2: I’ll Take the Special

2: I’ll Take the Special

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

I’ll Take the Special

Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.

~Whoopi Goldberg

Picture a lunch counter at the midday rush. The stools are all filled with patrons and newspapers are strewn over lunch plates and soup bowls. Down on the end, a hand is raised. “Excuse me miss, I’ll have the special.”

The image makes me smile as I think to myself, “Yes, I most certainly will! Line them up! I’ll take them all!” And I am not talking food.

I am the mom of a special needs child. Maybe you are like me, maybe you’re not, but when you get right down to it, don’t all children have “special” needs?

Some children need extra help with homework. Some children need a night light. Some children need speech therapy. Some children need encouragement to speak in front of a group. Some children need that backpack of food over the weekend. Some children need to be picked back up when they get walked on. Some children need a voice. Some children need wheelchairs. Some children need a pat on the back.

The common denominator is the word “need.” It’s the word that ties us together and puts us in the same boat.

Life on the spectrum can be a lonely road at times. We don’t wear our special needs like a coat. Just looking at us, you can’t see the spectrum flashing around us in neon lights.

However, when you take the spectrum down to bare bones, you get the words “language delay, sensory issues, eating difficulties, and social issues.” Those are the things people notice.

Some people are nice about it, others not so much. I remember going to a department store one time with my son when he was three years old. While a department store in general is a sensory overload for him, he was doing well. I had him on my hip and we were having fun looking at a jewelry rack. A woman walked right up to us, looked right at him and said, “You are too big to be held. You need to get down!” To say I was furious is an understatement, but I bit my lip and moved to a different rack.

Her comment made me realize our symptoms are somewhat invisible. Yet, at other times, we stand out in a crowd. I will never forget going to the art show at my son’s elementary school. He has auditory issues, so I put his headphones on him so he could enjoy the show. He was tickled pink to be there, and was so happy as we roamed the halls looking at all the artwork.

Well, I had my first taste of what is must be like to physically wear your differences. Ironically, the kids looked right at him. The parents were another story. They would look at him and then quickly look away. No parent would even look my way. Even people I knew from businesses around town wouldn’t look at me. It was surprising to me how differently we were treated just because of a pair of headphones.

But I am here to tell you it doesn’t matter. That boy is the best gift I have ever received. It doesn’t matter to me what the road and journey is like as long as I have that boy in my life exactly the way he is. I would never, ever change anything about him, headphones and all.

His whole being radiates light. It’s as if he is walking around with God’s hand on his shoulder. He has no worries. He is the happiest person I have ever known. For five years and four months he woke up singing every day! Who does that? He seems to be protected by a grace no human can touch. He doesn’t notice the looks or hear the comments. He just IS.

That kid is the joy of my life. My cousin and I have a saying: “Jump with both feet.” It means stop standing on the edge of life, take a chance, take a deep breath and jump, for crying out loud!

He is not afraid to take a chance or to be brave. In his presence I have stopped living on the sidelines. Would I have ever thought I’d go down the waterslide at the pool in my hometown? Heck, no. I did it twice! Would I have ever stepped off the trail? No way, yet there we were, walking on the rock cliff around the river.

Do I get down sometimes? You bet I do. Do I worry about him and if people will be kind to him even though he is different? Lord knows I do. Sometimes I worry way too much! I worried about him starting kindergarten for seven months before it even started! And guess what: He loves kindergarten! We must have gotten the best teachers and classmates ever, because he gets his backpack on in the morning before he puts on his pants!

The lesson I have learned is to be brave and live out loud. I don’t take one second with that boy for granted. The next time you imagine a lunch counter at midday, I will be the person on the end with my arm up saying, “Excuse me, Miss, I’ll take the special,” and you’ll know what the “special” really means.

~Jessica Adam

More stories from our partners