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Jewish Journal

Life Away from Special Needs Land

by Michelle K. Wolf

March 27, 2012 | 12:04 am

I spent the last few days on the east coast, hanging out with my daughter who is a college student at NYU and watching her perform in an off-off Broadway production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in which she plays the role of Caliban the slave/monster. Both of the flights back and forth involved plane changes, and many hours of quiet time along, both on the ground and in the air.

After a lot of big events in my professional life, I purposely didn’t bring a laptop from work, and instead, used the time to catch up on reading on my Kindle, reading the NY Times and napping as much as possible. It was both liberating and odd to feel so removed from what I call the “Special Needs Land” of aides, therapists, and people staring at a kid who uses a walker, speaks oddly, and is given to whining and temper tantrums. I felt so anonymous, just another short, middle-aged lady who doesn’t get much of a second glance.

And then of course, I couldn’t help but notice the adult with Down syndrome on the second leg of a flight, the child with autism flapping in Washington Square Park, and the young man with a beard in a wheelchair in the airport terminal. I felt the desire to connect with all of them, but without my son with CP at my side, the impulse seemed out of place, and might be seen as more of an imposition than friendship.

I enjoyed my time “off” with my daughter and other east coast relatives, taking in the signs of an early spring in New York City, meandering along the High Line elevated park on Shabbat and eating delicious but overpriced Indian and Italian food. And I kept my eyes focused on the many stairs in Manhattan, not even looking around for the disabled signs that would lead to ramps or elevators, as I’ve learned to do over the years.

Today, I’ve re-joined the “Land of Special Needs”, talking to Danny’s aide at school about upcoming activities for Cesar Chavez Day, making an appointment with his speech therapist and given him a bath. It feels good to be back.

 

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