“That time my child realized she was different…”

4 Sep

Has never happened.  Not here.

I know there are others who have had those moments, when their child realized they were different because of autism, Down Syndrome, missing limbs, skin conditions.  But in our case, that has never happened.  Maura doesn’t get that she’s different.

Maura thinks she’s just like anyone else.  And in so many ways, she is very typical.  She likes to shop, likes going to Starbucks, has her favorite shows, knows what she wants to wear and how she wants her hair done.  What makes her different is that sometimes, she loves things too much.  Like going to the movies.  It is the most exciting thing ever….until we take her to the pool.  Then that is the most fun ever.  I guess another difference in her is she’s not afraid to show emotions.  If she’s sad, you know it.  If she’s thrilled by something, we all know it.

But different?  She doesn’t know that.  I’m not sure she gets the concept.

So she greets everyone as a potential friend, certain that they’re going to love the same things she does, or be interested in her Frozen backpack or new shoes.  And most people smile and compliment these things, assuring her that yes, they are nice people.  I love those people. I love them in a way they will never know, these complete strangers who say “Wow! Look at those new shoes!”

Every so often though, there will be a person who doesn’t get it, doesn’t get that they’re supposed to be friendly, who look at her with that crinkled nose of disdain.  Sadly, they tend to be kids closer to her age, that peer group she’s supposed to be included into but have outgrown her years ago.  It started in first grade, when her classmates decided to mock her and call her a baby for crying when she was upset.  Despite inclusion, some children did not become more sensitive to her differences.  Instead, they made fun of her.

That’s part of why I’ve embraced the idea of special schools and classes.  Because when Maura started school in Ireland, suddenly, she had a peer group she could relate to.  She had kids who wanted to be her friends (including one boy who proclaimed that she was President of the United States, which still makes me smile.)  She was invited to all the birthday parties, and had friends interested in the same things she was, things their typically developing peers may have outgrown years before.  I remember being at the school for an event, and watching a couple older boys teasing each other, and it hit me just how much normal were in these special kids.  They still sought friendships, still could tease each other, still took care of each other when one was nervous, or showed concern when another was upset.  They were able to relate to each other, be friends, have that normal teen relationship.  It was something special to see.  There, they weren’t different, not really.  Yes, in a way, it was a bubble.  But it was a bubble where these kids were truly included in life, in ways school inclusion never gave us before.

Now Maura’s in a special classroom.  There are moments of inclusion, but she’s still around peers that are her speed.  She doesn’t really have friends her age, but that’s something I’ve gotten used to.  In the meantime, the older kids have their friends all coming through the house, and they have all become Maura’s “friends”.  She will see them coming and go “Look! Friends!”.  They come into the house and say hi to her, comment on the show she’s watching that she insists on pointing out (we’ve gotten a lot of “OMG, “Lilo and Stitch!”! I loved that movie!” this week.)  They let her watch shows with them, are impressed she’s into Doctor Who, let her “play” Settlers of Catan with them – and they will have no idea how eternally grateful I am that they treat her like a normal kid, and how they restore my faith in human beings.

I don’t know if Maura will ever get the concept that she’s “different” – honestly, I don’t think she ever will.  In the meantime, she’s showing the world how to treat her and others like her more normally.

Letting her sister do her hair for school - totally typical!

Letting her sister do her hair for school – totally typical!

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14 Responses to ““That time my child realized she was different…””

  1. Darcy Pennington Arnold September 4, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    I, too, have wondered whether my eight year old granddaughter, with Down Syndrome, understands/knows she’s different. She is a hugger to everyone. Strangers, babies, friends at school. We have now, in third grade, start seeing her “friends” pulling away.

    I understand her world will include all these people, but I would also like to protect her and put her in that “bubble” you describe. She has her cheer leading and ballet friends who all have Down Syndrome, and we see her become a leader when she’s with them. With her “typical” friends, she’s shy and waits to be included. Painful to watch.

    Thank you for your blog!

  2. Janet September 4, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Your blog never ceases to inspire me or make me cry because I can relate. Thanks for writing about your different child. She is one beautiful young lady!

  3. Cheryl-Lynn September 4, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    I love this post and feel hopeful; I can feel your gratitude in many people being just human…I`m glad Maura feels she is just like everyone and she should…her enthusiasm and pure heart is genuine and I am sure contagious ..the world needs more WoW and hugs and smiles. May I reblog this post to StoptheStigma? Cheryl-Lynn

  4. Madeleine September 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    This post gave me goose bumps. I so get it. My 8 year old son is now starting to make comments on how he is “different” he says he’s special but yet has no clue he has autism. He says being a preemie is tough, lol and yet he doesn’t get that his autism is what makes him “unique: to others. I rambled, sorry. I also love when kids his age play along with his interests or praise what he does. Many don’t and are mean but I rather focus on those that do. Just wanted to tell you I love reading your blog. Maura’s stories always put a smile on my face.

  5. Bright Side of Life September 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Love this. My son also doesn’t realise that he is different, thank goodness. Are you missing Ireland? My Dublin friend tells me that special needs schools are being badly affected by cuts, which is very sad.

    • phoebz4 September 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

      I do miss Ireland, I probably always will. It’s sad to hear that the schools are being affected by cuts – they’re quite amazing in so many ways!

  6. Olga Garrity September 4, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    I am not a mom of a special needs child, but have been reading your blog for years. So please know that this is coming from a complete novice. But I do teach figure skating. And in the years of teaching, I have come across a few special needs kids that wanted to learn to skate. I have to tell you that teaching them to skate has been and always will be the single most rewarding experience I will ever have. One of things I noticed from teaching is that you have to be “in the moment” with the kids. And that feeling of being right there, right now, with nothing but me and the skater, with nothing but us and the ice, and the thrill of learning something new, (or learning something old again and again and again) is the most liberating and satisfying feeling in the world. I am honored when parents entrust me their kids for even a half hour. It is better than teaching a thousand axels. I want you to know this, because your daughter has that effect on people, if they would let her. She is magical!!! And while I can only imagine how exhausting it may be after an entire day of magic, it is a gift that she gives to those around her, those that let her give that to them.
    Awful people will always be. But Maura’s special talent in seeing the world, truly, one moment at a time, is the best medicine against those awful people.
    Thank you!

  7. Kellie Englund September 4, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    she is different in a way that she is very special. She is the only person I have ever met that always greeted me with a hug(even more than my own family;-) and was always happy when given something as simple as a cookie. She will always be special to me and I hope she does know it!!!

    • phoebz4 September 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

      Well, I know it Kellie! You will always be one of her special people 😀

  8. momsinthepulpit September 4, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    If and when Maura realizes she is different, she is going to be really disappointed that the rest of us mere mortals aren’t nearly as fabulous as she is!

    • phoebz4 September 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

      She might think that now 😉

    • Josephine January 22, 2015 at 12:30 am #

      Can’t see a “like” button here. So this is my “like”.

      • phoebz4 January 22, 2015 at 12:37 am #

        🙂

  9. Kerith Stull September 10, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Watch out. That moment when she realizes she’s different might come at the most unexpected time. It did for my 18yo daughter with moderate cerebral palsy last spring. It knocked me off my emotional feet for a while. Be ready!!

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