When my son Christian first graduated from college, he worked for a company that helped children who had learning issues. Some of them had actual disabilities, but some simply learned in a different way than the majority of people do–in a special way, so to speak. When Christian worked with a child, it was his job to discover how that child learned and to set up a program tailored to his needs–a program that would make him feel special instead of dumb or disabled. Christian was good at what he did and was soon asked to train some of the newer tutors. One day as he checked on one of his trainees, he found her trying unsuccessfully to coax her student out from under the table. Rather than becoming frustrated with the reluctant student, Christian crawled under the table with him. The student finished his lesson and, in the process, probably felt pretty special.
I tried to use this same approach when Mom and Dad came to live with me. Not that they spent any time under the table, but since both of them had Alzheimer’s, there were times when they said or did things that made me roll my eyes or shake my head. In spite of that, they were still the parents that I loved, and they were an integral part of our family. David and I occasionally had couple time, but when we went to family-centered events–church, Sunday school fellowships, neighborhood parties, long RV trips–Mom and Dad went with us. My aunt once told me that she appreciated how I included Mom and Dad as much as possible without being embarrassed about their conditions. I was surprised by her comment. Our society has become so open to those who are special in some way that we no longer have to keep grandma in the attic, no matter how crazy she becomes.
I’ve had special people on my mind this week, especially after reading an article in the Broad Street Review by Maria Thompson Corley. Maria is a Juilliard-trained concert pianist and a published novelist, and she has a very special fourteen-year-old son named Malcolm. Malcolm loves to be onstage, but because he is autistic, some mothers would see public appearances as a problem. However, Maria sees to it that he has a chance to perform as often as possible. Follow the link below to read how a mother goes out of her way to make her son feel as special as he really is.