to live where we do. Where it doesn't matter what you look like, how many fingers you have, how fast, or even if you can run. We love to talk about how we have so much freedom in our country. But we take for granted some of the things we have freedom with. Look at your hands. How many full-length fingers do you have. Are they spaced normally? If not, thank God you live in America. Look at your feet. Can you walk without assistance? Can you walk at all? If not, thank God again. Because in some countries, if you answer no to these questions, you are discriminated against. Have you been to the store lately and seen a family, one of whom has Down's Syndrome? You don't see that in some countries. I'm not placing blame on them. 50 years ago here, you would rarely have seen someone with DS in public. Our country used to encourage institutionalizing them too. It was for the best. Families didn't know how to take care of them (so said the medical establishment). Thankfully, it's not like that now. But it hasn't always been that way.
Just in my little corner of the world, I have the best examples of just what you can do with a disability or impairment. I go to church with a friend whose fingers are similar to Sam's. He is a valued member of our congregation who leads singing and is always willing to help out. He has a great job for an internationally known manufacturer. I also go to church with a friend, who is extremely short. Not a "little person", but he's in his 20s and is about 4 foot fall. I don't know exactly his official diagnosis, but it doesn't matter. He's one of the most active members of our local volunteer fire department. He's sweet, funny, dedicated to the FD, and nothing stops him! Another friend from church is mentally handicapped. He's a few years older than me, we grew up together and he is the most amazing person. He always has kind words to say to everyone, is so outgoing and friendly, and you can't help but be cheered up when he speaks to you. He is truly a blessing to everyone who knows him. Our insurance agent has CP. One of my daughters works with a girl with DS. I could go on and on, and I'm sure you could name just as many in your corner of the world.
The point is, disabilities, impairments, special needs, whatever you call it and whatever the actual diagnosis is, doesn't mean a thing. We're learning not to put people in categories, and hopefully we can be a good example to other countries. My dream for Sam is that he winds up on a world famous soccer team (Olympics maybe??), and shows the world just how special he is. Not his needs, just him. My 88 year old grandma uses a walker to walk. She's not classified as special needs, she's just an old lady with a walker. (And no, you will not hear me say that to her face. She would smack me with that walker for calling her old. Even though she admits buying green bananas is stretching her optimism.) So why is she not special needs, but a kid who needs a walker is. We need to stop with the labeling. See people for who they are, the sum of who they are, and not focus on one part. My boys will not be called special needs or treated as such in our house. Not because I am ashamed of the term or anything about them. The exact opposite. Save the term for when it counts. When someone truly has a special need. Sam's fingers may not be typical. But I can guarantee he will be texting as fast as the other kids as soon as he can get his hands on a cell phone. Dave will have both boys out on the golf course as quick as he can, showing them how to play golf. (Apology to the boys now, I am sorry! But we've all been subjected to it, and like I just said, you don't get special treatment! You are entering the house of a golf addict.) Duncan may not be running up and down the soccer field with Sam, but he'll find plenty to do. My middle daughter is already plotting to get him to join the FFA so they can go on trips together. I don't know what his special hobby is, or if he has one. But it doesn't matter. The world will open to him, to explore and find what he does love doing. Because for both of them, they won't be held back from anything here. I can't wait for the day when it finally hits them just how normal/typical they really are.