Dear Mom and Dad: What It’s Like to Be A Child with Special Needs
Dear Mom and Dad,
I want you to know what it's like to be me.
My brain runs like a washing machine powered by a Ferrari engine. It runs all the time and it runs fast, churning and tumbling ideas like shirts and pants and socks mixed together.
I can be talking to you and having another conversation running inside my head. I can be in class listening to the teacher, but be fully engaged in a daydream about Legos or hearing a new song on my guitar.
I kind of like all this energy inside my head because I can keep myself entertained in there by myself. But other times I feel scattered and like there’s not much order up in my brain. Everything’s swirling. That’s why I like things to be just so and I why I need to know what we’re doing all the time. It’s why I end up wearing or eating the same things. New things freak me out a bit because I don’t know what to expect, so please don’t be mad at me when I’m anxious.
I want to do well in school. But sometimes the ideas in my head are so strong or interesting, and when I follow them even for a few seconds, I fall behind. And once I’m lost in class, sometimes I figure I may as well just keep thinking about these ideas. It’s like they call to me to work on them and see them through.
This is hard to explain, but sometimes I feel my body screaming to me to move and like I need contact, to push up against something. It makes me feel better inside. I’ll be sitting in class and if I haven’t gotten any exercise, I feel like I’m about to explode. But then I know my teacher will get upset if I get up, so I sit there kind of frozen, not sure what to do. I promise I don’t get in trouble on purpose.
Okay, I was lying. Sometimes I do get in trouble on purpose. I like to get the reaction from people when I’m bored. It wakes my brain up. And if I’m really bored or my body is screaming at me, I’ll get in trouble just so I can get out of class to walk down the hall. It’s such a relief. But then I feel bad later and I know everyone is mad at me.
There’s something inside me that says if I can just get through childhood, I’m going to make a great adult one day. I’ll be a good Dad because I know what it feels like to hurt as a kid and be misunderstood. And I know I don’t always do great in school, but I have good ideas and I can work at something really hard when I’m passionate about it. I don’t have any fear of the future, it’s just the present that isn’t much fun.
Okay, I know I say I’m all grown up and everything in some ways, but things hurt me more than you think. I know you guys are trying really hard and I’m difficult, but I kind of know that everyone wishes I were different.. I see the way Grandma and Grandpa treat Adam and Grace different than me. You know the way Dad shakes his head in disapproval, the way Mom groans and all those hushed conversations you have with the teacher, therapist and principal? I know what it means.
That’s why I like hanging out with Buster a lot, because he likes me the way I am because I give him lots of attention and take him on walks. And that’s why I like to play video games and be alone sometimes. It’s like my heart can only take so much and then I have to withdraw a little bit.
I know you get concerned because I stay up late at night and don’t sleep much. But I like it when it’s quiet. I can hear my thoughts better. And my world is peaceful then.
Mom and Dad, don't worry about me. I may not do great in school or be the most popular kid, but I'm content inside. I like the way my brain works, I like my energy. If everyone would stop trying to fix me, I'd be okay.
Let me focus on the things I love doing. Drawing, building, playing music. Please stop trying to make me be like everyone else. I like who I am. Do you?
Thank you for all you do for me. You think I don’t appreciate it, but I do. I know I’m not exactly the way you want me to be or the kid you expected, but I’m going to be good as an adult and you’ll be proud of me then.
Kirk Martin, pictured above, is the Director of Education of Celebrate!Calm, an organization dedicated to helping parents and teachers understand children with special needs inside and out. Contact Kirk at email@example.com or through his web site at www.CelebrateCalm.com.
(Photo below: Kirk Martin holds a toy brain while his son Casey strums his guitar.)
****************** NOW FOR THE CONTEST******************
Readers can win a 4-CD set called "Stop Defiance & Disrespect Now" (Retail: $495) which also includes Straight Talk for Dads: 10 Ways to Get the Respect You Want, a CD specially designed for dads. This set was created to help parents eliminate defiance and disrespect, and instead build closer relationship with their child.
To win, tell us the best tactic you use to get your child to be calm enough to learn and comply. Simply write your submission into the comments section of this post but make sure you include your email address in your submission. All your comments will be readily accessible in the "Readers Give Advice" section on the front page of this blog. If you experience technical difficulty or don't want to put in your email address for public viewing, you can email your submission to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and still be eligible to win. Just know that your submission will be highlighted in a future blog post but you can still remain anonymous. Please send your submission by Monday April 27, 2009 11:59 PM. Kirk will read them all and choose the winner. Good luck. I hope we can all help and learn from each other.