Brayden, for example, has the keen ability to have conversation with others who "speak his language" that most do not understand. He draws those people close, while remaining oblivious to the stares and snide remarks from people who do not understand, nor want to know him... this remains the biggest lesson he teaches me, to spend the time I have with the ones who care and not on the ones who do not. The following is a shared plea to all those that don't, who can't; those that are simply ignorant to the love that our children emit... or who aren't sure how to be close and/or make a difference in their lives. It's difficult, I know, to be comfortable in a situation that is out of the norm. Compassion and love, or a warm and genuine smile, can go a long way in making the day of a special needs parent and child much brighter...
By JO ASHLINE
Columnist: This Modified Life / Just Ask Jo
FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
You don’t know this, but I’m counting on you.
We’ve never met, and yet every single day I think of you and hope that when the time comes, you’ll do the right thing; that you will be kind, that you will be considerate, that you will be compassionate and caring.
I’m counting on you to make a big difference with small gestures of good will; to be patient and accommodating, to be willing to make sacrifices, to inspire others to go the extra mile.
You’re a stranger, who will someday cross paths with my special needs child, and I’m counting on you to do right by him.
Recently, as my boys and I were in the parking lot of our local indoor pool, which also serves as a rehabilitation center for community members, I witnessed an exchange between such two strangers. I watched as a severely disabled young man, non-verbal and vulnerable and strapped into his wheelchair, was assisted by the bus driver who would be taking him home.
She was a tiny thing, her uniform clean and pressed, her name badge glistening in the sun as she gently guided the gentleman’s wheelchair onto the lift; she took her time, making sure he was safe and comfortable, and it was obvious she took great pride in her work.
But what really moved me was the way she acknowledged this young man, despite his inability to communicate traditionally. There was no way to tell just how much he was able to absorb or understand, but that didn’t matter to her. She gave him her full attention, looked directly in his eyes, and smiled as she spoke softly to him.
To the naked eye she was a bus driver. To me, she was an angel.
Seeing her kindness and dedication to helping someone in need made me realize my own son’s dependence on others; I tightened my grip on Andrew and made a silent plea to the universe to make sure as many of these angels in civilian clothes crossed his path as possible.
But I figured a direct appeal to you couldn’t hurt either.
Here’s the deal. I don’t expect you to understand what I mean when I say I spend every waking moment worrying about my son’s safety, his total dependence on others, and his place in this big, often impatient and fast-paced world. It’s not your job to empathize with me and I definitely don’t want your pity. That serves no one and the truth is, we all have some sort of cross to bear, special needs kids or not.
What I do expect, what I do want to believe in, is that when the time is right, when my son does cross your path someday, somewhere, somehow, that you will act upon an intrinsic instinct nestled deep within you, and help him up if he falls, guide him if he gets lost, protect him from forces he cannot control and doesn’t understand, and accept him as an equal, worthy of respect and recognition.
Like I said, even though we’ve never met, I’m counting on you, and I just thought you should know that.
And now that you do
I know you won’t let me down.
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This Modified Life is a column by Jo Ashline for and about the families in Orange County living with special needs. Jo is a freelance writer and married mother of two.