Sam graduated from high school this weekend. It is weird for me to even type this, because truly, Sam did not graduate from high school. Sam will never “graduate” from high school in regards to having a high school education. In fact, our plans are for Sam to return to high school in the fall and attend the next two years.
We struggled with a couple things in regards to graduation. The first was, do we have a graduation open house for Sam? The second was, do we have Sam participate in the graduation service? You see, when you have a child (now young adult) with special needs, very few decisions are easy and straight forward. It seems we always have to think through everything. “What if this happens?” “What about that?” “What if he does this?” It is complex.
In regards to an open house, we knew people would attend in support of us, but we had no idea how Sam would behave. Generally, Sam really dislikes people coming up to him and trying to interact with him. Granted there are some people who he loves interacting with, but as a general rule, he does not like to be messed with, so we had visions of having an open house with Sam absolutely refusing to greet anyone. What if Sam is in a bad mood?
We did decide on the open house and we were amazed at how well Sam handled it all. He was amazing! Sam sat in a chair by the guest book and greeted EVERY single person who came. He shook their hand or gave them a hug. He even posed for a picture with every person. It was truly a great experience – a gift to our whole family!
The graduation ceremony went well also. There were a couple hitches for Sam, but all in all, it was a good experience. It was a blessing to see Sam walking into the gym with his peers. These are things we do not see very often – him being one with his peers. That to me was the emotional time – the band playing “Pomp and Circumstance”, the senior class walking in – with Sam being part of the class. My eyes filled with tears as I looked on in joy.
Having a child with special needs is hard, certainly much harder than I would have ever imagined. Sometimes I think the mental challenges are even more difficult than the physical ones (and we have had some physical challenges!). Planning for different scenarios, thinking about the “what do we do if Sam does this…”, looking at Sam with his peers and realizing he will never be like them – not even close, looking towards the future that is incredibly unclear, etc…
Having a child with special needs has also brought joy, more joy than I would have ever imagined. This past weekend we had some moments of that great joy, times when Sam acted like his peers.
I thank God for bringing Sam into our lives. He has been a tremendous blessing
I would encourage you that if you know a family with a child with special needs that you encourage them and help them any way you can. It is a tough road. Interact with the family, especially with the one with special needs. Be a listening ear. Call and see how things are going. Encourage, encourage, encourage. Celebrate the joys with them. Be persistent.
Who can you encourage today? What are you celebrating?