Having a child with special needs, whether it's autism, ADHD/ADD, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, or any of the other myriad of extraordinary variations from the norm, is becoming surprisingly... the new normal. It seems that nearly every family I meet is facing some set of challenges that veer from the average expectations of parents. I am impressed to see so many people employing their flexibility, rolling with the changes, and rising to the occasion with exceptional parenting.
I was talking with my friend whose young son is dealing with serious heart issues, and she told me that she had been raised in an area in New Jersey built on top of a dump. She was sure his heart issues, as well as her cancer early in life, had to do with toxic chemicals floating around in her community. I, too, have been exposed to my fair share of toxic chemicals, growing up on an island that had formerly been a dump for the U.S. Army (napalm, leaking barrels of toxic waste remain on Rumsey Island in Maryland). Most of the population seems to have been touched by new chemicals, new DNA, or circumstances that contribute to the challenges of our children. One of the wonderful qualities possessed by human beings, however, is the ability to adapt and thrive.
Lifting my spirit and opening my eyes for a view not only of my child's challenges, but also her gifts, are the many films that focus on the unusual beauty that can come from having extraordinary people close-by. Here is my list of favorites. Please contribute more to the list in the comment section, if you have some favorites of your own.
1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
2. My Left Foot
3. The King's Speech
5. The Miracle Worker
7. What's Eating Gilbert Grape
8. Forrest Gump
9. I am Sam
11. The Elephant Man
14. See No Evil, Hear No Evil
15. Ice Castles
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