Sunday, July 22, 2018

The paradox in raising a child with special needs

Mo bought a pair of sunglasses yesterday and he is loving his new look. I can tell they make him feel all grown up and super cool. Today, when his dad and I accompanied him on the bus, in order to familiarize him with the new route he has to take for his social skills group, Mo sat behind me, sunglasses and all, smiling broadly. Then, I heard him break into a song and suddenly my antennas went up. Who was he sitting next to? Would they think he was strange singing to himself? Would they judge or label him and so on and so forth? At once I turned around and whispered to Mo “you don’t sing in the bus” and the very next moment I chided myself silently “You’ve done it again Huma! So what if Mo is singing? So what if this is not the norm? Mo is happy, let him be, this is who he is. If the guy next to him finds him strange then that is his problem, not Mo’s’”!

Yet truly, is it really that simple? The fact is, it’s not just the guy sitting next to Mo’s problem, it’s mine too. I don’t want anyone, absolutely anyone to look at my son any differently than they look at me or you. I will simply not stand for anyone who will put my son down for being different and in case you are wondering what I will do faced with a scenario where such an occasion may arise, I have hidden fangs and claws that I will use to protect my precious offspring.

Then again, while I claim to celebrate Mo’s differences, I am also subconsciously and consciously trying to make him fit in with the ‘others’ or the stereotypical and therein lies the paradox and today’s incident, in the bus, made me reflect upon this conundrum. Is it because I myself am not comfortable with Mo being different or is it that I don’t want Mo to get hurt by others? I am going to go with the latter conclusion for truly it is Mo’s differences that make him the adorable bundle of love, simplicity, honesty and purity that he is. I am grateful for the joy as well as the challenges he has brought into my life and my family’s, for he has kept us grounded and thankful and honest. But Mo’s ego is fragile and he is vulnerable. He wants to be like his brothers and cousins and he does not want to be treated any differently. Yet he is different! So then, is there a solution to this paradox?
Indeed, there is and quite simply it is to embrace and accept differences so that they become the norm; so that parents such as myself feel safe in the knowledge that our special children will not be stared at, taken advantage of or thought of as any less than others.

It is Mo’s first day as a drive-thru cashier in McDonald’s tomorrow and I am nervous for him. He is so excited and stressed because working at McDee ’s, as he calls it, was Mo’s dream. Mo’s dream is about to come true but if he fumbles and falters will his dream turn into a nightmare? Will impatient customers be patient and respectful, and will his managers and colleagues treat him with understanding and kindness?

I am sending Mo off tomorrow with the counsel that mistakes are a precursor to learning, hence not to be afraid to make them. But my child is fragile and afraid as he is excited and hopeful. Thus, my counsel will be accompanied by constant prayers for this new stage in Mo’s life that could be a blueprint for his future.

For appointments with Huma for art therapy: go to

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