Also see the other files in the Baby and Children sections.

Nobody signs up to have a child with special needs. Then you realize that this is a gift, this child is the light. And if you can nourish that light and let it shine, you have an opportunity to get closer to God, and that's grace. (John C. McGinley)

Each Child is Different

I cannot change the way I am,
I never really try,
God made me different and unique,
I never ask him why.

If I appear peculiar,
There's nothing I can do,
You must accept me as I am,
As I've accepted you.

God made a casting of each life,
Then threw the mold away,
Each child is different from the rest,
Unlike as night from day.

So often we will criticize,
The things that others do,
But, do you know, they do not think,
The same as me and you.

So God in all his wisdom,
Who knows us all by name,
He didn't want us to be bored,
That's why we're not the same.

A Butterfly in the Wind

A child is like a butterfly in the wind
Some can fly higher than others,
But each one flies the best it can.
Why compare one against the other?
Each one is different.
Each one is special.
Each one is beautiful.

Heaven's Very Special Child

(in Memory of Jeffrey Ratliff--a very special child)

A meeting was held quite far from earth,
It's time again for another birth.
Said the Angels to the Lord above,
This special child will need much love.

His progress may seem very slow.
Accomplishments he may not show.
And he'll require extra care,
From the folks he meets down there.

He may not run or laugh or play,
His thoughts may seem quite far away.
In many ways he won't adapt,
And he'll be known as handicapped.

So let's be careful where he's sent.
We want his life to be content.
Please Lord find the right parents who,
Will do a special job for You.

They will not realize right away,
The leading role they're about to play.
But with this child sent from above,
Comes stronger faith and richer love.

And soon they'll know the privilege given
In caring for this gift from Heaven.
Their precious child so meek and mild,
Is Heaven's Very Special Child.

What You Should Know About My Child

Remember that he is, first of all, my child.
Let me see him smiling in his sleep and let me think about how handsome he is
and not about how delayed that smile was in coming.
Help me not lose sight of my son in the shadow of his limitations
I know that you care for my child and that you work hard with him.
I need your expertise to help him become all that he is capable of being.
You need my help in understanding who he really is
and in following through at home with things that are important.
Remember, you send him home at night and have days off and paid vacations.
Let me have the luxury of having a vacation, sometimes physically,
sometimes just emotionally, for a day, a week, a month, without you judging me.
I will be there for him when you are long gone.
I love my child with an intensity that you can only imagine.
If on a given day I am tired or cross with him, listen to me,
lighten my burden, but do not judge me.
Celebrate with me, rejoice in who he is and who he will become
but forgive me if from time to time I shed a tear for who he might have been.

Think of Me First as a Person

(Rita Dranginis)

You look at me with pity,
concern or indifference,
for I am a retarded child.
But you only see the outside of me.
If I could express myself,
I would tell you what I am inside.

I am very much like you.
I feel pain and hunger.
I cannot ask politely
for a glass of water, but I know
the parched dry feeling of thirst,
I itch when mosquitoes bite me
and run when I see a bee.
I feel cozy drinking cocoa in the kitchen
when a snowstorm blusters outside.

I had a heaviness inside
when I left my mother
to board the minibus for school.
My eyes darted back and forth,
seeking escape,
but knowing there was none.
When my sister takes me
to the playground
and children call me names,
she cries and takes me home.
Then I feel warm and dizzy,
and it is hard for me to breathe.
Mother's eyes are wet; she holds me
and tells me a story, and
I forget the children's jeers.
When I dress myself and Mother
pats my head, saying, "Good job,
Jim!" I feel . . . big. As big as Greg,
who goes to second grade.

I am a child--
in age now, and in ability always.
I find the touch of soft toys
and snuggly dogs comforting.
I love the toys of childhood--
a kite, a balloon, a wagon to pull.
I like to let go at the top of a slide
and after dizzy seconds find myself
at the bottom.
I like sleds on soft snow,
the wetness of rain on my forehead.

Though it is comfortable to be babied,
I am less dependent
when people treat me as a big boy.
I don't want their sympathy;
I want their respect for what I can do.
I am slow, and many things
you take for granted are hard for me.
I can hardly understand
what "tomorrow" means.
It took me months to learn
to pedal the tall blue tricycle,
but I was so proud when at last
both feet pedaled in the same direction
and the wheels went forward.
How happy I was
when I turned on the right faucet
to get a drink of water.
I didn't want to ever turn it off.
If I can learn at my own pace
and still be accepted,
I can fit into a world
where slowness is suspect.

Think of me first as a person,
who hurts and loves and feels joy.
And know I am a child to
encourage and direct.
Smile, and say hello--
even that is enough.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears--
however measured or far away.

A Mongoloid Child Handling Shells on the Beach

(Richard Snyder)

She turns them over in her slow hands,
as did the sea sending them to her;
broken bits from the mazarine maze,
they are the calmest things on this sand.

The unbroken children splash and shout,
rough as surf, gay as their nesting towels.
But she plays soberly with the sea's
small change and hums back to it its slow vowels.

I am the Child

I am the child who cannot talk. You often pity me, I see it in your eyes. You wonder how much I am aware of. I see that as well. I am aware of much . . . whether you are happy or sad or fearful, patient or impatient, full of love or if you are just doing your duty by me. I marvel at your frustration, knowing mine to be far greater, for I cannot express myself or my needs as you do.

You cannot conceive my isolation, so complete it is at times. I do not gift you with clever conversation, cute remarks to be laughed over and repeated. I do not give you answers to your everyday questions, responses over my well being, sharing my needs, or comments about the world about me. I do not give you rewards as defined by the world's standards . . . great strides in development that you can credit yourself; I do not give you understanding as you know it.

What I give you is so much more valuable . . . I give you instead opportunities. Opportunities to discover the depth of your character, not mine; the depth of your love, your commitment, your patience, your abilities; the opportunity to explore your spirit more deeply than you imagined possible. I drive you further than you would ever go on your own, working harder, seeking answers to your many questions with no answers. I am the child who cannot talk.

I am the child who cannot walk. The world seems to pass me by. You see the longing in my eyes to get out of this chair, to run and play like other children. There is much you take for granted. I want the toys on the shelf, I need to go to the bathroom, oh I've dropped my fork again. I am dependant on you in these ways. My gift to you is to make you more aware of your great fortune, your healthy back and legs, your ability to do for yourself. Sometimes people appear not to notice me; I always notice them. I feel not so much envy as desire, desire to stand upright, to put one foot in front of the other, to be independent. I give you awareness. I am the child who cannot walk.

I am the child who is mentally impaired. I don't learn easily, if you judge me by the world's measuring stick, what I do know is infinite joy in simple things. I am not burdened as you are with the strifes and conflicts of a more complicated life. My gift to you is to grant you the freedom to enjoy things as a child, to teach you how much your arms around me mean, to give you love. I give you the gift of simplicity. I am the child who is mentally impaired.

I am the disabled child. I am your teacher. if you allow me, I will teach you what is really important in life. I will give you and teach you unconditional love. I gift you with my innocent trust, my dependency upon you. I teach you about how precious this life is and about not taking things for granted. I teach you about forgetting your own needs and desires and dreams. I teach you giving. Most of all I teach you hope and faith. I am the disabled child.

Special Angels

(Juanita Vaughan Hopkins)

Special children are just
Angels in disguise.
Sent to fill our hearts with joy
And to brighten up our lives.

They have so much love to give
And bring us blessings untold.
We know those tiny feet
Have walked on streets paved with gold.

We know they were formed
From Heavenly air.
Created by our Father
With gentle, loving care.

Then He sent them to earth
To bless every life they touch.
If we follow their shining way
We can learn so very much.

And as we wonder why
God plans things as he does.
He only sends these little angels
To families with lots of love.

For He knows we will watch over them
And love them very much.
But maybe he sent them here
So they could watch over us.

The Blue Rose

(Gerda Klein)

Jenny is a little girl--a lovely little girl. She has brown eyes and dark brown hair. If her hair falls into her eyes she brushes it away. But her hand does not go straight to her forehead. Instead, it curves like a flower first opening its petals. Then she brushes her hair out of her eyes.
You see, Jenny is different. Different? Yes, different from most other little girls.
But surely all people don't have to be alike, think alike, act alike, or look alike.
To me Jenny is like a blue rose.
A blue rose?
Have you ever seen a blue rose? There are white roses and pink roses and yellow roses, and of course lots of red roses. But blue?
Every gardener would love to raise a blue rose. People would come from far away to see it. It would be rare and different and beautiful.
Jenny is different, too. And so, in a way, she is like a blue rose.
When Jenny first came home from the hospital--a pink baby, all cuddly and round--she cried very often. She cried more than most babies.
Well, perhaps she saw different shadows that frightened her. Perhaps she heard sounds that were strange to her. When she was older, Jenny always stayed close to her mother and held on to her tightly.
You know, when a kitten loses its tail it is said to gain sharper ears. It's true that a tail helps a kitten run faster. But a kitten without a tail hears better and can detect approaching footsteps long before other kittens do.
Some people don't know about such a kitten's fine ears; they only see the lack of a tail.
Some children are cruel and stare and taunt: "The kitten has no tail! The kitten has no tail!"
Sometimes, Jenny would run up to her mother and clutch her tightly, for no apparent reason at all. At least, for none that we could see.
And so we came to understand that Jenny's world was a little different, unknown to us in some ways. We began to think that she was in a world in which we might not feel completely at home. To go there might, in a way, be like going to another planet.
In a way, it's as if Jenny is standing behind a screen, a screen we cannot see. Maybe it has beautiful colors. Maybe the colors distract Jenny at times from paying attention when we talk to her. Or perhaps she listens to music we cannot hear.
It is said that dolphins have a language and a music of their own, carried by the waves. Music we cannot hear because our ears are not fine enough.
So Jenny might hear sounds we never hear. Maybe that is why she jumps up at times and goes into her awkward dance.
I sometimes think Jenny is like a bird, a bird with very short wings. For such a bird, flying is hard: it takes more strength, more effort, more time. A bird with normal wings takes flying for granted, but a bird with short wings has to work much harder at learning. In a way, it has to be smarter.
And so, therefore, we have to understand how much Jenny has accomplished when she does learn something.
But there is another Jenny. A Jenny who, on a stormy winter afternoon, sits in her rocking chair alone and rocks, holding her doll in her arms. She is very troubled and puzzled, and she says, slowly, "Mommy, Sally says I'm retarded. What does that mean, Mommy? Retarded? The children say 'retarded', and laugh."
"Why do they laugh, Mommy?"
There are many things Jenny does not understand.
And there are many things other people don't understand about Jenny:
that Jenny is like a kitten without a tail;
that Jenny hears a different music;
that Jenny is like a bird with shorter wings, and has to be protected.
Jenny is like a blue rose, delicate and lovely.
And because there are so few blue roses, we don't know much about them.
We only know that they have to be tended more carefully.
And loved more.

My Special Little Boy

(For my beautiful son Jack, by his proud mum Nicki Zieth)

I wish I had given birth to you
My special little boy,
but that wasn't to be.
You graced my life though another way,
I was lucky enough to be chosen to be your mother.
The minute I was told about you, and saw your photo,
with that cute little Santa hat.
I fell in love with you.
You must be crazy!, where the words we heard
when we told our family and friends
about our wish to adopt you.
Because my darling you are a special blessing,
a treasure . . .
You where born with a disability,
although to us its your ability that counts.
Your birth parents couldn't cope,
and we are so happy it was that way.
They where our vehicle to complete happiness,
your ride into our lives
We love you, our special little boy,
and still can't believe how blessed we are.
As I watch the rise and fall of your sleeping chest
I thank the creator of all,
for the wonderful son he has sent us,
and for the first time in my life,
I am thankful for my infertility,
because without it I would not have you,
my beautiful little boy,
and without you my dreams and life
would have so much missing,
so much love
untapped and a hole in my heart that would never heal.

Ode to Special Moms

(by Erma Bombeck)

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
"Armstrong, Beth, son, patron saint, Matthew. Forrest, Marjorie, daughter, patron saint, Cecilia.
"Rudledge, Carrie, twins, patron saint, give her Gerard. He's used to profanity."
Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles, "Give her a handicapped child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy."

"Exactly," says God. "Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel."

"But has she patience?" asks the angel.

"I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she'll handle it.
I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world. She has to make it live in her world, and that's not going to be easy."

"But, Lord, I don't think she even believes in you."

God smiles. "No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness."

The angel gasps, "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"

God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a 'spoken word.' She will never consider a 'step' ordinary. When her child says 'Momma' for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.
I will permit her to see clearly the things I see . . . ignorance, cruelty, prejudice . . . and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side."

"And what about her patron saint?" asks the angel, pen poised midair.

God smiles. "A mirror will suffice."

Going to Holland

(Emily Perl Kingsley)

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability--To try and help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It is like this . . .

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous trip--to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo's David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags, and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland!"

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy!  I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy." But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't sent you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It's just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy, than Italy. But after you've been there awhile you catch your breath, you look around . . . and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills . . . and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy . . . and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was suppose to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that well never, ever, ever, go away . . . because the loss of that dream is a very Significant loss.

But if you spend the rest of your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things . . . about Holland.

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