We are grateful when our child with special needs is acknowledged

Our family had a great treat on Saturday when Savannah was able to attend a wedding with us. After attending so many functions as a family of four; it was awesome to finally attend something as a family five. What fun it was to get dressed. A very dear friend loaned Savannah a beautiful Punjabi (a traditional middle eastern garment) to wear. She spent days looking at it and feeling it so that she could become used to the texture and colours.

Savannah struggles with sensory processing difficulties, amongst other struggles. For many, many years we could not wear traditional clothing because the colours were too overwhelming for her. So overwhelming in fact that she would throw up after terrible bouts of gagging. This past weekend Savannah, Talisa, my mum and I wore traditional Indian clothing and I had a special time getting the girl’s hair and make-up done.

We took many photographs and created lovely memories that was special to share with my Facebook contacts on my personal page. Everyone enjoyed seeing us decked out and acknowledged how special it was that we have a photograph of us as a family of five. As I study the photo of my family looking back at me, there is something that I want you to know about families like us.

We are grateful when Savannah is acknowledged.

No, we do not want to be the centre of attention nor do we want her to be treated any differently. But her disability means that there are some things that she will never be able to participate in for varying reasons. Please don’t go off on the “positive thinking” thing. Some people are born really short and need a step-ladder to reach the top cupboards in their own homes (I know, I am this person), and all the positivity in the world doesn’t make them grow to reach the cupboard. So yes, same thing. Savannah’s disability means she just can’t do certain things. When she is acknowledged with kindness and compassion just for who she is; it builds up her self-esteem and makes the hard stuff a little more bearable for Michael and I.

Earlier this year at one of the weddings that Savannah briefly attended, the bride and her mum had a family member bring a bouquet of flowers to Savannah to hold. The bouquet was a smaller version of the brides’ bouquet. Savannah held it while she watched the bride walk down the aisle. With so many things for a bride and her mum to think off on such a big day, it was very touching that they thought of including Savannah in this way. Note: the bride never posted a single picture of this on any social media platform. It was just a special moment for her and Savannah and was not the brides’ opportunity to be “applauded for doing something nice for the disabled kid”.

At another wedding that Savannah could not attend because she was unwell; instead of throwing her bouquet, the bride gave it to me for Savannah. Yet again, at a different wedding, the bride also gave me her bouquet for Savannah paying tribute to Savannah in a moving speech. Then all the guests stood in prayer for Savannah. I wept.

At the wedding that we attended this past Saturday, the guests joined the bridal couple on stage for photographs. We would not have been able to get Savannah up on the stage and were contented to not have a photograph with the couple. But the bridal couple came down to where Savannah was seated and took a photo with her. That was very meaningful to Savannah that the bridal couple acknowledged her.

All these ladies displayed an unselfishness that is not seen too often today. To think of Savannah in these thoughtful ways when they have every right to be selfish is simply breathtaking. I recognise that we are incredibly blessed to have so many people of calibre in our lives. But too many of my friends with children with special needs do not have this support and insight from their own families and their places of worship. Some people even say it’s unfair that the child with the disability “steals” the attention on the day.

Families of children with special needs recognise that we are the “eye sore” of an event and we definitely do not want to “steal” the attention. Believe you me, it is no fun having people stare at your child or make patronising comments to you when they’ve had a couple of drinks and are suddenly less awkward to be near your child.  Or having to withstand the lovely ladies in their finery who stare condescendingly at you and at your child. No, thank you.  We do not want to “steal” the attention at all.

In society today, people without a disability wax lyrical about how hard everyday life is for them. A life they choose to live, built by their own hands. So it is astonishing that as a society we are not nearly as compassionate or caring to those who cannot live at the same pace that society sets. There is little point in buying a sticker or dressing up in costume to support a fundraiser for special needs; if when you have the opportunity to acknowledge the family in your midst with a person with special needs, you don’t do it. It is a testament to our humanity when we show that we care. It reminds families that there are good people in the world. It makes them brave and helps them to make beautiful memories with their children. The consequences of these actions have a far deeper impact than wearing a sticker ever will.

People with special needs and their families did not choose to be in need of support and care but we are. Our children did not choose to be dependent on their families forever but they are.  We want to rejoice and celebrate in the happy events of our families and our friends. When we make what is sometimes a mammoth effort to show up and to keep our bleeding hearts in check to celebrate someone else’s happiness; please simply acknowledge it; quietly and gently. You may forget the moment soon after the event has passed but we will remember it forever.


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