Our special children

19 Mar


The pain of parents whose long awaited baby is born with some sort of genetic disability is one of the things that breaks my heart. I regularly see parents who bring their children to us in the hope that we will have the magic formula to make the nightmare go away. In South Africa, presently there are not an abundance of care for children experiencing special needs.

Often parents do not take their children for evaluation, or if they do they make use of non-specialists. Many parents cling to doing nothing because they hope that it is just a “phase” or that their child is a slow developer. Most preschools and even primary schools have very little knowledge about issues such as seemingly wilful disobedience, aggression, an inability to show social skills or an inability to communicate needs.

We see more and more children on the Autistic spectrum. The sad thing is that these children often come to us when they are already 5 or 6 years old. Of course there is always hope, but the younger you start, the greater the potential for success.

I recently read an Afrikaans poem about a father, sitting with his little Down’s syndrome boy on his lap. He prays to God and accepts that this child was given by God. However, the poem also heartbreakingly asks “Why?”.

Of course this is sad and I often wonder if parents ever get to that stage of acceptance and resignation that brings peace. Even more sad, is the other side of the coin. The parent with an intelligent child who pushes this child to play high-level sport or do ballet or be an academic giant, when these children are still at the age where they should be playing and establishing positive relationships. Children equate their parents’ pushing them into all kinds of competitive situations,  to their parents’ conditional love –  even if this not at all what the parent intend.

I often have this deep abiding gratitude working with children on the Autism Spectrum. Like all children, they have immense potential, but the keys to unlock and develop that potential are mostly not your usual keys. Like all children though, these children need to have trust in their environment and in the people working with them. The immense satisfaction when we have a breakthrough creates a wonderful feeling of accomplishment,  that can last you a long time.

Every parent should have this deep abiding gratitude for their beautiful  children. Of course we need to have expectations, but our expectations should always be restrained by our love and gratitude.


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