Life has a way of taking us places we never thought we’d go, doesn’t it? If you had asked me 25 years ago where I would be now, my answer would be nowhere close to what has actually happened. No one dreams of having a special needs child. It’s something that just happens and then you realize what a blessing it truly is. I think I’m a better person because of Ryland. I think that’s true for everyone in the family. I have learned things by having Ry in my life. Regardless of what else is going on there are certain truths I have come to realize through Ry.
- Patience – Patience has been a great lesson. Nothing with Ry goes quickly aside from his feet. We have had to be patient when it comes to his therapies. We had to be patient when it came to his diagnosis. We have had to be patient when it comes to dealing with him in general. Everything he has learned has been repeated over and over and over again. Patience is what keeps me sane. This patience has spread to encompass the world as a whole. I find that I have much more patience in dealing with everyone I come in contact with.
- Empathy – I now understand acutely that others may be fighting battles I know nothing about. I look at people and their lives differently and try not to take things so much at face value. I look for what may be deeper. Life with Ry is a roller coaster – no doubt, but others have lives that are just as crazy if not crazier. I tend to understand that more than most people and don’t judge.
- To keep expectations in check – We all have expectations about what we want in life. Since Ry came along though I have learned to keep those expectations realistic. Shoot for the stars, yes, but keep in mind that we might only make it to the moon and that’s okay.
- Good can be found even in the worst of situations – As I said earlier, no one dreams of having a special needs child. When a parent first gets the news that something may not be normal with their child it is devastating. However, as time goes on you realize that there are many, many blessings that come along with having a special needs child. The joys are immense! That translates into other areas of life. Ry has shown me that no matter how bad something may seem, there is always some nugget of goodness that can be found. It may be small, but it is there. Always!
- To celebrate the simple things – There are so many challenges with raising a special needs child that it is a must that you celebrate the simple accomplishments. Like when Ry takes his shoes off and puts them by the door for tomorrow morning completely on his own. Or when he actually uses a PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) card to communicate what he wants. Or when he simply looks into my eyes and smiles. All these things and many more can be taken for granted by other parents, but when you have a special needs child you notice more of the smaller things that make life better. You realize that it’s small things that can make all the difference.
- Perspective – It’s easy to only see the world from one point of view. But when you have a special needs child you learn that there is more than one way to look at things. You have to be open to new thoughts and ideas. This is a big part of being able to put things – life – into perspective. Sometimes what may seem like a mountain, once you look at it from a different angle, is really nothing but a small bump on the horizon. It’s all about what perspective you choose to embrace.
Because of Ry, I have come to learn that the truly important things aren’t what things we have or how much money we have in the bank. It’s what is in our hearts that matters. It’s the simple things that make the biggest impact. It’s the littlest actions that can mean the most. I would hope that everyone would learn these lessons without having a special kiddo. The world would be a much better place.