Chapter “I dunno, I just like this part.”

I remembered going to the beach with her. It was always the beach. As we would approach the ocean, my mother would roll down the windows, and the salt air would fill the car and brush my face, whipping my hair in every direction. I would yearn for the sand, the breeze, the sound of the water lapping against the shore.

That sound that would soothe me to sleep on the beach as my mother would tuck the wisps of hair around my ears. She would lie next to me and hum a song and run her fingers along my cheeks and over my eyelashes. I don’t remember which song, but the tune would be in harmony with the lap, lap, lap of the waves.

Then she would wrap me in the blanket and carry me back to the car, whispering in my ears. “I love you, little one.” I remember nuzzling my face into the bare spot under her chin, feeling her smooth, warm skin against my cheek, breathing in her scent. Coconut, salt, and sea air. My mother was made of the ocean.

I always imagined that my mother met my father at the beach. Maybe she was lying in the sand, humming a tune, when he tripped over her. Maybe he kneeled down and tried to brush the sand he kicked onto her legs back to the beach. Maybe he reached for her hand to pull her up. And maybe she laughed and brushed her hand against his arm. Maybe she knew she was falling in love. Maybe they walked together along the beach in the moonlight.

And maybe my father didn’t know what he was doing. Maybe he just wanted my mother without understanding the consequences. Maybe he didn’t care about them. Maybe he was thumbing his nose at them on purpose. Maybe he was baiting them to become what he had always suspected. Maybe he was asking them to intervene.

I can imagine wanting to be rescued from falling in love. From falling.

Maybe he didn’t realize what that would mean for me. Maybe he didn’t know that there would be a me. Maybe he didn’t care.

Every maybe was another rock on my chest. I would never know. I would never understand why he reached for her hand.

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A little writer monkey writes fiction

I have started dozens and dozens of books. And I always get stuck somewhere in the process. But I was thinking about all the stories I put in the box for “someday.” But why not share? I don’t know if this story will go anywhere at all, but what’s the harm. Enjoy a little writer monkey fiction. Sometimes I do creative things, too.

[UNTITLED SHITTY FIRST DRAFT BEGINNING]

My life stops. The wheels that kept turning over and over stop short, and I jerk forward, my chest hitting the ground and knocking the breath out of me. I’m in a vacuum with what was left of the air being sucked from all around me – a giant weight on my body squeezing me until I’m crushed.

I think I die. Whatever part of me that was alive ceases to exist. Or still exists but doesn’t.

I walk around in shoes that are mine but not mine. Shoes that are a tiny bit too small so my toes rub the ends. Awkward and uncomfortable. In clothes that fit like burlap sacks. Like they shouldn’t be on my body. Like more skin than I need.

I try to describe this sense of being but not being. But they look at me with comfortable eyes. Their eyes are connected to their brain. I wonder if I should say it out loud. That they are something but nothing. But then their eyes would disconnect, too, and they would be just a thought walking in space with no body because then they would know.

I tried to explain this to my mother once. That I’m human but not. She put her fingers on the side of my face and ran them through my hair, brushing the tips of my ears with her thumbs. She leaned forward, kissed my cheek, and whispered “Human enough,” her breath like the sound from a seashell.

I was haunted by being both. An other walking in a world of meat. I can’t pinpoint the moment when I knew of this duality. It was like I always knew that something in my cells was more than those around me.
I used to scream out at night, plagued by dreams of falling. Of losing my grasp, my fingertips slipping off the edge and falling down to earth. My mother would rush into my room and grab my hands. I would squeeze her fingers hard. Tears would come to her eyes, but she wouldn’t ask me to soften my grip.

__________________________________________________________________________________

I opened my eyes slowly. The bright lights burned, and I tried to raise my hand to my face to block it out, but my arm stopped mid-way, something stopping it short. The room was not in focus. I could hear the beeping by the side of my head, like a mechanical beeping that seemed familiar, like it was a memory. I tried to breath but there was something in my throat, and I started gagging.

I couldn’t focus on where I was, and my heart started beating faster. The beeping got louder and angrier and the gagging turned to choking.

I heard footsteps and saw shadows running toward me. I yelled “Help!” Or at least I thought I yelled it. What came out was a sound of more gagging. I was suffocating and started pulling at my mouth, at my face. And the thing in my throat was pulled out, while someone pushed my hands away from my mouth. I laid still for a moment, the white room slowly coming into focus.

“Can you hear me? Blink if you can hear me.” I didn’t blink, but I screamed. Full throated, from my soul. A siren. Screaming and vibrating. I remembered falling and the screaming reached a new pitch. I heard the people in the room start screaming with my screams. I heard bodies dropping to the floor, but still I screamed. I stopped, gulped in air. Desperate breaths.

“Someone call a doctor in here,” the voice yelled, sounding terrified. “Is everyone okay?”

“Can you tell me your name?” I breathed in what felt like fire in my throat.

What was my name? What was it supposed to be? Catherine or Jacklyn or Grace.

The visions were getting in the way. Blackness, suffocation, the crashing, and I could feel the deep gravity of the earth in my body, crushing each bone and mending them at the same time. I grabbed and ripped at what was holding me, and more voices, more hands pushing me down, but they couldn’t and they were calling for more help. Then I felt the air around me, each small tickle like electricity. I was rising, and the voices turned to terrified screams, and then I saw darkness again.

The darkness gave way to dreams. I was swimming when I got tangled in the weeds, and then I was groping for a hand hold to pull myself free, but instead the water filled my lungs. I was running, but I was being caught by brambles, scratching my arms as I was trying to pull free, blood gushing out of the cuts. Then I was flying, but something was caught in my wings and I couldn’t shake it off, and the ground rushed to greet me.

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Extremely low. IEPs: A Love Story

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Every year, Mia’s school team meets to develop and discuss her Individualized Education Plan (IEP). And every year I leave the meeting feeling like I was just run over by a train.

Let me start by saying that Mia’s team loves her, they advocate for her, and they encourage her daily to be the best Mia she can be. But they are also professionals whose job it is to be honest with me. To assess her to the best of their ability and tell me where the gaps are and how we are going to move forward.

Then every few years we have a full assessment to continue to “qualify” her for an IEP. Mia has Down syndrome. It’s not going away, so she will never not qualify. But we go through this process dictated by federal and state law that assesses her abilities with age-level criteria. And I sit there and try not to hyperventilate while they tell me the results.

Extremely low. Extremely low. Extremely low. Did not participate. Could not identify. Did not answer.

I have to hear it because I love her and I want her to get the services she needs. But I hate it. I hate quantifying her. How do you quantify someone who fills your heart with joy?

But we have to because for Mia to have the best chance for independence, we can’t pretend now. We have to be realistic and honest and get the help for her that she needs.

But I still leave with a broken heart and the intense feeling of “this isn’t fair.” It isn’t fair that things don’t come easy to her. It isn’t fair that she has to work so hard to move just an inch. It’s just not fair.

I love and hate being an advocate. I hate always being “that mom” that puts up a fight. Sometimes I just want to be the mom that takes her work with the little gold star on it and proudly displays it on the refrigerator. But instead, I’m the mom who takes the work and wonders how much she did by herself.

Every time a mom tells me she has an IEP to go to, I feel that little feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I think, “Be strong, Mama. They are more than what’s on the page. So much more.”

I’m thinking about all the families going through IEPs. Who are brave enough to hear the truth and still not give up. Who brush themselves off and start working on those goals. Who celebrate with tears of joy when they have worked on a skill for a year and their child finally gets it, and try to ignore the bitter sweet feeling of knowing how far they still have to go.

We’re in this together. All of us who keep believing. Because. Love.

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Uncertain.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

How many times have I typed uncertainty this week? Too many. Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day, and I wish I could go to Gigi’s Playhouse and celebrate with our friends, but I can’t. We’re going to be at home.

I feel like uncertainty has been the story of my life way before the coronavirus showed up. I used to be certain about everything. I’m a planner by nature. In fact, I love planners. At any given time I’m using at least two different planners. Okay, my friends who understand my planner obsession know that’s a lie. More planners. I have too many planners, okay? Planning is definitely my way of coping with uncertainty.

But about 8 years ago, a doctor told me I had a 4% chance of having a daughter with Down syndrome, and certainty flew out the window.

Twenty weeks of fear and uncertainty. And then even after Mia was born, another year of wondering if she was going to need heart surgery or if she would have other health problems. What would happen in the future? How would I care for a child with a significant disability? Constantly wondering when the next shoe would drop. I didn’t think I was going to survive.

Then everything was okay. Really. It took a long time, but everything was really okay. And in fact, turns out it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Then my divorce happened, and I had no idea what I was going to do. During the worst of it while I was dealing with it alone, I had no idea how I was going to make money. I had no idea if I was going to keep my house. I had no idea if I was going to lose my kids. Every single irrational thought ran through my head all day, every day. I didn’t think I was going to survive.

Then everything was okay. Again, it took a long time, but everything was really okay. And even now, I’m starting to think it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

And I have no idea what is going to happen now. Every irrational thought is running through my head at any given time. But this time it feels different. Not because I’m not deeply concerned about my family, my friends, my city, and my country, but because I’ve realized that life is inherently uncertain.

No plan can prepare you for a pandemic or a job loss or having a child with a disability. Planning during uncertainty is like walking in a thick fog. You hope you’re making the right moves, but you feel lost and suffocated.

Many of us had grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. Or World War II. My great aunt lived though having polio. It was all terrifying and uncertain and somehow they coped. And then they thrived.

And every single day, I look at the evidence of uncertainty turning to coping and then thriving. She’s a tiny blonde with a big smile and an extra 21st chromosome.

None of this is to say I know what you’re going through right now. Or that I know everything is going to be perfectly alright and life will be exactly the same in 6 months. Or that it will be the best thing that ever happened to you. I have no idea.

And I had no idea that a little girl with Down syndrome would profoundly change my life for the better either.

But she did.

So don’t lose hope.

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Fear. Love. Disney.

“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”- Hunter S. Thompson

Last week, the kids and I took a trip to Boca Raton and then a Disney Cruise out of Miami. I showed lots of lovely photos of the fun we had, but what I didn’t show was how completely terrified I was of doing it at all.

One of my earliest fears after Mia was born was that we’d never be able to take a big trip together – where we take a plane and stay in a hotel. Somehow during my early days of Down syndrome parenthood, I expected to be housebound and always depressed.

We did do a couple drives to Colorado when Mia was little and I was still married. And then the fear subsided a little, but it still lingered around. “She’s easy now, but what happens when she has an opinion?”

And then I became a single mom and then it was “How would this ever be possible? By yourself?”

Over the past year, I’ve started to realize how often I let fear take the wheel. In the fall, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. There was a great section where she talked about her fear and how she personalized it and gave it a name. So I named my fear. No offense to anyone with this name, but it popped into my head. Becky. My fear is named Becky. And she is the worst friend ever.

“You know Mia will never handle a plane trip.”

“What if they hate every minute and you’re stuck on a ship with them.”

“I bet they won’t eat anything.”

“What if she’s terrified of the characters? Then what will you do?”

“If you don’t bring that stroller, you’re going to be sorry.”

And on and on and on. She is really the absolute worst. Until I had personified her, I had no idea how much she talked. It’s a constant barrage of all the things Fynn, Mia, and I will never be able to do. She just never shuts up.

Sometimes I’m nice to her, “Geez, Becky, I understand you’re afraid, but I think it will be okay.” Other times, like the Wednesday when I was packing for the trip, I said, “For the love of all that is good and holy, Becky, can you just shut the #$%^ up?!”

Because the truth is that “Becky” is that little voice in my head that tells me how unworthy and incapable I am of big things. And I just can’t let her take the wheel anymore. Because had I listened to her, we would have never driven to the airport.

And the trip was absolutely amazing. Were there bumps in the road, of course, but nothing we or I couldn’t handle.

Mia was amazing on both plane rides. Fynn was the best helper at the airport and really anytime I asked for help. My dad was a trooper and was a great backup, and the kids and I loved having him there.

The little AirBnB we stayed at was lovely and close to the beach. We got to meet up with family for the day before the trip.

The Disney Cruise was really an amazing time. I had no doubts about Fynn, but I was so surprised how there for it all Mia was. She had a great time, had a fantastic attitude, and was the perfect age to see the magic. Down syndrome isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, but Mia was definitely a magical unicorn on this trip.

We all have so many beautiful memories together. Because we have big important things to do here. Even if it’s just a magical trip with Mickey Mouse. Fear can come along for the ride, but she needs to start sitting the backseat…maybe the trunk.

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Independent.

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
― Erin Hanson

Over the course of the fall, I’ve had one thing on my mind and it’s “independence.”

When Mia was 7 months old – I actually looked it up – I saw a TED talk with Aimee Mullins, an actress model and amputee, and I recently re-watched it. And it occurred to me as I was watching it again how much that video affected my parenting of Mia. I’ll link to the video below because I think every teacher, parent, and leader needs to watch that video.

What stuck with me for years was the idea that there is really no way to truly predict human potential. She quoted a doctor and this is what he said, “Unless repeatedly told otherwise, and with a modicum of support, if left to their own devices, a child will achieve…There’s a difference between the medical condition and what someone might do with it.”

What occurred to me after watching it and what continues to stick with me to this day is that Mia’s true disability is the people who are surrounding her, myself included. That’s not to say that all the people in her life aren’t amazing, awesome people. But we were all raised with the idea that people with Down syndrome are incapable, broken, a burden. In the 34 years before having Mia, no one said to me that people with Down syndrome are powerful, smart, exceptional.

My goals for Mia are big and audacious, and even Fynn knows what they are. A couple years ago, he did an “About My Mom” for Mother’s Day, and he wrote that Mom’s dream is “That Fynn and Mia go to college.” And it’s true. That is 100% my goal.

Will it happen? Am I setting myself up for disappointment? My answer to that is, “What does it matter?” Because I’m not going to tell Mia what is impossible.

Something else Aimee said in the video was about being careful not to place the first brick in the wall of disability. When Mia says she can’t do something, my answer to her is, “Mia, I know you can do this because you’re smart and strong and capable.” Because she is.

Mia is one of the most determined people I know. And, when she wants to be, fiercely independent. When she decides she’s doing it “by myself” now, there is no stopping her. Recently she decided she was going to the bathroom and getting dressed on her own. She is so determined to do it alone that she makes me stand in the hallway. Literally, she points to the hallway and says, “Over there.” And I stand in the hallway. But I can’t force her to do that. It’s all about reminding her how capable she is until she believes it. And once she believes it, get out of the way.

It’s not easy to do this. Years of prejudiced thoughts are always on my mind. “But she has Down syndrome.” It’s pervasive. I have to consciously push those thoughts out of my mind. She has an extra chromosome, and that is just a diagnosis. It can’t tell me anything about who Mia will become. Nothing. No more than having the right number of chromosomes will tell me who Fynn will become. Because my only job, is to stay out of her way. To not place that brick. To encourage her and not tell her all the things she can’t do.

Because “ with even a modicum of support, if left to her own devices, she will achieve.”

Here’s the link to that video: Aimee Mullins, The Opportunity of Adversity.

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Welcome.

I was thinking the other day that I’ve been writing in this blog for about ten years. A lot has happened since my first silly post in 2009. A lot. And maybe if anyone new were reading this, I thought I’d give a quick update.

Over 10 years ago, I had my first child. His name is Fynn and he’s awesome. He’s smart and creative. He’s an awesome storyteller. He’s just an awesome kid all around.

After Fynn was born, I worked part time for a while, but then I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I did continue to write on the side.

And then Mia was born. A soft-marker for Down syndrome showed up in our 20-week ultrasound, but I was just a few months shy of the release of the non-invasive chromosome tests (and I was not going to terminate the pregnancy), so I “waited it out.”

On November 5, 2012, Mia was born and she did indeed have Down syndrome.

And I thought my entire life was going to come to an end. Seriously. I wish I could say that I had a positive attitude and I was convinced everything was going to be awesome. But I really didn’t. And none of the doctors helped assuage those fears. “She might not walk until she’s 5 or 6,” said one doctor. “She might not know you’re her mom,” said another.

Then over the course of the first year (when she rolled over at five weeks old), I realized that the doctors were completely full of shit (excuse my language). They were dealing with outdated statistics and worst-case scenarios.

And Mia has truly shocked me over the course of 6 years. There have been delays – cognitive and physical – but nothing like the horror story I was worried about. In fact, to quote one of Mia’s teachers at school, “She’s magical.” And it’s true. She is.

Then, a few years ago, I faced an “out of the blue” divorce. To say I was shocked was an understatement. Devastated was more like it.

I won’t go into the details. The internet is forever and my kids will probably read this someday.

Amy Poehler had a great chapter about divorce when you have little kids in her book. One thing that resonated with me is that you’re stuck with the other person – forever. You can’t just forget they exist. Imagine this scenario played out on a weekly basis:

“I CAN’T BELIEVE I EVER LIKED YOU! Hey, can you bring back Fynn’s swim trunks on Sunday? Swim lessons.” (and repeat)

Also, I hate the statement, “Why can’t divorced people be adults?” Divorced people are adults. Very hurt, angry, frustrated, and tired adults who are doing their best.

And that’s what I’ve done for the past four years. I’ve done my best as a single mom.

I went back to work in the arts. And I’ve enjoyed being back to work more than I thought I would. I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for a while longer, but that wasn’t in the cards. Thankfully I work for a flexible environment where I can have some work-life balance.

Because while Mia is amazing, she still has a disability. And that does add complications to the mix – particularly with child care. Though I’ve had some amazing experiences over the past four years.

And I have to give a shout out to Fynn, who has been an amazing big brother. Not only is he incredibly loving and protective of his baby sister, he’s also her hero and her favorite playmate.

And that is my last 10 years in a nutshell. Just some happy chaos. Welcome.

And I’d like to answer a question here that I get asked a lot. Yes, you may send any moms experiencing a Down syndrome diagnosis my way. When I was pregnant with Mia, the only thing that kept me from sinking into the depths was looking at the blogs of moms of kiddos with Down syndrome. Just seeing real life. I distinctly remember the switch in my head flipping. One of the moms posted a blog with photos of her daughter helping her dad wash a car. For many weeks, I had felt like I was crawling through the dark with no end in sight, and then I saw that photo and it was like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It had finally occurred to me that life *might* be okay. I was still terrified. But that *might* helped me through the next couple months of my pregnancy.

And then “might be okay” turned into definitely okay. Definitely great. Definitely amazing. Definitely magic.

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First grade.

When Mia was a tiny baby, I’d hold her, look into her sleeping face, and wonder who she would become. I had almost no experience with Down syndrome, so those thoughts were very much wrapped up in fear.

I once asked a writer of a book about Down syndrome why most memoirs are written about the early years. The books seem to dry up around age six. And her hypothesis was that the problems become more complex and not so pretty.

But after six years living with Down syndrome, I have a different hypothesis. Once the fear dissipates and you realize you’re just raising a little kid and not a unicorn, the problems become sort of boring. Sure, I have frustrations on the daily about communication and listening, but I’m still just dealing with morning routines and breaking up fights with her brother and getting ready for the start of school.

Just like everyone else.

(Don’t tell Mia I said she isn’t a unicorn. Her highness would be offended.)

For years I used the phrase “More alike than different” but didn’t exactly know what it meant. In the thick of therapies, IEPs, and health questions, I felt that our family was very, very different. But now that we’re in an inclusive school and we’ve determined that her health issues are not serious, I’m starting to understand what it actually means.

My child is unique. Just like yours. It’s our family life that is more alike than different. Of course Mia has little idiosyncrasies that make her Mia. Just like Fynn has idiosyncrasies that make him Fynn.

But our family is very similar to a family with two typically developing children. School shopping, movie nights, dinner battles over foods they both like, vacations, and reminding them both to brush their teeth.

I don’t even know what I’d write a memoir about now. “Yesterday, Mia got super mad at me because I took away something she wanted, and she ran into her bedroom and slammed the door” – said every parent who ever existed. “We picked out school clothes at Target. Mia couldn’t decide between the pink or purple shirts” – riveting stuff.

First grade. It’s hard to believe that it’s starting tomorrow. Mia has grown so much this summer that I can’t wait to see how she progresses this year.

Also, here is my yearly encouragement to talk to your children about differences, but also to notice the similarities. Encourage them to ask questions and seek understanding. Encourage them to be friends with someone who is different than them. Encourage them to stand up for children who might not be able to stand up for themselves. We’re all in this together. Not just school, but life.

Happy new school year, everyone!

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Community.

Community.

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” Mahatma Gandhi

Last night I was lamenting to a friend that I was tired. I’m most definitely an introvert and sometimes being “on” for an event and socializing are just really exhausting. I had to talk with other humans (who were perfectly lovely), but I’d really rather be at home with a book.

This particularly exhausting event was a party for one of Mia’s classmates. But this morning, I woke up and thought it was a little funny that I was complaining about having to talk to people. Because the reason I had to socialize with other adult humans is because my little girl was playing with her friends.

When we arrived, Mia ran off with the girls from her class, and I barely saw her the rest of the time we were there. So then I had to stress about talking to the other parents.

What I didn’t have to do was walk around facilitating her play with the other kids and try to “explain” Mia. All of these children understood Mia and already were her friends because…

Inclusion.

What Mia’s school does really well is inclusion. Several times a year, I’ll hear on the news, through social media, or from politicians, that inclusion is not the way. Children like my daughter disrupt the class, causing other children to “stop learning.”

Let me address that. The reason that is happening in some schools is because inclusion is an investment. It takes time and money. And if you starve schools of resources, then inclusion becomes more difficult to do. Study after study proves that the best way to help all students is through inclusion. But inclusion is a commitment to outcomes. And it’s not free.

And if the answer to “disruption” is removing students from a class, making them the other, discriminating against them, and causing community tragedies, then I’m going to say that is definitely not the way.

I wish I could bring all the people who believe separation is best to that party yesterday – which happened to be for Mia’s friend with Down syndrome at Gigi’s Playhouse. Where Mia’s friend was celebrated by his typically developing friends, and Mia and her friend were a part of the group. Little kids didn’t ask questions like “What’s wrong with her.” They asked questions like, “Mia, do you want to play?”

When inclusion is done well, it builds a better community. And after what I saw at that party, we all want to be a part of that community.

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Try harder.

I saw it happen again today. The mom of child with special needs says, “But what about me? My child doesn’t fit into your mold.” And the mold maker says, “Try harder,” or worse, “But I’ve seen other children with special needs fit into my mold.”

Try harder.

To any mom of a child with special needs who was “encouraged” to try harder, I’m so sorry. Unless they have experienced what we have, they don’t know. They just don’t know that no matter how hard you try, your kid won’t fit into any mold.

They’ve never experienced well-meaning people looking at you like you have failed when you are working to exhaustion trying to find the right therapies, the right treatments, or just the right clothes that don’t make your child have a meltdown.

And they don’t see the work that went into even the tiny triumph of sitting in a restaurant and enjoying a meal like “regular” people. They just don’t know.

Sure, they might have experienced the humiliation of a temper tantrum in public. But they’ve never had someone genuinely look at their child with pity – when you know that awe is what they should really being feeling. Awe at what your child has had to overcome to do simple things like sitting up or using a fork.

I’ve seen them time and again. The lists of things you should never say to a mom with a child with special needs. I can’t speak for other moms, but I’ll tell you what I’d love to hear from my friends, family, church and school families, and just people in general.

“We are just going to throw out that mold and accept your child for who they are. And not only that, we’re going to teach our children to do the same. The days of your child having to live away from society without ‘bothering’ anyone are over. We see you. And we need you to be part of our community, and we’ll do whatever we can to make that happen.”

Because disability is a part of humanity. It’s not about giving other people special privileges. It’s about setting up a system where we care for each other because – unless we die tragically at a young age – we will very likely become disabled through age or circumstance. So, caring for the most vulnerable among us is caring for ourselves. Accepting people with disabilities is accepting that humanity is fragile, that life is precious, and that no matter your ability, you have a part to play in our world.

Dear special needs mom, I see you and hear you. And your child has a place in our community. And if you’re feeling out of place, it’s not from a lack of trying. It’s because your community hasn’t caught up to what you know to be true. That your child doesn’t have “special needs,” your child just has the need to belong. And we need to make that happen.

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