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Meryl Hartstein Headshot

What Is Special?

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When I had my daughters years ago, call me naive, but I never worried a single second if they would be born with any developmental problems. Sure, I heard of people having children with Downs or Autism, but they were stories, never anyone I knew.

During my pregnancies, there weren't any thoughts or concerns of them being anything less than perfect. Each labor was exactly the same, four hours. Each of them weighed the same, 7lbs. 15oz.

One was blonde and one a redhead, five years apart.

Fast forward 25 years after my oldest daughter was born. She was having her own daughter. Only this time we worried about everything. There were so many more tests being done by the obstetrician. Every book you read would describe in detail what could be going wrong and what to look out for. As a first time grandparent, I had some concerns, but not really anything major. After all, I didn't worry and my kids came out fine.

Our sweet baby granddaughter was born. The most incredible little baby I had ever seen. She was tiny, about 5lbs 13oz. But this time things felt different. On the second day of her life, the nurse came in and told us she had a hearing loss. It was like a bucket of ice cold water was dumped on my head. This couldn't be. We had to take her again for another test in two weeks. Yes, she had a hearing loss.

As the months went on, she wasn't hitting her milestones. I thought she was just a late bloomer. But deep in my heart, I had sensed there was something different in this beautiful child.

After many doctors and tests, evaluations by physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists and program coordinators, we were told the baby had global delays. In other words, the baby wasn't developing on track.

Did our world crumble? No. Did we lose faith? No. We pulled up our sleeves and did whatever we needed to do without looking at this as a negative. This child is a ray of light. A divine gift. An ever changing surprise. At 4 1/2, she is vocalizing, her speech will be coming. Her physical strength and motor skills are increasing at rapid speed. Her receptive language is on target. Do we know what the future is? No way, but we don't care. We know she will be an amazing human being with gifts of love and kindness. She has every opportunity to keep on progressing.

I believe the fear that young mothers have today about having a baby with issues is genuine. I know the percentage rate of autism has practically doubled since my babies were born. But what I also know is that this world is much more accepting of people having differences. Having special needs is seen as "special" not weird or bad. Let this be just the beginning of a world of acceptance, allowing each and every one the time and grace it takes to blossom into the beautiful people they are meant to be.