I watched Sandy Hook on the news last year and the tornado-torn Plaza Towers news reports and tried to imagine my child in the middle of such chaos. People with disabilities were among the hardest hit in disaster areas of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Dani Gillman was a single mom in Metro Detroit with an autistic daughter, Brodie, who ran a popular blog detailing her daughter's challenges and successes as a way to help other parents of autistic children.
You will learn to be a fighter. You will find strength you never realized you had and overcome your fear of confrontation. You do this because not doing this is not an option. That baby girl needs you to be this way. And you're not about to let that girl down.
Using more neutral terminology to describe a person with intellectual disability, when they need to be described at all, is just one more way to respect them. Not the only way, of course; just one. An easy one.
I know there's some really bad stuff that goes along with having a child with autism. But I'm also aware that there's an abundance of gratitude, support, grace, hope, happiness, acceptance and love in our life thanks, in part, to autism.
Being the mother of a special needs child has given me a unique perspective. I have the ability to celebrate the simple moments of parenting, but it has also made fluid my own definition of what I perceive successful parenting to be.
The best piece of advice I ever got about raising a child with special needs was to look at how he's doing, not at his medical records or the X-rays of his brain with all the grayish-white blobs where the damage occurred.
I'm not saying my life or child's should become someone else's teaching moment. I'm just saying, the same perspective that we supposedly gain by virtue of having an autistic child, we somehow selectively forget when given the opportunity to apply it to our NT parent friends.
As I turn the corner in our neighborhood, I catch sight of my pink and purple Rainbow Loom bracelet against the steering wheel; it is one of the first Zoe made. It stays on my right hand as a reminder not to underestimate my girl, and all she has taught us along the way.
I feel her sigh as she lays against me. Her body now almost as long as mine, laying now like she did so often as an infant, her head against my breast, her long curls masking her face. This first daughter of mine, I would do anything for -- this is real, this is us, this is love.