I’m just going to put this out there: all children are special. There is no such thing as a special needs child.
Think about it for a second with an impartial mind. All children are special; they all have needs. Some may need more, or less, or different things. And every need of every child is valid and deserves to be fulfilled without excluding or singling out a single one of them.
My heart breaks at the fact that the services for Autistic and other neurodivergent children are either sorely lacking or impossible to access, especially after the age of five. My husband and I have four children, two sons (15 and 11) and two daughters (13 and 5). My sons and youngest daughter are Autistic, with co-neurodivergencies. I don’t mind it too much, or bother to ask G-d why. I find asking why rarely gives me answers anyway, so I don’t waste the time.
It took many nights of praying, begging, and pleading to get them the assistance they have now. I truly worry as my 15-year-old gets older and the services available in the Jewish community become scarcer. My 11-year-old son will start to be mainstreamed into his yeshiva in September for two hours for Hebrew Studies. At the same time, I have to start looking for a different program for him because either this year or the next he will be too old for the class he is in currently. I lay awake nights wondering about my youngest daughter: is she going to ask me about trees and turkeys this year, because she’s in a specialized public school class? And next year, will she be okay in a Bais Yaakov with a full-time para? Will they even remember to keep their promise to allow her to have her para with her?
It’s not that I don’t see the needs my children have in comparison to those of other children – to the contrary, I am overly aware. But the needs aren’t special, they’re just different. A neurotypical child may need a tutor, a neurodivergent child might need a para or shadow, and a child who is other-abled might need therapists to be at their side every moment. But that’s all it is – a need. And I am certain we all agree children should get what they need, no matter what, right?
I think of the parents who have their hands far fuller than mine, who have children who use non-verbal communication (or no language at all). Children who need assistance with all their daily living tasks, to move, or to ensure they don’t harm themselves.
I think, and I advocate. I prefer the word “fight,” because advocate is just a fancy term for fighting, in my opinion. My weapons of choice are words and statements that the government and other agencies understand. Yes, I do it primarily for my children, but, please Gd, for other children too.
For those who don’t know the right words to say, or who are too overwhelmed with the day-to-day running of the home and keeping their precious children as best they can or for those parents who have no clue where to start – I fight for you, too.
In the world I live in, children are special and their needs just come along for the ride.