I have children with special needs.
Hearing loss, heart defect…those don’t cause people to raise an eyebrow. A murmur of sympathy for my son who has endured heart surgery? Yes. A few polite questions about hearing loss? Sure. Judgment? No.
But what about other special needs? Try telling someone your child was born addicted to cocaine. Or suffers from FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). These will get you a different reaction entirely. First off, there is the judgment of people looking at those children and always viewing them as “drug babies”…and then there are the ways these effects manifest themselves. Namely in behavioral issues and impulsivity.
Add in a few labels like “attachment disorder” and “oppositional defiant disorder” and suddenly my children are victims of my large family. They are just crying out for attention. They don’t get enough love and nurturing at home. Never mind that their siblings without special needs and their siblings with hearing loss and heart defects don’t display the same symptoms.
This week I get to talk to the principle of our local elementary school about the behavior problems of one of my kids. About how this child is behaving dangerously on the bus. Bi-weekly I get to sit with a counselor and discuss how no, her suggestions from our last visit didn’t work either. We have yet to find anything that will stop our raging, aggressive child once s/he gets started.
These are special needs that still come with a huge stigma. It makes me happy to know that my children are growing up in a society that sees the inherent value in people with Down Syndrome, people in wheelchairs, people with any number of disabilities. I am so glad that things have progressed from when I was a kid in the 80 ‘s and many of these children were still hidden away in separate schools and classes.
But my mom heart longs for a day when my special needs children get the same respect. When people understand that prenatal drug and alcohol exposure has a devastating effect on kids, yet they are still valuable. Still loved and cherished.They are beautiful and healthy. My children’s special needs display themselves in negativity, disobedience, rages, and aggressiveness. Add to these behaviors learning disabilities and you can probably see how much my children have to contend with on a daily basis. My children struggle, and it’s not their fault. They were not the ones who chose to consume drugs and alcohol before they were born. Their special needs were entirely preventable.
But they weren’t prevented.
Ten years ago, I would have severely judged a mom whose children behaved like some of mine…But now I know better. Now I am the mother of children whom I love with all of my heart…who often display behavior I can neither control nor explain. I want the best for my children…I want them to grow up happy and healthy. People who love God and have a desire to serve others…to make the world a better place. But some days it’s a struggle just to get my children to take a shower. Or sit at the table for a meal. Or be comfortable hearing, “I love you”.
None of this changes my love or commitment to my children. All I ask is that you think twice before judging children and their parents. Perhaps they have a hidden disability. Perhaps that behavior isn’t caused by poor parenting or a large family. How about giving that mom a smile? Offering to hold an extra bag. Letting her know it’s okay.
Let’s all work together to make our world an even better place.