Being Different: Special Needs Awareness

I normally don’t notice the stares that come Samuel’s way when we are in public. And, if I do, I brush it off. Mostly, the reaction to my son is positive.

Dining in for lunch at a local restaurant recently, the waitress said she loves Samuel’s big expressive eyes. My heart was touched. After lunch, my husband, Ralph, took Samuel to the car as I paid the bill. Another waitress saw me and asked, “Where is your son?” I chuckled inside. My son is more popular than me. I explained he was in the car. She nodded, “I just love him.”

These are the comments I store up in my heart. These kind souls see past the diagnosis, past the tracheostomy, past a young boy in a stroller and instead see a full of joy boy whose smile lights up the room. They see a child and are endeared to him.

A Boy Brings Special Needs Awareness
Samuel Smiles Campaign

Then, there are times when I see a stare and not think anything of it. We recently enjoyed a meal at a fast food restaurant. Samuel was next to me in the stroller asking for cereal. Handing him his morsel, I looked up and noticed someone watching the exchange. I observed this but went back to enjoying my meal. Then, I noticed other patrons looking our way. All of a sudden, I felt the whole restaurant was watching us. Since our meal was completed, we left quickly.

Again, brushing this all aside, I closed the door to the establishment and let the sunshine warm my face. Ha, I thought to myself, it’s probably all in my head. Thankfully, my son was blissfully unaware.

Our next stop was at a big box store. Little did I know, this would be no ordinary visit. Completing our purchases, we all moved to the check out. Ralph went ahead and waited for me on a bench near the registers. I watched as the store clerk helped a new customer in front of me.

After my wait, the clerk processed my items. Approaching Ralph with our purchases, I noticed the look of concern on his face. He told me some kids were throwing pebbles at Samuel. I looked up to see two young boys, maybe six years and nine years old, hiding behind their mother. Ralph said the pebble missed the stroller by inches.

Special Needs Boy
Samuel in his stroller.

My mouth dropped. I grappled to contend with this turn of events. We decided it was best to leave. As we walked out, the boys stared at us. Loading our purchases in the van, I noticed the mother stopped as she was leaving. A conversation ensued, apologies were offered, the mother promised punishment, and with no one hurt, all was forgiven.

A question remained though. Why would the boys throw a pebble at Samuel? Did they see my son as different and respond in this way? Is that how children handle something they don’t understand? How can we bring awareness about disabilities to children? How can we teach them children with tracheostomies, feeding tubes, ventilators and other special needs are at the core still children.

Samuel Smiles
Samuel Surrounded by Love

In our case, our son is well loved, full of life and brings joy to the hearts of many. His life has great purpose. If those boys realized my son is a living miracle, would they have reacted like they did? This kind of awareness fosters kindness, understanding and compassion. Qualities we’d all like our children to emulate.

How can you help your children foster this kind of understanding?

~ Watch a Special Olympics program with your kids, commenting how inspiring the participant’s are to overcome their shortcomings and achieve success.

~ If you know of a special needs family, ask them if your kids can ask questions. Children ask me why my son needs a tracheostomy. I explain my his lungs are not as strong as theirs, so the trach helps my son breathe. The children accept the explanation easily.

~ Children love animals. I recently saw a video on Facebook showing a dog who was disabled. The owner made modified wheels so the dog could “walk” on his hind legs. This would be a good object lesson to share with a child. Or, watch the movie, Dophin Tale. This may help your children see a disability as an extraordinary ability.

What ways have you taught your children awareness? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I read each one.

Written By: Evelyn Mann

Author, WIP, A Miracle In My Living Room

Help your children see a disability as an extraordinary ability. Click To Tweet

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8 Thoughts on Being Different: Special Needs Awareness

  1. It would be awesomw idea if the state includes cartoon people with special needs and disabilities in television and books in the schools.

    everywhere only the prototype of the perfect shave child is used, that does not help at all.

  2. The best way to teach children about disabilities is teach them that it’s not ok to make fun of someone because they have a disability everyone is different and they don’t know what they go through at home.

  3. Great Post, Evelyn. I have to admit I often watch kiddos with special needs. Being a former special education teacher and having worked with special needs kids since I was in high school, I am drawn to watch them and the interaction with their parents. I really appreciate the parents and all that they do and I enjoy watching just like I enjoy watching interactions with other kids and their parents. I think they are precious moments and although I don’t mean to stare, it is hard not to watch the sweet little darlings. I am glad that you gave us a mom’s perspective to going out in public, it is something I will think about more. Sorry that your little guy and family had to experience this. I hope you have a wonderful week.

  4. I agree, it is hard not to notice and wonder what the story behind each special needs child is. I normally just try to make eye-contact and smile – hope it helps.

    • A smile always helps and can even open up a conversation. I enjoy sharing about my son’s miracle when asked. I’ve written about some amazing conversation’s I’ve had when Samuel touches someones heart. But, yes, keep smiling…that’s a great place to start.

  5. Great suggestions. I’m trying very hard to teach my kids that people who “look different” than them are still people like them, even if they have different abilities.

    • Great job, Hannah. It’s amazing how kids pick up on lessons parents work to instill in their kids. Raising caring, compassionate kids is the end result and so worth it. Keep up the good work.

      Blessings, Evelyn

  6. An excellent post Evelyn. I think it is just human nature to be afraid of anything that is different. It certainly is no excuse for bad behavior but that is the way life is. I have also encountered these problems in my life and j ust try to ignore them. If they cannot see the life and joy we have from these children then it is their loss.


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