I'm sharing a wonderfully written blog by my niece, Lauren Hofmann. She presents a heartfelt, meaningful story about acceptance in the world of special individuals.
On July 3rd we took Sophia and Will to my Aunt Patti’s house for a swim. A few of my other cousins were there, as well as my second cousins, Bill and Susan (both in their 50s). Bill and Susan brought along their son, Michael (in his 20s) who has Down Syndrome as well as Autism. He is a large boy due primarily to his medications (likely about 300 pounds) with low speech. We do not see him often as he is unpredictable so Bill and Susan are not able to bring him to most family gatherings (he throws things and can become aggressive which is dangerous given his size and that he does not know his own strength). He is at the core a very sweet boy. I did talk to Soph and Will a little bit about not swimming too close to him, etc., but did not give them much detail about him beyond that. The entire day they were talking to him (which was good as it prompted his limited speech) and having a water fight back and forth with him between the hot tub and pool. Susan commented to me that she was so surprised that my children did not even bat an eyelash or give Michael a sideways glance when they arrived or during the course of the day. In fact, since that day they have asked me if their friend Mikey is going to come swimming again (which surprised me a little because he has a great arm without looking and got both of them square in the face with a pool toy at one point – they cried for a second from the shock but brushed it off I guess).
Anyway, I told Susan that I really think the reason they are so comfortable around individuals with special needs is that they have observed and interacted with Greg their entire lives. And he is such a sweet, careful and non-aggressive individual – someone you would never have to worry about for a second with kids – he serves as the perfect introduction for them into this world. I really feel like they are better, more accepting people for having Greg in their lives, and I think they pay attention to him in ways we do not even realize yet (he is randomly mentioned in our household quite a bit – e.g., Sophia recently mentioned him loving to blow out candles). If their first experience with a special needs individual had been with someone who hit another person, they might have a whole different outlook and approach. I know this is little consolation for all that your struggles over the years with Greg (as you beautifully detailed in your book and blog), but I thought I would pass it along anyway. We love Greg and really appreciate how he has embraced our growing families – I mean all these kids have to be a bit overwhelming for him at times!