Time to Connect
Let’s set the stage for the current discussion. First, just think about the disabled friend or relative you know best. Do they have feelings, dreams, desires, goals just like those of us who are blessed with good health? OF COURSE, THEY DO!
If you don’t have a special needs friend, go get one. YOU will be blessed. Treat them like normal. I have found, without exception that this is their preferred choice in interaction with you. Let’s delve into this a bit and see how we might kill two birds with one stone by understanding them better and understanding our reaction to them.
Their conditions are not contagious. The only thing “Contagious” about them is the invincible outlook they have on a life that has chosen them to carry some unusual and strenuous burdens.
They are often very lonely because we often act, either consciously or unconsciously, as if they are contagious. They have the same set of needs for human touch, thoughtfulness, love, friendship, and courtesy just like we all expect.
Not guilty you say?
Let me ask you this… when a Special Needs person holds their hand out to shake yours, what is (hopefully, what was) your first internal reaction? Most people are repulsed a bit, especially by physical contact with them. You can admit this to yourself, even if you never gave it a conscious thought before.
I had a mental “ouch” when I realized that I unconsciously did this. It was a personal fault of my own, due to lack of understanding until I was blessed with a little boy who came into my life who was diagnosed with SMA (spinal muscle atrophy). I always wondered how the parents of a Special Needs child could say “blessed with…”. I found out through this little boy named David.
Let’s Meet this SMA Kid!
Little David, like most children, has a heart made of gold. He laughs, plays as much as SMA allows. He cry’s when he is physically or spiritually hurt. You know, just like any other “normal” human.
Adjust Your Visual Perception
The thing is, he and other Special Needs People like him ARE normal humans. They have all the same trials and tribulations you have. They live their lives with a physical burden that would bring tears to our eyes if we tried to envision ourselves or a loved one in this same situation. So, my recommendation for you is to not feel guilty. Just try to see them as “normal”. They are you know.
Shake their hand, give them a hug. They will be thrilled to see the wall go down. They will be delighted to be treated normally. Oh yea, you will be delighted as well. You see, Special Needs People are not contagious physically, just spiritually.
A Journey with My Friend Mike
I met Mike when an acquaintance of mine became his caregiver. Having no real contact or dealings with a Special Needs person before this I wondered how she and so many other caregivers for Special Needs people, could handle this. I mean are they contagious? I think we cleared that hurdle earlier.
Do they feel strange? Are they able to think and feel as I do? The questions like these go on and on. Fortunately for us with normal health, most of the Special Needs people I know have a skill set that is designed out of necessity to help them make us feel “OK” with them. Imagine that!
A Smile and Handshake
My friend Mike was my first real Special Needs friend. I met him when he was about 35. He was the victim of Polio at the age of 9. He would occasionally get that shallow smile and a faraway look in his eyes when he would talk about being able to walk and run like other children. Then he would do a little time travel through his early years but always quickly returned to the present, a place where he dwelt and had to work a lot harder than me to just get by.
He would always have a smile on his face. His hand was always out first. He never faltered in this. Our ease of interaction was because of HIS behavior, not mine. It was the stake in the ground so to speak marking the beginning of our friendship.
An Example of Their Goals
Mike was like many, if not most of the Special Needs People I have come to know over the years. His greatest goal was to become an attorney. He chose this so that he could help other Special Needs People by getting them the benefits they deserved and were often denied.
A simple ramp here and there for wheelchairs or an accessible fire escape designed for the abilities of the Special Needs People. For example, when Mike was taking the Arizona Bar exam, he was forced to use the restroom and because it was not set up for Special Needs People, his wheelchair became jammed in a stall. No one heard his shouts for help.
It wasn’t long before some thoughtful, caring individual who was administering the exam felt it necessary to disqualify Mike from finishing the exam. How wonderfully fair (tongue-in-cheek) the system was then.
Mike was undaunted by this. He had increasing health issues which prevented him from becoming an attorney, but he still became a pioneer in the country’s need to change the laws and provisions for Special Needs People. He charged ahead in the quest to provide everything that he and other Special Needs People needed so that they were safe and set free by a society that up to this time just wanted to keep the Special Needs People in a dark room with the door closed. You see, it was easier for most people to deal with the Special Needs People if they didn’t see them or hear them, might less touch them or treat them with even a modicum of human respect. Thankfully, when Mike passed away, my journey was not done.
So Why did I tell you this?
The simple answer is because YOU needed it. I needed this experience as well. You need to roll this around in your mind to get a good grip on it.
Definition of Disabled People.
Per Webster’s it means: Incapacitated by illness, injury, or wounds. Personally I would argue not all Special Needs People are “incapacitated”, their disability just causes them to have to do things differently.
I am disabled when it comes to woodworking. I follow the rules: Measure it twice, cut it once. Sounds simple but I invariably measure it twice, cut it once, throw it away and repeat.
My car was disabled in Cincinnati on a recent vacation.
Somehow this descriptive word illustrates a lack of understanding in its impact on Special Needs People.
Special Needs People are just like us. They have a multitude of human traits that define them as unique individuals. They think, they grow, they bleed when cut. They have families, they have ups and downs, they feel pain when they are injured or mistreated, and bad hair days just as we do. They are just people with some “Special Needs”.
The action of saving or being saved from sin, error, mistake, or evil.
A few years later I was given another opportunity to reach into the world of Special Needs People. I was introduced to a beautiful and marvelous woman. Her name is Carmela. She came into my life at a time when I least expected it and she brought a surprise with her that has permanently changed my life for the better. On one of our first dates she introduced me to my new “son” David. Now commonly known as Little David so that everyone can clearly define who they are talking about.
Little David took me under his wing, and just like my friend Mike did years earlier. Even though he was not aware of it, Little David began to knock down the remaining barriers that were keeping me from what seems to be God’s plan for my life. What a wonderful gift! Almost immediately, the disability and the wheelchair disappeared. Only the person remained.
Carmela is a strong, hard-working, and very caring person. She is such an angel. Fortunately for me, we were married in 2008. We all moved in together and to this very day Little David (who I might add is not so little now at 16) has continued to amaze me with seemingly innate abilities to deal with his world just like Mike did.
Little David was my final proof that these disabled people are indeed special. He makes straight A’s in school, even in the advanced classes. Has the maturity and clarity of thought of a much older young man. He never gives up. He always gives what I feel is a gargantuan effort to do the best he can in every situation. He is tuff!
David is fiercely competitive. He “rules” when playing in his on-line video games. If he can barely lift a 5-lb weight, he will ask for a 6-lb weight. He always stretches his abilities to become smarter and stronger. I have asked his gaming buddies and they all say he is the toughest competitor out of them all. I agree on all points.
Little David has had 3 terrible surgeries.
One to straighten out his legs. That required cutting both femurs and having them straightened and anchored in place with hardware until the bones healed. He finally had the hardware removed and keeps them in a bag as trophy’s.
The next surgery was for scoliosis, another horrendous surgery where the surgeons lay open the back of the patient and place several pounds of permanent hardware around the entire spine so that he can sit up straight without pain.
The final surgery came last year when he had to have lung surgery to relieve pneumonia symptoms with an array of drain tubing drilled through his chest and sides, directly into his lungs.
As you can see it was definitely painful. He never whines. It is just his life. He still lives it to the maximum.
Little David, like Mike and most “Special Needs People”, have this energy or spirit that is hard for me to adequately describe. They just never lose focus. They never give up!
If you are blessed with knowing one of these Special Needs people, I am sure you love them like we do. You can share in the comments and if you wish a photo and story about your special friend in the comments section below. Hopefully this site will be a step for greater level of understanding.
Our Goals Here On This Site
Our goals here are to broaden the spectrum of understanding and the need for ever-improving conditions for the lives of our Special Needs People.
We will present a great deal of information about private, public, and governmental policies and benefits that will hopefully help these people to enjoy their lives more. We will help them with finding funds for education, housing, transportation, proper medical care, and more. We will, as always defend them and help to protect their rights.
Bookmark us, there is more to follow.
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