The Special Olympics is a wonderful thing. In case you don't know me, you should know my son, Ryan, has high-functioning autism. Through the Special Olympics he has discovered his love for participating, competing, and learning new sports. It has provided fantastic opportunities that we could not have afforded on our budget with four kids. With this great organization he’s become a bowler, a snow skier, a swimmer, and, this summer, a golfer.
Yet sometimes when I take him to a public event like a swim meet or the recent Torch Run, I have found myself struggling with an emotion that until now I could not name. It brought a lump to my throat and raised an instinct of protection. Today, watching proudly as he enjoyed swimming in the State Swim Meet, I figured it out—it’s grief.
By participating in something so wonderful and yet so public, I am admitting my son is different. My son has a disability. He’s not like most of the other kids.
I’ve had this conversation with myself before—many times in fact. A long time ago I realized grief was a normal part of the roller coaster ride of having a child with autism. I think when you are raising a special needs child, life is a process of joy and grief; of encouraging them to reach for more and accepting limitations; of hoping for miracles and finding joy in the present reality.
|Ryan with his former babysitter and Miss Sturgis (SD), Lexi.|
I am so proud of my son. Ryan is an amazing boy. His autism does not define him but it is part of who he is. As a mom perhaps this is something I will always struggle with. For now, I will continue to help him find exciting opportunities like Special Olympics that make accommodations for him while pushing him to be his best. And perhaps when I feel that lump in my throat at one of these events and feel like shedding a few tears, I just will.