Through a series of small events recently, I have felt The Universe tapping me on the shoulder, asking me to raise a few questions about the ways we “help” our autistic and other special needs children. I’m in support of any intervention that benefits the child and that the child wants to receive. But I’ve realised it’s easy to think we are doing something in their best interests when, in fact, it may not be.
SPECIAL NEEDS, SPECIAL GIFTS
Being a person of faith, I am certain that each person’s mind and body is designed to best serve their soul’s purpose. I believe that we are individually shaped in a way that helps us to learn what we’re here to learn and to contribute what we’re here to contribute.
To someone whose child has a condition that causes them suffering of some sort, for me to say there is divine purpose to it may seem insensitive – I’m not the one watching my child struggle or dealing with the unrelenting challenges of caring for them. As a teacher, meeting the special needs in my class required hours of extra work and added a further layer of stress & exhaustion, so I get it to some extent.
But, through our struggles – the special needs students’, their families’, their classmates’ and my own – I could see that these children’s differences were more special gifts than they were special needs.
Firstly, many of them generated a lot of compassion and caring from their classmates who, on the whole, were quick to accommodate and assist them. In this way, there is no doubt that the special needs children facilitated an expansion of Love in the world, just by being themselves.
I noticed that many children with special needs had a special ability also. The dyslexic children I worked with were often very articulate or had vivid imaginations. Some of the children who struggled socially had extraordinary logic or mathematical computation skills. I recently heard Martha Beck, whose son has down syndrome, speak of his tremendous capacity for presence and empathy.
These children also offered a different way of viewing the world. This was particularly noticeable in the children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Their brains not filtering and processing their experiences in the same ways as most of ours do, they brought new perspective to things and noticed things I didn’t. If I were to line up all of my students, like a row of crystals or prisms hanging in the window of a new-age shop, the autistic children would be those that are a different shape to most. The reflections they create would stand out for their uniqueness but all the children would be reflecting the same source of light. If we take the time to look, we will see what they have to show us.
This week, I shared a BBC video on my Facebook page in which TV presenter Chris Packham talks about both how he has struggled with and benefited from his autistic characteristics. Given the opportunity to be cured, he says he would decline.
“We need to understand autistic people better, not try to change who they are”. – Chris Packham.
HELPING, NOT CHANGING OUR CHILDREN
In a conversation with a friend recently, she told me about some research she had heard of. Scans were taken of the brains of people with ASD. They then received some kind of therapy which changed their brains so that, in follow-up scans, their brains looked “normal” or closer to normal after treatment than they did initially. Some of these people had their ASD diagnosis removed as a result. I was intrigued that this was even possible and, at first thought, this seems like a great result. But I wondered wheather, in losing their autism, these people would also lose the gift of it and, maybe, a portal to their purpose? Did having “normal” brains make the autistic people feel better or did it make others feel better about them?
Perhaps The Universe will now adjust to find other ways to help these people live their purpose and, for a person able to give their consent to treatment I don’t object. But it made me think about the way we approach special needs in general. It’s great to accommodate people, teach and assist them to function more easily in our world. But there’s a line which can be crossed. The goal is not to make them fit into our world – spiritually, they already fit.
For all of our children, special needs or not, our ultimate goal is to empower them be their truest, most joyful selves. For any person, receiving the help we need feels good but, when we sense that we are being moulded & shaped to suit others, the message we get is that we are not good enough as we are and that we should change. Perhaps the placement of that line where supportive help becomes being changed is different for each person and we need to be sensitive to that.
For most of my teaching career, I had at least one child with ASD in my class. What I noticed was the range of experiences that these children had. Some were more happy, getting on as best as they could. Others were anxious and each day was a struggle. I noticed some pattern in what I observed. Those whose parents accepted their child as they were and put the time into accommodating and supporting their children were generally the happier ones. Those whose parents resisted their child’s condition, focussing more on making them as “normal as possible” were generally the ones who struggled more. The quality of our attitudes towards our special needs children impacts their experience, both energetically and behaviourally.
SUMMARY – EMPOWERING EVERYONE
For many years now, in educational and medical circles, the question of why there has been a steady increase in the incidence of certain special needs has been asked. As expected, there is more professional awareness & knowledge of these conditions, making diagnosis easier. For some, this is a good thing, resulting in children with special needs being identified and getting their needs met. Others argue that raised awareness has led to over-diagnosis (and, as a result, over-medication). Both of these perspectives may well have some truth to them.
But is it also because, at this time, our world needs more of what these children have to offer? Do we need these children’s different perspectives to help us expand the reach of Love in the world? If we understand our autistic and other special needs children more, I think we will learn things we need to know individually and for the positive development of humanity. It’s important to help make their journey through this world a little easier but we need to do so in ways that empower them to be who they are meant to be – for their happiness and for our own empowerment too.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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