For all that we talk about special needs children in our work and practice, the truth is that, as school psychologists, we generally see children in one environment: school. As such, other than what parents tell us as it relates to their child’s school life, it is rare to get a behind-the-scenes look at what daily life is like for parents raising children with special needs.
I recently read Priscilla Gilman’s book The Anti-Romantic Child, which centers around her first son, Benjamin (“Benj”), and the story of his development from birth to about age seven. Gilman calls the book a love letter to her son, which seems apt as she weaves a fair amount of poetry by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth throughout her tale. I can’t say more about Benj’s disability since the mystery behind it takes up the first quarter of the book and I don’t want to give anything away. But I will say Gilman’s day-to-day descriptions of raising her son and working with his schools to help him succeed were compelling, touching, and informative. I may write a more detailed review at a later date, but overall I recommend The Anti-Romantic Child.
Coincidentally, I recently saw a commercial that features a real mom and her special needs child. It’s an ad for the MassMutual Insurance company, but it is so touching. I did a little Googling, and the mom in the ad is an actress named Katherine Norland. Her son Timothy has cerebral palsy, and the commercial shows the two of them going through some of the routines of daily life. It’s only about a minute long, but a lot is conveyed in that short amount of time.
In their own words, both of these moms tell us what they have learned – and gained, perhaps unexpectedly – from raising a child with special needs. Gilman: “…Benjamin has put me in touch with my deepest values, my deepest sense of what’s important and meaningful.” And Norland: “Everything that you thought was important to you changes, in light of having a child that needs you every moment…I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”
Also, because many of you will want to know, the song in the ad is Flume by Bon Iver:
Update 11/2014: I recently discovered that the song is actually not Flume, but was commissioned by Mass Mutual specifically for the campaign. It may be Bon Iver singing, but I haven’t been able to find a reliable source on that. At any rate, enjoy Flume by Bon Iver: