What special needs kids really need

A recent study shows that a kid with a disability is not a drain on society, as some seem to think. Their “special needs” do not make them “needy.” In fact, they improve the lives of all around them. I wish I had understood this as a child. If I had, I might not have struggled with depression and contemplated suicide. If your child is “different,” if your child struggles to fit in, if your child needs more help than their peers, I want to tell them something:

Hey you, with the smile on your face,

I know that smile. I smiled it for many years. I smiled it when my heart broke. I smiled it when I had no will to live. I smiled it when no one loved me. I smiled it when things would never get better. I smiled it because no one would ever understand. I smiled it because no one wants to hear my sob story.

I see you there, pretending like it doesn’t bother you to be left out. Again. I see those tears you’re swallowing back. I see you, insisting you’d rather play by yourself. You don’t need anyone. Well, you don’t want to need anyone.

It kills you to ask for help. You just wish you could do it yourself, like everyone else. How embarrassing, to have a classmate tie your shoes, button your coat, zip up your pants. How humiliating. Surely you’re nothing but a drag to everyone around you.

I know, it really sucks. Really sucks.

And you are allowed to feel sad about it. You need to feel angry. Your feelings are important; don’t ever let anyone tell you they aren’t.

And even in the middle of all those feelings, you are a valuable asset to your family, your friends, your town… simply because you are. I don’t mean that in the everyone’s-a-unique-snowflake way. I mean you really are a special gift to humanity. Your existence makes our lives better.

Your need for help, your unique view of life, your rage and your small victories and your pain are irreplaceable gifts to the rest of us.

You need to know, this world would be a darker place without you. Your life changes us for the better. Even in your darkest moments, you give us courage.

So don’t be afraid in the darkness. Don’t despair when the loneliness feels like too much. Don’t believe the lie that you don’t matter… indeed, that you are a burden. Hate your differences for a time, if you need to. Most of us do. But know that as you smile your smile and wonder who could possibly understand… I do. You are not alone in your loneliness.

Feel the pain, but know that it really is darkest before the dawn. The sun will rise one day and you’ll think, “That was awful. I’m so glad I don’t feel that way anymore.”

But until that sunrise, you will be a great help to everyone you know. They may not realize it yet, but one day, if they grow up at all, they’ll be able to see how you made their lives better.

So keep your chin up. You’re more than your “needs,” and they are certainly not what makes you special.

You are a gift, especially when you’re forced to rely on others.

With love from your beautiful future,
Someone Who Smiles Back

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