Now I don't normally repost other people's work on my website but I felt that this one needed to be passed on. A woman named Amy Julie Becker wrote about her feelings after she found out her child had a disability. Feelings that I'm sure every parents in similar situations have felt as well. I must let you know that I did look over the article to see if there was a caveat about not re-posting the work and I did not see one, but just in case I will apologize in advance for sharing this wonderful article without the direct permission from the author.
Amy Julia Becker
Author, 'A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith,
Expectations and a Little Girl Named Penny'
WE DIDN'T RUN AWAY
My husband and I found out that our daughter Penny had Down syndrome
two hours after she was born, and we shared the same instinct. We wanted to run
away. Within minutes, I had the route planned out from the hospital room to my
grandparents' summer cottage, three hours north, at the end of a secluded dirt
road that would be abandoned in the wintertime. No matter that the cottage had
no insulation against the December cold. It represented a familiar and safe
place that would take me far away from everyone else, and I wanted to get there
as quickly as possible.
For years, the memory of that desire haunted me, until I finally realized
that every time I had envisioned our escape, I envisioned us as a new family of
three. In other words, I wanted, desperately, to run away from the doctors who
were predicting a life of difficulty and hardship, from the nurses who I
imagined whispering about our situation, and even from friends and family who, I
suspected, just wouldn't know what to say or how to think about us as anymore. I
didn't want to run away from Penny. I wanted to run away from everyone else.
And I wanted to run away from the future. I was scared of the labels that had
all of a sudden been added to our family. I was scared of therapy and
specialists and perhaps most of all, special education. I was scared that Penny
wouldn't learn, wouldn't make friends, that school would be a source of stress
rather than a community in which she could flourish.
We didn't run away. Looking back on it, there were some reasons to fear.
People still use words about kids with disabilities as jokes and slurs. In
Penny's short lifetime, that list includes everyone from high government
officials to TIME magazine to high school kids walking past me on the street.
And plenty of people still see Down syndrome as a source of suffering or assume
that Penny's life will be impoverished as a result of her extra chromosome.
But I've also found a host of people who want to see Penny succeed, and if
there is any place that she has been accepted and supported it has been at
It is six and a half years later, and we just moved to a new town. A few days
back, Penny and I visited her new school. She stuck out her hand to introduce
herself to the women who work in the front office. We noted the fresh green and
blue paint on the walls. And we met Penny's two teachers, one of whom has
training specifically to support students with special needs. If first grade is
anything like kindergarten, Penny will thrive. She will make friends and read
chapter books out loud and squirm her way through art class and yearn to grow
tall enough and strong enough to do the monkey bars all by herself.
Forty years ago, Penny might have been denied access to a free public
education. Forty years ago, we might have been advised to institutionalize her
upon birth. But in recent years, parents, teachers, and legislators have worked
to ensure a place for kids like Penny in our nation's classrooms. It isn't
always easy or pretty. Plenty of kids still suffer the injustice of unequal
resources, abusive classroom aides, the social ostracism that can come from
peers and teachers as a result of their disabilities. But the doors are open to
them, at least in legal terms. And countless families can attest to the value of
including kids with special needs in our classrooms, both for the kids
themselves and for their peers.
This morning, our whole family walked down our new street to wait for the
bus. We stood alongside four other kids from our neighborhood, and when the bus
finally arrived, Penny raced to board it, hand in hand with a third-grader who
volunteered to be her buddy.
Six years ago, I wanted to run away with my little girl bundled up in her
receiving blanket to keep her protected from the world of Individualized
Education Plans and reading assessments and behavioral modifications. Today,
with gratitude, I watched my little girl run away from me.