Children With Disabilities Don't Make Parents 'Special'


“God gives ‘special kids’ to ‘special parents.’” You’ve probably heard the statement. You may have even said it yourself. It’s one that is pretty common. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually verbalized it myself, but I did assume it was true once upon a time. However, I now see it is simply not true.

I understand people mean well when they say it. I’ve done my best to be gracious and thankful to those who have said it to me since my son’s birth. I understand it is intended to be a compliment of sorts. People are trying to be encouraging. But I don’t think it’s particularly helpful for anyone.

My wife and I will be the first to admit we are not part of some exceptional brand of humanity. We get stressed out about caring for our little guy sometimes. We get tired. We become impatient. I can assure you, we are just like any other parents.

Sure, sometimes the term “special needs” is used because some needs are not the same as the needs of typical children. Our son currently sees four different therapists each week. He is 16 months old and just last week sat up unassisted for the first time (and we celebrated that accomplishment big time). That milestone came after many months of working with a therapist. He is still learning to feed himself. He does not crawl quite yet. I would be lying if I said all of this is not overwhelming at times.

And I suppose some people watching us see how much we love our son, and how much we seek the best care for him. They may take notice of how much time and effort we invest into seeing him succeed. Their observations may lead them to view us as truly “special” indeed. The problem is, if you removed from the equation that our son has Down syndrome and were looking at the parents of a typical baby, you would absolutely expect to see people who love their child, seek that child’s best care, and who put time and effort into seeing that child succeed. And if parents of that typical child did not exhibit those characteristics, you might view them as bad, selfish parents.

So then, what makes us so “special?”

We’re just doing what all parents naturally do. When you meet your child, you fall in love. And it’s the unconditional kind of love. When you fall in love with your child, you do what you must to take care of them. Some things are easier than others, but you endure because of the one for whom you are doing those things. It doesn’t make you “special,” it makes you a parent. It’s a job anyone can do regardless of what life with our little ones may look like. Kids with disabilities are just like kids without them; little humans who will be naturally loved by their parents. And when those parents fall in love, they step up to do the things the little one will need for them to do.

Anyone can be a parent to a child with disabilities. They only need to have love in their hearts.

I see this cliché as dangerous because it leads not so “special” people to think they are inadequate to care for their “special” little ones. Believe me, you can do it.

If you just found out your baby will have a disability, don’t assume you can’t take care of them. Don’t be scared. Don’t think for a minute you won’t like being their parent. I can assure you that you will love that child more than you ever imagined possible. No one is better equipped to nurture that baby than you, because no one will love that baby as much as you will.

God doesn’t give “special” children to “special” parents. I believe He gives children (regardless of their needs) to imperfect, ill-equipped people who slowly learn how to apply their love to the raising of children.

So please don’t call me “special,” because I don’t call you that either. Neither of us are.

We are parents. A “special” job, to be sure. But a job for ordinary people nonetheless.

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