My entire childhood all I ever heard from adults was to “be your own man”. I was quoted brilliant words of inspiration by the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, such as:
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” (Henry David Thoreau)
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Or better yet, in the immortal words of Mothers everywhere, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?”
If so much time and attention is spent telling children all over the world to be their own person why do we contradict ourselves when it comes to children with special needs? Is it for us, or is it for them? It is most definitely for us and it is unfair. The world needs people who challenge society’s norms. It wasn’t too long ago that people thought the world was flat or that the Earth was the center of the universe. All of these concepts were challenged by one person who could think bigger than everyone else around them. That one person that has:
- The ability to think beyond the scope of others; and
- The ability to handle the pressure and controversy their ideas evoke in others.
Well there it is. Many children with special needs have strengths beyond our wildest dreams and our able to see the bigger picture. Unfortunately, most children with special needs are not able to handle the pressure and controversy their ideas evoke in others. People are scared by what they don’t understand! Take a minute to watch the following Autism awareness commercial and you will see what I mean:
That was one of the best awareness commercials I have ever seen and I need to thank @autismfather for posting it. What it taught me is we need to practice what we preach. If children with special needs can’t stand up for themselves then we need to stand up for them. If not, we might miss out on the next Mona Lisa, Empire State Building, alternative energy or worse yet a cure for cancer. Who knows where life will take us but I for one like the idea that there are people out there creating “whales” and I would like to foster that independence not crush it.