Part 1 - Learning to be Grateful for our Journey as Special Needs Parents
If you have a child with special needs, surely, you've noticed that there's something very beautiful and unique about them.
Perhaps they touch your heart in a special way, or perhaps their lightheartedness and appreciation for the ordinary makes you smile.
Many children with special needs have a bright light within them that has the ability to inspire and profoundly shift people around them.
Did you ever think that perhaps they came to us for a reason? That maybe their growing presence is meant to communicate something to us, to show us what truly matters, to open our hearts, and to help bring awareness to the fact that the world we live in needs to change.
My daughter, Gabi, who has Atypical Rett Syndrome and the multiple special needs children that I have the pleasure to work with on a daily basis have completely shifted my perspective on life and the people within it.
When I see a child with special needs, I see a child with unique gifts. Gifts that are often missed or not given any importance. These children may not present the way typical developing children do, but I assure you, they are developing skills of their own, skills that may be subtle to most, but that are equally beautiful and important.
Did you ever think, that perhaps if people began to notice and appreciate the unique gifts within them, that maybe this would help them thrive and evolve into what they're meant to become? Whatever that may be.
We try so hard to make these kids like us, and yet, there's so much for us to learn from them, to see in them, to appreciate in them. Perhaps we should be more like them in some ways.
This three part blog post is about the importance of our role as parents to special needs kids. I believe we've been given a responsibility to help these children shine – not to become like us, but to unleash what makes them unique.
To do this, however, the first step is to be willing to embrace the path we’ve been given and to open our eyes to the blessing that has been gifted to us.
First Things First - Learning to be Grateful
Helping our children with special needs shine begins with our perceptions, our beliefs, and how we choose to navigate the journey.
It's essential to see that this journey has given us an opportunity to embrace differences, unconditional love, compassion and uncertainty. Through this experience, we have gained strength and resiliency. It's not an easy road, but the lessons learned can lead us to a much more authentic and happy life, where big problems don't seem so big anymore; subtleties are noticed and appreciated; gratitude becomes an essential part of living; and perceptions of life itself and the experiences within it shift and change.
"Now every time I witness a strong person, I want to know: What darkness did you conquer in your story? Mountains do not rise without earthquakes" - Katherine Mackenett
How often have you been told that you've inspired someone, that your story has moved someone, or that your journey has led someone to look at themselves and their life in a different way? Isn’t it beautiful to have the ability to help others in such a powerful way?
I recently received a comment on a Facebook post I published about my daughter, Gabi, that said: “thank you for the multitude of emotions that you have awakened within me. I have a lot of respect for you. You know something about love”. I thought to myself, yes, I do know something about love - real, pure, raw, unconditional love. It occurred to me right then that my experience with my daughter had opened my heart to a whole new level, allowing me to love more fully, more deeply; to love everything and everyone without exception; to see beauty everywhere and in everyone; to choose love over fear and judgment; to embrace vulnerability as a way of being. What a blessing.
"The slightest willingness to see your life with love will be the catalyst for your greatest change" - Gabrielle Bernstein
Many people experience some kind of trauma in their lifetime that leads them to go deep, heal and transform. It’s in these moments that we get reminded of the basic elements that make life on earth so beautiful. Life is about noticing, appreciating, feeling, sensing, evolving and connecting. Life is about love.
Don’t you feel like your child with special needs has opened your eyes to another way of living and connecting? Don’t you feel like they have forced your heart wide open? Haven’t you felt yourself begin to appreciate things that you once took for granted?
Take a moment to think of what you've learned, how much you’ve changed, or how much you've grown since you've had your child with special needs. Do you feel like you're a different person now, perhaps a better version of yourself?
I believe our ‘traumatic life experiences’ can be transmuted into ‘blessed gifts from the universe’, if we make a choice to shift our perspective and see it that way. The moment you change the way you think, is the moment your life shifts. It’s also the moment you begin to see, feel, and sense new qualities in your child with special needs.
I'm aware that my approach and feeling about this journey is perhaps a bit unconventional or uncommon, but doesn't it give you hope - to think that healing yourself on a deep level and changing how you view your life and the experiences within it can actually lead you to your happiest place, whatever the circumstances or limitations in your life.
"True abundance is an inside job" - Gabrielle Bernstein
It's important that we embrace the journey, make learning and evolving a fundamental part of our path. Appreciate it, be grateful for it, because this life, this experience, these kids, can open all kinds of new doors for us that we could have never imagined for ourselves.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us” – Joseph Campbell
Once we can overcome the anger, resentment, and self-pity, and let go of the life we'd planned, we can truly begin to appreciate and value the experience, the little human that has been gifted to us, and the purpose behind it all – the bigger picture. There is so much to appreciate, value and learn about these little souls.
Gabi is my greatest teacher. She's happy in just being. She inspires me. She taught me the power of love. She moves me to see and appreciate life the way she does, and I am grateful for that every single day.
“Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child that you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding that your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be” - Joan Ryan
Share the Love
Please take a moment to share something about your child with special needs. What makes them special? What unique qualities do they have? What do you find most beautiful about them? How have they changed you?
Remember that your uplifting words matter, they have power, they have a ripple effect. Share the positive vibes!