Since we brought Joshua home from the hospital and realized he would have special needs, I have thought about what having a child with special needs means. Then again when our daughter came home from Hong Kong this past December, I thought again about what it means to have a child with severe special needs. I think because I am an adoptive parent to special needs children I get the opportunity to look at special needs with a different lens than most parents with special needs kids because I chose to have special needs kids. Most parents who find out that their child will have special needs have a lot of guilt and grief about accepting that their child will be different from other kids. We didn’t have to go through that process since we knew our children would have special needs. However, I think all parents with special needs kids wonder why God allowed their child to have special needs and what is His purpose in it all? I certainly do. Some people would say that my son and daughter having special needs was all in God’s plan. I disagree. God’s plan was for all humans to live in the Garden of Eden and be perfect, but we messed that all up with sin and when sin entered the world so did sickness and things like special needs. That being said, God does use our kids special needs in his perfect plan to teach the world something through them.
When we adopted our son and daughter I thought my job was to make them “normal” and to help them achieve things in life to the best of their ability. They needed to “overcome” their special needs and be like other kids. I don’t think that anymore. I still want them to be all they are able to be, but I don’t think they need to change and become “normal” to do that. I was watching an episode of the show House recently and there was a conversation in the show that I thought was very interesting regarding special needs. The child in the show has severe autism:
Wilson: Hope is all those parents have going for them.
House: No, hope is what’s making them miserable. What they should do is get a cocker spaniel. A dog would look them in the eye, wag his tail when he’s happy, lick their face, show them love.
Cameron: Is it so wrong for them to want to have a normal child? It’s normal to want to be normal.
House: Spoken like a true circle queen. See skinny socially privileged white people get to draw this neat little circle, and everyone inside the circle is normal, anyone outside the circle should be beaten, broken and reset so they can be brought into the circle. Failing that, they should be institutionalized or worse, pitied.
Cameron: So it’s wrong to feel sorry for this little boy?
House: Why would you feel sorry for someone who gets to opt out of the inane courteous formalities which are utterly meaningless, insincere and therefore degrading? This kid doesn’t have to pretend to be interested in your back pain or your excretions or your grandma’s itchy place. Can you imagine how liberating it would be to live a life free of all the mind-numbing social niceties? I don’t pity this kid, I envy him.
We all want for everyone around us to be just like us. It bothers us when they are different. The most dramatic form of different is found in special needs. My son and daughter do not act like other people. They have strange behaviors and look different. The craziest thing is that they don’t care that they are different. They don’t want to act like other people. My daughter especially just does what she wants to do and doesn’t see why things need to be a certain way. She doesn’t see why she can’t stand up and walk around the room while eating, our current battle. She doesn’t care that other people stare at her when she asks to ride the escalator 15 times while at the mall. I used to think we needed change her, I don’t anymore. She will never really have the need to function in normal society, she will never get marred or have a job. She will live with us or in a group setting her whole life. All she cares about is having fun, which to her involves very simple things like riding the escalator. Why does she need to change to fit in with society? To make us feel better? So people won’t stare?
Obviously, there are some things we are training her to do to mostly to make our lives easier or to make her safer, like sitting while eating or not running in the street. But overall I envy her sometimes because she doesn’t care what others think. She isn’t bound self-imposed rules about how one should act or dress. She does what she wants to do. I recognize the downside to that, which is that she will never experience a complex relationship with another person. No one understands the pain of that better than we do. But as we accept that is our life, we realize our goal in life is not to make her fit in with others or fit into societies rules, but just that in her life she be as happy as she can be. We will look forward to heaven where we can have a relationship with her like we would like. For now, we will have the relationship with her that she is capable of and not expect her to be “normal”.