When I wrote about the cookies, my friend Becky commented on how Teagan has opened her and her family’s eyes and hearts. It got me thinking about everything I’ve learned being a special needs parent that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I could talk all day about these lessons – but thought it would be more fun to hear from people with differing levels of association with special needs families. So I did some asking around – here are a few of my favorites.
The question: what has having someone with special needs in your life opened your eyes to or made you realize that you hadn’t before?
“It has made me grateful for the little things; things you would just expect a child to do can really be milestones.” – Maryellyn, Grandma
“Before I knew Teagan, I naively thought of a special needs child being completely different from a typical child, and I think a lot of people think that way. I’ve realized she has a very similar personality, likes/dislikes, attitude, etc. as my own kids. ” – Morgan, neighbor
Just one of the crew
“I’ve learned that parents of kids with special needs still like to talk about every day kid stuff.…when to switch beds, potty training trials, how to overcome picky eating, etc. In other words, kids with special needs are, well, kids.” – Laura, friend
“I’m not that important. Sometimes at the grocery store the baggers are men and women with special needs. I used to get frustrated having to wait for them to bag my groceries. But you know what? My life is not so busy or important that I can’t take that time to chat with them or ask them how they are doing. Maybe it will make the people who love them so happy that someone took the time to say hi. Maybe it will make their day. It actually makes mine.” – Tracie, friend
“I appreciate life so much more and see that people with disabilities can really be angels on this earth showing us the true meaning of life, if we let them! Acceptance, love, community,strength and faith… these things matter! Not whether you buy a house, it’s size, your car, your job, your weight, your looks. If you can see past all that, you can know real love, experience true friendships, the simple joys in life. We should look to those who accept their challenges head on, or are different than everyone else, as inspiration to be more like them!!” – Lisa, friend
“I want to help and have so many questions, but sometimes the biggest help I can be is to be a friend and not ask them. Because sometimes the parents need a break from it.” – DeAnn, a friend who is also an educator
“So many kids with special needs are incredibly happy and at the end of the day, they want to love and be loved, the same way all people do. We get lost in material items or even accomplishments sometimes, thinking “If I just had that one thing…” or “If I could just do this…I’d be happy…” But I think my time with kids with varying learning needs has taught me that they love and want to be loved just like anyone else and can be extremely happy.” – Amy, friend, cousin by marriage, also an educator
“In the past I was ignorant in the use of words. Not realizing that they can be hurtful when used incorrectly. Also, I now give special needs teachers and families so much respect for the work and care that they give; I see how much work is involved in each goal and accomplishment.” – Jason, neighbor
“Kids don’t make the rigid judgements we do. There are children of varying skill levels in my daughter Maddy’s class. I’ve tried to encourage her to be accepting, and even more so to appreciate the things that come naturally to her.” – Becky, friend
Teagan adores Maddy
“I’ve learned not to place limits on anyone. I have an Uncle who has special needs. Troy can be sneaky to get some things he wants – obviously not always a good thing – but it taught me he is a lot smarter than we sometimes give him credit for. I’ve also learned to SMILE. I don’t know what it is, but when Troy smiles big, everyone smiles! I’m not sure if it is because he is a pure soul or that he exudes so much happiness when he smiles.” – Tiff, neighbor
And the one I’ll leave on comes from Uncle Jeff (my brother). He said “I have to admit, I never really thought there’d be someone in my family with special needs so it was something I never really thought about, but then it happened.” Word. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that it (whatever “it” is) CAN happen to you. So be kind. Shove it all in there – your heart has room.
He also said “I love my little Teags very much” – I agree with him on that point too 🙂