"Special" cousins Christopher Garrison and Grace Goad at the 2006 Walker Family Reunion
With humble apologies to all the adults with disAbilities who detest the term "special needs," we parents and others often refer to our children with disAbilities as "special." Yes, I get why it's not acceptable to some to say that. Indulge me here? Because of two special children, I think our family is also special.
The recent Father's Day Weekend found us in South Carolina, joining our multitude of cousins -- four living generations of "Papa" Walker. Wayne is my oldest cousin and the first-born grandchild of Papa. As the daughter of the next to youngest sibling, I was the youngest grandchild. Both Wayne and I have children who are special needs. Chris, 19, has Down syndrome and Grace, my daughter, is 15 and has autism. But, this post is not so much about Chris and Grace as it is about their special cousins.
As we maneuvered our way around the reunion's picnic buffet and, afterwards, donned our life jackets before boarding See-Doo's, boats and the tubes attached to them, I watched how my younger adult cousins interacted with Chris, in particular. Dan and Ben, handsome young Citadel graduates, among others, were so kind to lend a hand, to give a high-five, to make sure an extra kindness was extended a young man who is their contemporary (or a little younger) in age but in many respects will lead a very different life than themselves. It made me -- the youngest grandchild, yet old enough, really, to be these young men's own mama -- feel all fuzzy inside and little bit watery in the eyes.
So, while some adults with disAbilities don't want to be singled out as "special," I'm choosing here to single out the youth of the Walker family who demonstrate what a special family looks like. Those who smile and take the time to show the love to their "special cousins" along with the rest. As a "special parent," I never, ever take such kindness for granted. Never.