Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Special Needs Child


Oh, we're not kiddy shrinks, so this post is not really about children.  But I like the term, it implies that the person needs something more, that they have special-- presumably increased-- needs.  It says nothing about potential.  I use the term often, and sometimes with a bit of humor, to remind people that the playing field is not always level.  There are people who start any give race with a handicap-- a learning disability, dyslexia, major health problems, mental illnesses, horrible childhoods, addictions, -- and these set them on a slightly different course.  


Some people overcome tremendous adversity.  They function 'as if' they had no special needs.  They have stories that would let you understand if they didn't do very well in life, stories that would explain burying their heads in the sand, or crawling under a large rock.  Sometimes these special needs people are so driven to excel that they don't just hang in the race, they lead the pack, as if they had no problems as all.  They measure themselves against those without special needs and everyone forgets that they are racing with a bit of extra baggage and often very remarkable stories.  They are among the most resilient of people, and their stories are often inspirational.


Why is this a problem, or even a Shrink Rap post?  I suppose because the issues come up all the time, and they get to be problems when the special needs child gets so good at running the race "as if" they are not hindered by the weight of their problems that they come to expect nothing short of excellence. They run without the memory of their handicap and are particularly unforgiving of their lapses.  So what if one needs to rest, or if one doesn't finish the race first, or doesn't finish at all?  But even worse, their loved ones often come to expect so much that they may become critical if special needs child lags a bit here or there.


Sometimes it seems it's fine to simply say, "I have a special burden and I can't keep up right now."  


This is for Carrie who shared her remarkable narrative with me and for all the other people I know who expect so much of themselves in inspirational ways. 
And tonight, this is for Steve Jobs who gave the world so much until the very end of the fight.