When you meet families of children with special needs, oftentimes one of the questions that is invariably asked is when and how you found out about your child’s diagnosis.
I wasn’t a mother who had a prenatal diagnosis, largely because we’d worked so hard to try and have my son that we’d already resolved that we would never do anything but bring him into this world.
Interestingly, I never needed prenatal testing to know more than the medical professionals. I knew, somewhere deep inside with only a mother’s intuition that my son was going to be born with Down syndrome. I knew it before he’d been conceived, I knew it when he was moving in my womb, and I’d tried to stifle those musings, stuff them into a safer corner of my mind, chalk them up to a pregnant woman’s worries.
When he was born, words took on new meanings. One of them being the word ‘special’. I remember the first night I was holding him, looking down at him. The pediatrician had already raised the ‘flag’ of Down syndrome. I was just singing to him and cuddling him. I stopped singing and said to my husband, “he is so special”. My husband reacted instinctively. “You can’t call him that. It has a different meaning.”
That moment gave me pause and still lingers. Here was my special miracle, a gift I’d tried for years to achieve. He was special in every way, and yet somehow in this new journey we'd embarked upon, ‘special’ has a different meaning. It conjures things like special needs and Special Olympics…and though there is nothing but beauty in both of those, when you have a child with special needs, you find you don’t want your child to be special; you want your child to be typical, just like any other child. You no longer dream of Super Man or a Gold medal Michael-Phelps-esque-child…you long for your child to be just like every other child.
|"MY"Superman at 10 months old!|
Somewhere over the years, Special Olympics has begun ushering in an era of unification and togetherness. What was once ‘special’ is now ‘unified’. The wonderful town we’ve moved to, offers a Unified Sports program; comprised of children with special needs and typically developing children. Gone are the days of ‘special’ where only children with special needs compete. Now in its place is a sports program that more resembles the world I’d dreamed of for my son—a world where he had friends of all abilities and strengths, a program that is about more than winning or coming in first, but strength, courage, and honor.
Before his birth, I used to imagine that someday my son would be a gold medal Olympic recipient. I hadn’t ever really thought about what sport he’d medal in…it had just been part of the dream.
And yet…at the end of the day, as my son marched around in his opening ceremonies, when his name was called, and he walked up, tipped his head forward to graciously receive his Unified Sports medal, they might as well have awarded him that gold, I’d always dreamed of. It was just one more reminder on this long, ‘special’ journey, of how little I knew about excellence and greatness—until my son had been born.
So how about you…what has been that magical moment of greatness that you’ve been witness to?