Special Needs and Acceptance

Special Needs. Two words that can encompass so much. I used to think I was “ok” with having a special needs child. That’s when Thomas was all of 3 years old. I thought I had accepted Thomas for who he was. In reality I had not, not at that time in my life. I was young, Thomas was young and we had not been through enough for me to reach such a high level of acceptance.

There was however, one experience that was almost prophetic. Our pediatrician had sent me to a physical therapy specialist when Thomas was about a year old. She wanted his opinion if Thomas still needed physical therapy even though the city of New York deemed it necessary. At the end of the consult the specialist disappeared and I was left with his assosciate who told me to continue Thomas receiving physical therapy and to continue him receiving services through the city program of Early Intervention “in case he needs special ed services when he’s older”.  I remember I felt ill. Why would this perfect boy of mine ever be in special ed? It was then that I felt as though I would always have to protect him, be his voice, speak up for him and fight for what I thought was right for Thomas. At that time I also knew deep down that he would need special ed services and that he would never learn to read. I have no idea why I thought those things that day. Today Thomas can read and write his name and a few sight words but he cannot read a book.

There it was. Finally.  The time in our lives  that I accepted the fact that Thomas was indeed  “special needs.” It wasn’t during or after the first time he needed to attend a residential school. It wasn’t during the many medication trials or many visits to specialists and “experts”. It was after a neurologist appointment with the renowned Dr. Arnold Gold at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Way uptown in Manhattan when Thomas was 12 years old. It was Dr. Gold who observed Thomas with an eagle eye. Examined him more thoroughly than he’d ever been examined by any neurologist. And picked apart and analyzed MRI results and psychiatric reports. It was Dr. Gold who revealed that our Thomas had “Static encephalopathy.” Which in layman’s terms means brain damage that will not get any better nor will it get worse. The damage either happened in utero or during delivery; we’ll never know, and that’s ok.

12 years it took to get a definitive answer. We had partial explanations for Thomas’ behavior but never before had anyone put all the pieces together and placed the answer before us wrapped up with a bow like a gift…but not a gift.

Yesterdmy 22 year old adult son came over for dinner. He was pleasant, easy going and very talkative. I enjoyed dinner with him. Things are what they are. And God gave us this child to raise up and we did the very best we knew how. We were fortunate that God placed people in our lives at strategic places in time. There are no coincidences and it didn’t just so happen that helpful people showed up when they did. God has His fingerprints all over him.

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