Thursday, March 1, 2012

Children with disabilities and what their parents wish you knew

I'll never forget when my son was diagnosed with ADD. I was explaining to him what it meant. He was 7. Not explaining wasn't an option. When you have a super intelligent 7 year old that has just met with 500 (not literally, but seemed so) different medical professionals, the inevitable question of 'why' just has to be answered. I'll never forget his only question afterward.
Him: "Mom, does this mean I'm retarded?"
Me: "No, sweetie. It's sort of like your brain has a short in it, kind of like that lamp we have. Sometimes your brain does that. The information just gets lost before it gets to the right place."
Him: "Oh. That makes sense."
Done. Explanation accepted.
I made a point of always explaining to teachers, coaches, Boy Scout leaders, anyone who was working with my son that there were certain things that were difficult for him. He's brilliant. Really, he is. But as a child, put him in a contact sport where people were pushing, hitting, and everything was moving fast, and the possibility of a melt down was very real. Or give him 3 commands and send him off to accomplish them and chances were pretty high that none of them would happen. This is a kid who could memorize an entire page of dialogue to audition for a play but took at least 6 months to learn his multiplication tables - doing them every single day. This is a teenager who was so constantly distracted he could barely complete any assignment for school without a great deal of pushing, begging, threatening, and coercing but managed a basic working knowledge of at least 7 foreign languages and quantum physics before his 16th birthday. By the way, he has made it to adulthood with some major coping skills and, other than driving his wife crazy, pretty much manages his ADD successfully.

My point to all of this is that now I have 2 grandchildren who are considered by some to be in the category of 'different' than other kids. We have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with a lateral cleft. Personally, I never really notice her scar. But she does. And she thinks everyone does. She's only 4. Amazing and shocking how observant they are of the world around them.

We have a gorgeous grandson who is diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. For those of you who don't know, that is in the Autism spectrum. Just google it. He's 5. He's so stinking adorable! Sometimes he has a hard time communicating what he wants to say. But even though he may not be able to tell you everything he thinks or feels, he hears everything you say. And furthermore, he never forgets it! Don't assume that children with disabilities don't notice the comments you make or the way you look at them.

While I may not agree with everything these moms say on their blogs or in their writings, I thought the comments they made in the following link might be helpful. I know it's hard to know what to tell your kids about children who are different from them. But my favorite explanation of understanding learning disabilities came from my youth minister when I was a teenager. He said everyone is retarded in some area; some people just have more noticeable disabilities than others. One of my biggies happens to be math. What's yours?
Anyway, I love the advice in the link. Hope you enjoy.

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