Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

August 1, 2013

Embracing the happy moments

Amanda Browning
Daily News

---- — Sending special needs children back to school is always both a joy and a terror.

Many parents worry about whether or not their child will be able to keep up with the schoolwork or if they will make friends. I worry about whether my child will be bullied because he’s different, if he will continue to learn or backpedal because of the change in routine, and how many times I will be called to the school during the first few weeks as he re-adjusts to the new schedule.

Last year, my autistic son started kindergarten. He has a mainstream homeroom teacher, but he was almost never in the classroom, and never unattended. He requires an escort at all times and it hasn’t escaped the notice of other students, though bullying has not yet become an issue. I used to walk him to class every day, until that became disruptive because he didn’t want me to leave.

Despite all the speedbumps on his educational journey, watching him blossom under the tutelage of the special education teachers was one of the most amazing feelings of my life. Every bad day was worth the few that would come along where my son was perfectly happy and excited over some achievement he’d made. Every moment of hardship is forgotten, if only for a while, when he reaches a new milestone. There is a pure, simple joy in watching my son learn something new. His excitement is untainted by the everyday worries of the world because there is no room for that on his wavelength and his happiness is contagious.

So many people never stop to think of how difficult even the simple things are for a child with special needs. How much they just want to fit in and play with the other kids. How much it hurts them when they can’t. But parents of those children see it. We suffer as we watch our beloved little ones struggle and fail to be “normal”.

If others, both children AND parents, took just a few moments to try to change their perspective, maybe it wouldn’t be so difficult for these kids to be different. With the growing level of diversity in this county, surely we could all be a little more tolerant of each other and celebrate our differences rather than ostracizing those who are not the same.

Hate and prejudice are taught. No one is born believing they are better than anyone else. If people took the time to get to know a child with special needs, they could see that there is more love and understanding in them than anyone might believe possible. My son loves everyone, with an utter completeness that doesn’t leave room for hate. He sees the world through autism-tinted lenses, but by striving to see things from his point of view, I have learned many valuable lessons.

I learned that life is far too short to focus on the negative things. My son’s reactions to most negative things are very short lived. He gives it a few moments of his time and then he is on to the next thing in which he finds joy. His simple view on life has taught me many things. Chiefly, the truth of the old cliché “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

I invite anyone reading this to stop for a moment and evaluate your life. Instead of disparaging others for their differences, take a second look and discover the unique qualities they offer the world. Could you benefit from letting go of the little things and negativity and just begin taking joy in life itself? It could be over at any given moment, so why not love the good things and forget the bad? I promise, it will make you happier and give you a chance to focus on the happy moments that make up a lifetime.

Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004