Guest Editorial: The Real Heroes

There’s been a lot of hype recently about superheroes. The blockbuster movie, “Black Panther,” parades them at break neck- speed, while the more sedate Oscar nominees allow us glimpses of the chosen few as they parade slowly along the red carpet, perfectly coiffured and donning designer labels.

Dr. Barclay-Smith

I was reminded of this the other day when one of my moms dropped off her two sons at the Barclay School.  The boys both skipped by me, squeaky clean and smiling, clutching lunches that would put Martha Stewart to shame.  Yet as I approached the car, the mom began apologizing to me for still being in her dressing gown and slippers. While this scene is far removed from the Hollywood glitz and glamor, this mom, for my money, is truly worthy of superhero status.

The needs of the special needs child impact the whole family, but based on my thirty odd years of experience with this population, it is often the mom who selflessly rises, again and again, to meet the challenge.

Just getting an initial diagnosis for the child can prove a mind-numbing and humiliating process. Shuffled from doctor to doctor, parents need dogged determination and thick skin. Too often they leave those meetings feeling unheard, or worse, dismissed as overprotective or hysterical.

The same mom, journaling to help herself cope, recalls a doctor’s visit:

“The last seven years had become a blur of diagnoses, the physicians and their surroundings slowly melting into one…On and on Mr. Clinician repeats verbatim what she’d heard in at least a dozen clinics prior…Nothing was ever as cut and dried as The Powers that Be made it seem.  They bore none of the responsibility for this child to be cared for – the routines to be set, appointments to be kept, meds to be dispensed. All of the advice to make her days easier…And she realized what she had known all along.  As a special needs mom, her only easy day was yesterday.”

I am constantly in awe of the courage and fortitude of our special needs parents, who can’t summon light savers or war rhinos to come to their rescue.  But what they do have is the fierce love for their child, which, somehow, gives them the superhuman strength to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.