4 Hopes I Have for My Special Needs Child
Zoe just turned 11! And after these eleven years of mothering her, I know better now what I want for my daughter.
1. Acceptance. Open your eyes. I want others to accept my child for who she is, to look close and see her goodness. At first glance you might miss her amazing sense of humor, the way she can make you laugh or the positive light she radiates, and really… that is your loss. My child greets everyone she sees with “Hello” and tells each person she meets — store clerks included — “Goodbye.” She has taught me how meaningful this simple gesture is — because what she is really saying is, “I see you.” Zoe knows that when people look at her, they first often see her equipment. She has accepted that kids stare (a lot) — but seeing the person behind the wheelchair is important. Acceptance starts with a simple and meaningful “Hello.”
2. Inspiration. Open your heart. Yep, kinda crazy I know, but I want you to let Zoe inspire you. If you are open to the possibility that people with disabilities can inspire you — that they have gifts to give — then you will see the true person they really are. My daughter can warm your heart with her laughter. She smiles all the time and appreciates everything you do for her. And her hugs? They have the power to heal you. All gifts I don’t deserve, yet gratefully accept each day. Everything she does takes more effort and strength she does not have. She wakes up each day tired, yet her spirit constantly fuels her weakened body. She embraces life, and just when you think that life is kinda crappy, spending some time with my daughter will change your mind. Trust me.
3. Community. Open your arms. Everybody needs their peeps, whether it’s the people in your neighborhood, your school or your church — my daughter does too. Did you know that when you or your child stop and say hi to my daughter because you know her from school or the neighborhood that you are part of her community? Her community is much smaller than yours and mine, and a sense of belonging is important — don’t forget it is meaningful to her too.
4. Do right by her. Open your mind. My child deserves it. And you know what this means, don’t you? Do the right thing. Be fair and be caring. Imagine walking that mile in her shoes. And if you are fortunate enough to be in the power position to make decisions that will improve her life, don’t just do politics — do right. I don’t want others to feel sorry for my child, but sometimes because people don’t know any better. I have to spell things out for them. I have to explain why it’s wrong to use the accessible parking spots, or how preventing Zoe from physically stressing her body will literally help her live longer, or how children with disabilities deserve to be treated with dignity, or sadly, what her educational rights are because others don’t interpret the law the way it was intended.
In our everyday life, Zoe thanks me for each little thing I do, so often, that I tell her all the time not to — that I am just loving her, being her mom.
But for all of these things I wish, for all of these things she deserves, I know Zoe will thank you for them too. Even though she doesn’t have to.
This post originally appeared on SpecialNeedsMom.com.