Today at church we were asked to imagine what it would be like if everyone in our town reached their full potential. Imagine if every kid who was abonded by a father, or left alone by a mother... Imagine if people with disabilies were able to overcome ridecule and judgement... Imagine if every person who has ever been told they "can't" was able to overcome the obstacles, issues, and fears... Imagine if we all were able to reach everything we could be. Imagine.
When you are a parent of a child of special needs, you think about potential a lot. We are all told "you can't." We are told "you can't" over and over in our lives. We even tell ourselves we can't. When your child has special needs, "can't" is multiplied. Down Syndrome and "can't" are so synonymous in our society that 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome prenatally are aborted. "Can't" haunts me when I think about my son's future...
Have you ever heard of the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt? Rick Hoyt was injured at birth. He was strangled by the umbilical cord, and is thus paralyzed and unable to speak. Doctors told his parents he would be a vegetable. They told them they should institutionalize their son. They didn't.
When Rick was in high school, he told his dad Dick Hoyt (through a special computer he uses to write his thoughts) that he wanted to participate in a 5k benefit run. Dick agreed to push him in the race, even though he was out of shape and didn't know if he could make the distance. After the race, Rick told his dad that when they were running he didn't feel disabled. Dick knew then that he needed to provide his son with every possible opportunity to have that feeling. Here is a short video of their story:
Dick could have said, "son, I'm just not in good enough shape to do a 5k run." He could have said "we can't." He could have passed up that opportunity to give his son the feeling of not being disabled. But that is not the job of a parent who has a child with a disability. When your child has a disability your job is to be an enabler, because you just may be the only person who will believe in them. You may be the only person willing to go the distance with your child... to give them the opportunity of "Can."
I want to be that parent for Charlie. Down Syndrome has so many judgments, so many negative ideas about what it means. I confess that even having come to feel like I am lucky to have a child with Down Syndrome, I still have a lot of "cant's" for Charlie. I realised this Sunday that it really does not matter what Charlie can or can not do, or will or will not do now or in the future. My job is to say "Yes." "Yes, I will do that with you," "Yes, I think you can," Yes, I will help you with that," "Yes, I will teach you." It takes a lot of courage to be a person with a disability. It takes a lot of courage to parent a child with a disability. I know many people will doubt my son, but I need to have the courage to never doubt. Imagine.