I recently attended a conference at my 3rd grader’s school and it totally made me cry. This time, however, it was a GOOD cry (although also a borderline “ugly cry” too). All because my youngest son has incredible teachers, and he has some amazing, supportive classmates. But let me rewind…
Parents of children with special needs are used to crying in conferences and IEP meetings. We walk into the room bracing ourselves because we feel raw, vulnerable and are afraid of what we might hear. (We brace ourselves every time the phone rings during the school day, too!) In some school settings our children do not always get the support and services that they need. Resources are limited, teachers are exhausted, and classmates can be cruel. I feel blessed to say that has NOT been our experience at my son’s school. From the beginning Team Ninja has been full of exceptional, patient, caring teachers who have found creative ways to help my son THRIVE. Continue reading →
Consider the following: Michael de Groot is a middle school student who wants to be a scientist and talks constantly about his idol, Bill Nye. He never thought that one day he would be able to actually meet Bill in person. Michael thinks Bill is smart and funny, and he regularly uses phrases from the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” show in conversation. Michael is so enthusiastic about science that his parents often have to remind him that his bedroom is not the best place to conduct experiments.
One spring day Michael’s sister Kelly, a student at Villanova University, noticed a classmate had posted a picture of herself posing with Bill Nye. She found out the student had an internship on the United States House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and that was how she met the scientist. Kelly casually commented how much her brother loved Bill Nye, and they struck up a conversation. The kind student offered to contact someone related to the committee to see if they could possibly set up a meeting between Michael and Bill. Kelly was grateful for the offer, but wasn’t sure that it would actually come to be and didn’t want to get Michael’s hopes up.
January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz. On this day I stop to remember, and ponder, and listen. I reflect upon the atrocities committed by a group of people driven by greed and a lust for power, blinded by prejudice. I pause to hear the voices that cried out, yet were silenced too soon. I will not forget them.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The Nazi persecution of persons with disabilities in Germany was one component of radical public health policies aimed at excluding hereditarily “unfit” Germans from the national community. These strategies began with forced sterilization and escalated toward mass murder.”
“On July 14, 1933, the German government instituted the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” This law called for the sterilization of all persons who suffered from diseases considered hereditary, including mental illness, learning disabilities, physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism. With the law’s passage the Third Reich also stepped up its propaganda against the disabled, regularly labeling them “life unworthy of life” or “useless eaters” and highlighting their burden upon society.”
“Burden upon society.” Lives deemed as less than precious. Of no value. I grieve all the lives lost during the Nazi’s cleansing campaign, but as the mother of a child with special needs this knowledge especially brings me great sorrow. As I gaze into my son’s sweet face I wonder~ would his life had been one that was deemed as dispensable?
My firstborn son is AWESOME. Here is a picture of him on his first Halloween… isn’t he ADORABLE? Sometimes I miss that sweet baby and those fat cheeks, but I am massively proud of the young man that he is becoming (almost 10!). He is smart, kind, creative, responsible, caring, funny, and even occasionally snarky (but in a good way). He has a strong sense of right and wrong and hates to see other people in uncomfortable situations (which has the unfortunate side effect of limiting our movie choices at times). He feels things very deeply and doesn’t always talk about it, but shows it it other ways. He also still loves to hug his mamma, and will reach out to hold my hand when we walk down the street. There is still a hint of little boy left in him and I am trying to cherish every moment. Sometimes when he thinks no one is looking I hear him singing to himself. Every time I find myself getting annoyed at the noise I remember that all too soon he will be grown-up and the singing will stop, so I smile and enjoy the music.
My oldest son is also an incredible companion and occasional caretaker for his younger brother, who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Siblings of children with special needs are quite often the unsung heroes of the family. They can be amazing advocates for their siblings, and learn about patience, compassion and diversity as the result of their upbringing.
Dear Father: I once watched you and your adult son, who has Down Syndrome, enjoying an outdoor summer concert together. I still think about that day, because I couldn’t stop staring at the two of you (but not for the reason one might think). The relationship you have with your son was one of the most beautiful, precious things I have ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to talk to you and your son so badly, but out of respect for you (and my husband, who gets embarrassed when I make a scene) I simply observed from a distance. But today, as I reflect on what I witnessed, you continue to have my admiration. Continue reading →