It is no secret how challenging having a child with special needs can be. Everyday is a new adventure; every inch is a milestone; the daily victories my son achieves truly give reason to rejoice.
My son Brandon was born with a congenital birth defect. He is microcephalic with attention deficit disorder (ADD). Yet his progress he has made as a mainstreamed public school student is remarkable!
It was 1989 when he entered first grade. I met with his teacher early in the school year. She was and still is a lovely lady. Her name is Mrs. Bridget Larry. She has two children of her own and has taught elementary school for nearly a quarter century. She is a warm, friendly woman who cares about each child who enters her classroom. Her teaching style is open, nurturing and positive. Everything about her self and her classroom was busy, colorful, and full of new wonder and things to learn.
Like all proud parents, when it came time for my son and I to attend open house, I attended, met new people and saw all of the hard work my son and his classmates had done to impress us.
The one exercise that was most memorable for me was the paper plate faces taped to the chalkboard at the head of the classroom. Mrs. Larry had instructed the students to make a drawing of themselves out of a simple white paper plate, using colored markers and construction paper. Brandon’s school is located in Minneapolis, where there is quite a cross-section of people; all races, creeds, and colors. So as I glanced about the room and took a panoramic view, I giggled right out loud! There were some black plates, brown plates, yellow plates, and some white plates. All of them having eyes, ears, and mouths.
There were many different hairstyles. A little red-haired girl asked me if I knew which face was hers, and sure enough I found it. She’d given herself a giant, 10×13 hairdo made of bright-red construction paper. It wasn’t difficult to pick her out among her classmates.
The one plate that was most memorable and truly melted my heart was the one I knew in an instant. It was my son’s plate. It wasn’t that it was so lifelike, nor because it was the cutest; not even because it was the best. My son’s plate was painted nothing but bright blue. A great big blue dot! No eyes ¼ no ears ¼ no mouth ¼ no hair. Just a beautiful shade of robin egg blue. Tears welled-up in my eyes as I realized that this was his interpretation of himself. His eyes are the exact color—a beautiful shade of robin egg blue. Only a mother would see the reflection of such a truly special child—her own child—in a plate like this.
Mrs. Larry had placed his plate up there with the rest of them. I’m sure most parents hardly noticed, and some, either out of ignorance or lack of understanding; probably even pointed and laughed. But I noticed. And I was charmed beyond measure. Each and every child in the class was given the opportunity to express their creative abilities in some way. Each and every one is to be appreciated to enhance their uniqueness and their human dignity.
Suddenly I felt lucky. I attained the ability to see beauty where others could not. So who is the disadvantaged one? Brandon sees beauty in himself and in life. He is happy and healthy. Simple pleasures are the best.
I found great pleasure in such a simple project the children had done. Mrs. Larry and her students taught me a lot at that Open House. Everyone has a special spot on this earth, and even more important is the special place they have in your heart. So the next time you take your little dear ones out for lunch this holiday season, may I suggest you try the Blue Plate Special.