In her post “The First Time My Son With Autism Got a Birthday Invite I Didn’t Have to Decline,” Tricia Rhynold describes the time another mom took an extra step to ensure Rhynold’s son could attend and enjoy an upcoming birthday party. This got us thinking: What other extra steps have people taken to insure every child, no matter his or her needs, is included? To find out, we turned to you, our Mighty parents. We asked you to share one thing someone has done to help your child with special needs feel more included, and you had some wonderful responses.
Here are 24 simple yet extraordinary stories of inclusion:
1. “A stranger once asked my son Ethan, ‘What’s your name?’ My son’s speech is not clear, but he said his name. The stranger bent down closer asked again and again and again until finally she understood him. Then, she responded, ‘Well, Ethan, I’m Mary, and this boy here is Adam.’ Adam was nonverbal, and his eyes danced as Ethan repeated the name ‘Adam.’ After watching both our sons smile and acknowledge each other in the middle of a hospital corridor, Mary and I are no longer strangers.” — Geraldine Renton
2. “Our friends keep their highchairs, long after their kiddos have grown, so our daughter with hypotonia can eat with her peers at birthday parties and dinners.” — Lyndse Marie Ballew
3. “Our local librarian lets my son with Asperger’s syndrome take home and read new library books related to my son’s special interest before the library puts them in circulation. They go above and beyond to make him feel a part of that place.” — Lauren Cockrell
4. “People sometimes make up special party bags for our lifetime tube-fed son. The bags have no sweets or cake and also no balloons because they’re a real texture problem for him. It’s always so touching when someone goes that extra mile for him — the smallest gesture can mean an enormous amount to us.” — Helen Bates
5. “When our town dedicated the new war memorial at the new park, my daughter’s Girl Scout troop had a part in the ceremony. When the organizers realized the processional route was not wheelchair accessible for my daughter, they changed it at the last minute so she would be able to participate with her troop.” — Sue Rutan Donald
6. “The kids in the neighborhood had a startup kickball game. Some of the older kids wouldn’t play unless my son pitched for both teams! My heart was full.” — Amy Scoggins Laster
7. “Our son is 3 and attends daycare part time. He was invited to a birthday party, which we were undecided about attending. Gatherings are hard enough with family, and this would be his first birthday party. Upon picking up my son from daycare, I ran into the birthday girl’s mother, who asked me in person if we received our invitation. She then told me how much they would love if my son could come. She loves seeing him every time she picks up her daughter — he gives her high-fives and is so always so happy. I loved hearing how she saw him for who is really is: a kind, lovable little boy.” — Carrynn Kels
8. “Our entire little town ensures that my younger sister (who happens to have Down syndrome) is never left out. She was the most popular kid in high school and always performed in talent shows to many cheers. The school administration and her class got together for her last day of school and arranged for a local police officer to come meet her and give her a drive around town (she even got to turn the lights on!).” — Melissa Graham
9. “My son’s mobility is limited to rolling, and he can only eat limited amounts of purees by mouth. We visited some friends for Easter this year, and they were insistent on including him in the egg hunt with the other kids. They set eggs out on a blanket that he could roll to, and they’d put stickers in the eggs. I was so touched, and my son had the biggest smile on his face.” — Kallie Locklair
10. “I took my two little boys to a local carnival with games and rides. My oldest, 3 at the time, has hypotonia and autism, and he can’t stand or walk without help. There weren’t really any games or rides he’d be able to go on because of his limitations. I hesitantly walked over to the bounce house and saw groups of kids going in at a time. Since he couldn’t move on his own, my boy would be trampled if I put him inside. A carnival employee saw me and asked if my boys wanted a turn. I gave her the short version of our story, and she smiled and said her son had similar needs. She let me take both of my boys into the bounce house and the three of us got to play in it by ourselves.” — Megan Hufton
11. “A good friend researched my daughters’ condition and had her children watch videos on it to prepare them before meeting them. The first time they met my daughters after I adopted them, they weren’t scared or left wondering what to do. They treated them like any other children. It was one of the most precious gifts.” — Katie Hurst
12. “A friend’s grandfather sat with my daughter for two hours while she drew drawing after drawing for him. He remained excited the entire time. He made her feel so happy and proud that he was so interested in what she could do.” — Rose Harrison
13. “We were at a Little Big Town concert, and one of the band members came over and gave my brother with Down syndrome a hug. Then she went and got each of the other members to come over and shake his hand. She gave him a guitar pick, too. He was so excited!” — Andrea Anderson Watkins
14. “My son with Down syndrome is learning to swim, so on the day of his school swimming carnival, another parent from the school got in the pool with my son and me to help him complete a race. The whole school came to the pool’s edge to cheer him on. He was so proud of himself. The school kids, that lovely parent and my son are all legends to me.” — Tanya Neilson
15. “My daughter has autism, and a couple years ago, she had a broken leg. We went to a restaurant, and our waiter seated her at a table in her wheelchair immediately. Emma talks quite a bit and asks tons of questions about restaurants when we go in them. Instead of brushing her off or ignoring her, this waiter was kind and patient as Emma stuttered out all she needed to say. He answered all her questions, spoke directly to her and made her feel special.” — April Charisse
16. “Tonight at our church vacation bible school, a new member of our church took it upon himself to slide endlessly down the blow-up slides with my son. He treated him just like his own son, and he did it all with a smile.” — Jill D. Powell
17. “My son was temporarily paralyzed due to a rare muscle disorder, and he was learning to walk again. His teachers made sure he was getting to play with other kids and while at gym time to help him use a trampoline without getting trampled.” — Leidy Jesse Garcia
18. “My 5-year-old daughter with disabilities attended her first birthday party with her typical twin brother. I had to keep her in another room most of the time because she couldn’t handle the chaos of kids running around, screaming, popping balloons, etc. We ventured out when the musician started playing kids’ birthday songs. When she finished, instead of packing up and going home, the musician approached my daughter with guitar in hand and sang ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’ It made her day.” — Raquel Bercovich Wadler
19. “A sweet family from our hometown invited our daughter with autism to be part of the football homecoming ceremony. They knew she had issues with lots of attention, but they said, ‘We’d love for her to be a part of this. If that means you have to walk onto the field with her, then that’s fine. If she decides at the last minute not to go out there, that’s fine. But she’s the one we want to help us.’ The lack of pressure, the belief that she could do something like that and the acceptance made it possible for her to beautifully break down major barriers that night, and it gave us such hope for the future.” — Erica Nash
20. “My friend’s husband would notice my son off by himself if we were at a lake or park with the other kids. He always made a point to include him or adapt a game the kids were playing so my son felt like he was just as good at things as the other kids. Nine years later, they still have an unspoken bond, even though they barely see each other. My son is a teenager now, so they just give each other a wink and a nod when they see each other.” — Larisa Wood
21. “The leaders in the children’s class at church didn’t bat an eye when my son with autism did somersaults over and over during music time. They even cleared a section of the room so he had a safe place to stim. When the other children asked why he did that, the leaders explained his brain works differently and the only way he could sing was by moving and doing somersaults. Since the adults didn’t make a fuss over it, the kids didn’t either. It was just a normal thing to experience.” — Jenn Kilstrom
22. “My son started playing Auskick football, and he was having a lot of trouble joining in. He would get angry, have meltdowns and run off. One day, another little boy talked to my son and showed him how to kick a ball. Ever since that day, my son loves Auskick. I am so thankful for that little boy.” — Lee-Ann Mitchell
23. “My child has an intellectual disability. A young man in our apartment building, who has a physical disability and is in a wheelchair, showed him how he could operate the brakes in his car with his hands. Just because he was asked. It meant a lot.” — Melody Nance
24. “My oldest son was in a wedding for a family friend. His friends have always treated my youngest son, who has autism, just like one of the guys. At this wedding, there was a girl in the wedding party we’d never met before. [My youngest son] loves music, so he always stands closest to the speakers and dances like nobody’s business. Well, this girl in the wedding party had been watching him all night (stares are not unusual, we just ignore them). Long story short, she came up and asked if I thought it would be OK if she asked him to dance. Of course I said yes. The look on his face when a girl asked him to dance was priceless. One of the best moments of his life.” — Lisa Mabry
*Some responses have been shortened and/or edited.
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