Defining 'Normal' When You Have A Child With Special Needs

by Miriam Gwynne for The Mighty
Originally Published: 
special needs
Miriam Gwynne

“Is your other kid normal?”

How would you feel if someone asked you that?

This is a question that was posed to me. Before I let you know how I reacted, though, I want to start by looking at the dictionary definition of “normal.”

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the word “normal” means “conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected.”

In other words, this stranger was implying my son is not standard, usual, or what was expected. He does not fit society’s stereotypical idea of a 7-year-old. He is different. He is unique. To the stranger, he stood out as exceptional and out of the ordinary.

Do you know how proud that makes me of my son?

I love how he is different. I love that he does things in his own way, at his own pace, and that he has no concept of following the crowd. I delight in the ways he shows excitement by flapping, making high-pitched noises, and spinning. I smile when I watch him making his own delicacies like pizza with custard and yogurt with mashed potatoes. I find it refreshing how he would rather watch elevator doors open and close than spend money on toys. I dance around with him in glee watching yet another person use the hand dryers in the public restrooms.

He is funny. He is lovable. He is energetic. He gets bored clothes shopping and thinks he knows better than me at times. Those are all “normal” things that 7-year-old boys do!

He has brown hair, hazel eyes, and a love of technology. He is average height and weight for his age and even his shoe size is right on target!

So why would a stranger ask me if my other kid was normal?

She looked at my son and saw his differences. She looked at the fact he is unable to speak. She looked at his poor balance, his different mannerisms and vocalizations, his special needs, and she saw him as less, not conforming, and not typical. Her question implied I should be sad for having such a unique child. That maybe I should be sad I have to support him so much at 7 years old. That maybe I should be heartbroken that he is not yet potty trained and not speaking.

I refuse to judge this stranger. Why? Well, a part of me used to be there. My heart ached for the things my son could not do. My body ached pushing him around in a chair for all the years he could not walk. My ears would love to hear his voice.

But now, I see my son differently. I see him as beautiful. I see him as wonderful. He is normal. His sister is normal too.

Normal according to the dictionary is conforming to a standard. If you see the standard as “being human,” then there really is no such thing as not being normal. So do you want to know how I replied?

I simply smiled and said softly, “Yes. I am blessed with two amazing children. Thanks!”

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