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Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado

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Don't Underestimate My Son.: Special Needs Parenting 101
By Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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           >> View all 7,357

A mother writes about her son who has significant special needs and the fight she is experiencing to give him a sense of normalcy.

My son is named Rowan Michael. He is now seven-and-a-half years old.

Doctors didn't think he'd live as long as he has. He is something of a medical miracle.

Rowan was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that's left him with paralyzed limbs (he can use his arms just fine; it's just his legs that are messed up), learning disabilities (he's in a class for students with special needs), and numerous hospitalizations/surgeries/doctor visits.

Life with Rowan isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination; however, we are willing to do anything--and everything--to give him a sense of normalcy in his life; his life is anything but.

For instance, whenever we go anywhere, there's Rowan sitting happily in his bright green wheelchair. People notice that right away instead of getting to know our son or seeing him first. Or they see his bright shocking-green crutches, his short stature (a lot of people with spina bifida are shorter than average), or his braced legs.

A lot of the time people stare or whisper to one another; we know they are talking about Rowan, and it irritates me to no end. Why can't they talk to him instead of about him? Are they that scared of him when all he is is a little boy? Or worse, are they afraid of "catching" his spina bifida, that they will end up "paralyzed" or in a wheelchair, too, just like him?

We let Rowan partake in anything his little heart desires. If he wants to go swimming with his friends, we let him (of course, there's someone to watch over him--namely his older brother Lorenzo--, in case he should run into any trouble). We let him go to the fair whenever it's in town, or we let him spend the night with his best friend, Tobias, who lives just a few houses down.

We let Rowan stay up past his appointed bedtime of 8:30 on weekends (often he will conk out by 11, sooner if he is really tired), and we let him play on the computer, go to MySpace (with supervision of course; there's a lot of bad people out there, just waiting to prey on unsuspecting children).

We let him do as he pleases--but only if he listens to us, follows the rules of the household, does his homework, or doesn't cause trouble for himself--or for others.

Just because he is disabled doesn't mean Rowan isn't capable. The fact of the matter is, he is. He is very smart, even in light of his learning difficulties, he loves school (most of the time), loves music (he wants to be a pop star when grown; his mentor is Usher), and he loves to have all the opportunity in the world to have fun.

He's a typical little boy.

People tend to underestimate Rowan because of his disabilities. This is why I am writing this down, to let you see that Rowan can do so much for himself (if he needs help, he'll ask; just don't assume he needs it or go along and try to help him; he will only end up getting angry at you). He is very independent; always has been, always will be. Treat him like the little boy he is; learn to look past his exterior shell; see the child I see inside of him.

Rowan is a child first, a child who happens to have physical disabilities. Treat him like any other child; don't notice his imperfections first before getting to know him. My child is a child with disabilities; my child is NOT the disability itself!

Please remember that. Thank you.

~Written by Carole, Rowan's mother.

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Reviewed by Ann Scarborough 11/1/2007
I look at a person's eyes first, after that, their personality. Rowan Michael seems to me to have a great personality. So he needs a lot of care, people who aren't as ill as he is need a lot of care.
This is a great story, Karen. Thank you.
Reviewed by Mary Lacey, Desertrat 11/1/2007
Sometimes people tend to look at a disability first, and the real person second. This is so unfortunate. It sounds like you have a loving, wonderful son. I was really touched by this. Excellent.
Reviewed by Randall Barfield 11/1/2007
Good write. It is amazing how creative we become when we have the need!! As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a... (I wouldn't do it, of course).
Reviewed by Charlie 11/1/2007
I have a neice with Spina Bifida. She's paralyzed from the waiste down. I'm constantly amazed by her fortitude. When she was a babe, she learned to climb up the stairs using her arms and her chin -- 13 stairs! Amazing. Hang in there Mom! Don't apologize. Remember, there will be many who's lives will be blessed just for knowing your son. --Charlie
Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner 11/1/2007

A Mama shouldn't apologize or have to defend her son. But when wronged, watch out, the claws come out! Excellent write of a Mama doing the best she can. Sounds like she's done alright. :) Well done.

(((HUGS))) and love, Karla.
Reviewed by Felix Perry 11/1/2007
A mother should never have to defend a child or hers but when they do get out of the way for their is no anger stronger than that of a mother bear when someone threatens the will being of her child

Reviewed by Jeanette Cooper 11/1/2007
Karen, this story written by a mother about her son is very inspirational. She says, "Life with Rowan isn't easy..." I can understand this statement which is sparked by the underlying dedication, hard work, pain, and sometimes storms of emotions she must experience as she nurtures her son. Great write!
Reviewed by Paul Berube 11/1/2007
Being disabled myself, I can really appreciate this. Well said. May God bless Rowan and your entire family and open people's eyes. Paul
Reviewed by Georg Mateos 11/1/2007
Dear Carole, sometimes we are supersensitive, taking in the wrong way people whispering, that could be of respect, or compassion, or just wondering how you are coping with your son's illness.
Some, we know they exist, will always have a bad word, but the most are the ones that will lift your spirit to fight another day.

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