When Are Special Needs Special Enough?

Little Person dances on the edge of that whole special needs thing. Her tantrums are like a brilliant fireworks display – loud and blazing out of nowhere, and disappeared in a flash. Absolutely 100% heartfelt, and when she’s upset like that, touching her only makes the whole thing worse. So I stand and watch for the signs that are her stiffened body uncurling itself. They don’t happen too often – especially now that I know many of the triggers, but when they do, it’s exhausting.

I read other people’s accounts of their children’s special needs, and I remember other children I have worked with in the past. Children with ADHD, or from abusive backgrounds, or emotionally traumatised. And I think, well, she’s not as bad as all that. She looks normal. I can take her to the shop and most of the time, we manage alright. Better than alright. She knows the rules for going shopping, and is extraordinarily good at following them. Who complains that their child is a bit weird because they do what they are told?

But here’s the thing. I know there is something different in Little Person’s obedience. I know that I run the instructions that I give her through a “Little Person Filter” in my head. No exaggeration, no metaphor, not too much information. Don’t tell her the why until she’s doing it. Don’t tell her that this is what we’re definitely going to do, unless you know that is what we are definitely going to do. If you forget something, add it at the end, because you can’t add it in the middle. So we only do alright because I follow her rules, really.

But it is exhausting, this making sure that we understand each other. This trying to work out what she wants. I should be able to ask and understand the answer. I’m her mother. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I look at her and say “I don’t understand” and she shrugs her shoulders and walks away. Sometimes I say “I don’t understand” and she melts under the table, shouting and I stand, listening. Until there is a word that I can understand, and I guess. And she climbs out from her frustration, and life continues as normal.

So Little Person dances on the edge of special needs, and I dance with her. Sometimes there is a joy in the difference. I love that she doesn’t subscribe to the stereotypes, that she loves to be with me, the way she sings her way through life, her absolute determination to do the thing she sets her mind to. Sometimes it is heartache. Sometimes I watch her and think, she is always going to be special to me. Just special, not special needs. But then I think, if I can get her some help, some extra support, so she can learn to understand that life has exceptions to the rules, and all the other things she should know but doesn’t, she will fit in and achieve so much more.

And then I remember, I don’t fit in either.


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