning disabilities. It has made our family more sensitive and supportive to people with special needs I hope. But more than anything else, it has made me realize that we should not take anything for granted. I have 4 kids who skated through school like I did--not truly appreciating how easily things came to them and getting good grades in spite of being lazy students. Brain injuries can happen at any time in life and none of us knows what the future holds.
I guess what I want to say here is this: if you are a student with life spreading its table of opportunities before you, be thankful. If you are a parent of kids who are "normal", be thankful. And for everyone who doesn't live in my daughter's shoes, be understanding that it is hard to feel like you are "less than" everyone else around you when you have done nothing to deserve it.
Happy Graduation Week!