Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 18: Acceptance is Pride

Ben creating handprints at the local splash park.
As parents, we take pride in our child’s accomplishments.

We love to slip our child’s latest achievement casually into conversations.  We put those honor roll bumper stickers on our minivans and post Facebook status updates about their sporting events, dance recitals, and academic honors.

For a parent of a child with special needs, we are no less proud, but the things that are huge accomplishments for our kids are often the things that other parents take for granted.

We tend to celebrate things that may seem small, but they are the bright spots in our world. 

We are very proud of our children because they have often had to overcome huge obstacles. 

They live in bodies that are often out of sync with the world and yet they keep finding ways to navigate through life. 

Here are a few of Ben’s qualities that make me proud to be his mom:

1) His creativity and imagination
Ben is a storyteller.  He loves to weave the wildest tales, using vivid vocabulary and a wide range of “voices” to capture the expressions of his characters.  His stories are often based on the books and movies he reads and watches, but they always have a mark that is distinctly his.  I love to watch him pull his friends into his imaginative world and witness the magic they create through their play.

2)   His kind heart and gentle spirit
Ben is such a sensitive soul.  It is a common misconception that autistic people lack empathy.  In fact, studies now show that individuals on the spectrum actually feel things more deeply than the rest of us.  Ben shows great care and concern for the people in his life.  He snuggles close at the end of the day just to be near me.  He worries when people are sick or hurt and he goes out of his way to try to make them feel better.  When he was little, he used to always ask, “Mommy happy?”  My happiness is of utmost importance to him.  The biggest consequence I can give him is to say, “I am disappointed in you.”  Ben tells us he loves us often and shows it in big ways.

3)   His unique intelligence
Ben is a mathematical thinker.  He loves numbers, maps, and building things.  He has memorized pretty much all of the street names in our town and the surrounding cities.  He knows his cardinal directions and enjoys learning about geography.  He’s six but is starting to do two-digit mental math and multiplication.  He loves large numbers.  And while reading may not be his preferred subject, he thinks at high levels and constantly astounds me with the ideas that are happening in his head.  Ben loves learning and is constantly asking questions to find out how the world works. 

4)   His perseverance
School does not always come easy to Ben, and yet every morning he gets up and heads into school without a struggle.  He has made huge progress this year in kindergarten.  At the beginning of the school year he could not even hold a pencil properly and could barely draw a straight line.  Now he can write phonetically spelled words to express his thinking across multiple pages and illustrate people and animals quite legibly.  He tries to use sensory strategies and breathing technique to keep himself calm and regulated.  Many adults I know would have given up if faced with the same challenges.  He keeps trying…and he keeps growing.

5)   His positive impact on others

I know that my son requires extra time and attention from the grown-ups who work with him, and yet it's not unusual for a teacher or a therapist stop me to tell me about the impact my son has had on them.  They mention his sweet nature and tell me how much they love my boy.  They share some quote that he has said that is so uniquely Ben.  When I was in school, I was the shy little girl who always did what the teacher asked me to do.  Teachers would tell my parents what a pleasure I was to have in class, but I bet I’m not the child that the teacher remembered after she retired.  My son has a way of leaving an imprint on the hearts of the people who come into his life.  I am betting that he will be one of the children that will stay in the memories of those who have worked with him.  I hope his impact leaves a legacy that serves to benefit the future children who cross the paths of these educators.  If so, not only have they helped him to learn and grow, but he has also helped them as well.  

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