We were very lucky this past weekend, when Hurricane Irene came a-knockin (literally). Trees down, power out and flooding all around us… but we were literally unscathed, thankfully. In the process of our over-preparation, thanks to the 24-hour news channels, I had much time to ponder the whole event and how it ties in to life dealing with special needs, in general. So here goes…
The Top 5 Things Irene Taught Me are:
1. Attitude is EVERYTHING! If you think life stinks, it does. If you believe your cup runneth over (with blessings or curses), it will! And if you see your child as disabled or different, he is! Change your attitude and you can change your world!
2. Yes, Irene hit the south shore of Long Island… dead on! Whether we call her a category 1 hurricane or a tropical storm–her winds were arguably between 40 to 80 mph at landfall here–it doesn’t change the nature of the storm that hit our beaches, knocked down trees and flooded my neighbor’s homes. It was Irene! Likewise, no label changes the nature of My Boys… who happen to have an extra 21st chromosome (aka. Down syndrome). They are who they are and will be, no matter what the 24-hour news service or Committee for Special Education calls them.
3. Life is rough! Or life is just life? Which is it going to be for you? Never mind futile, resistance is stressful! And, eventually, denial caves in on you. Just give in to what is. Acceptance is an easier pill to swallow and it’s a great first step to altering your reality for the better.
4. Seems some folks wanted to be able to say it was a big bad hurricane and they were either hit harder than everyone else OR they were luckier to get away unscathed from such an incredible monster. Either way says, “please consider me ‘special.'” The former represents the woe-is-me crowd and the latter the I-am-blessed crowd. Lots of people–mostly those without children with special needs–put us parents of children with special needs in one of these categories. I don’t want to be categorized and I certainly don’t want my kids to be categorized! So what are we looking for? Special… which separates our kids from the crowd? Or, to steal the tagline from NDSS, “more alike than different”… which fosters inclusion?
5. Think the worst–about the hurricane OR your child’s prognosis–and you’ll likely have a lousy experience… if not in reality, at least in your perception of it. Under prepare for anything in life and you will achieve or experience less than optimal results. It’s a twist on the “you get what you train for” phenomenon. Over prepare and you’re ready for almost anything and will achieve the most optimal outcomes possible, whatever comes your way.
Yes, into each life some rain must fall. As such, we should always hope for the best but plan for the worst.