When Hannah was 4 years old her teacher was asked the class the question "Does a horse ride you?" (I happened to be in the room because I was the teacher's aide three times a week). Hannah raised her hand and simply said "yes". Her teacher then proceeded to tell her that she was not correct and that horses do not ride people. Hannah, not being one to argue with her teacher, proceeded to argue and say that horses did ride people. I, of course, was surprised and had to bite my tongue and refrain from interrupting the teacher and reprimand her. Even when her teacher got somewhat cross with her, Hannah stood her ground and insisted that she was correct. She tried her best to explain why she believed that horses ride people and informed the class that when one gets on a horses back, the horse rides them around. Finally I understood what she was trying to say. In her mind, horses do ride people around because people sit on their backs and ride them so, therefore, horses ride people. Once we understood her, we apologized and informed her that she was correct. Her perspective was different from our own.
The same can be said for special needs children and their families. Everyone views the world differently. Some people look at Noah and see his limitations. We look at him and see how far he has progressed. For instance, people pity him because we had to thicken all of his liquids. We celebrate the fact that he no longer has a g-tube and can eat on his own. People are amazed at how much equipment we have to carry everywhere. We celebrate the fact that he is able to be out of the house doing fun things. People look at him in stores when he is being loud. We take joy in every sound he makes because for the longest time he made no sounds and we do not care in the least how loud he talks. People see the ventilator as something scary and intimidating. Our perspective is that it is a vital piece of lifesaving equipment and we are so grateful we have one because the alternative is unthinkable.
So, the next time you encounter one with special needs, please do not perceive them as weak or sad. Do not feel pity for them. Sure, they have limitations but so does everyone. Their life is no less important or happy.