Special Needs and the Cincinnati Gorilla Family 

I’ve recently realized that almost all the people whose friendships I treasure have children with special needs.  Whether it’s adoptive special needs, ADHD, cancer, Down syndrome, autism or whatever else. 

It took the incident of the child sneaking into Harambe’s enclosure for me to piece together why I gravitate toward people who have children with special needs. You see, they’re silent on this issue. 

Here’s why:

  • They know what it’s like to be under a public microscope. Whether it’s because of their children’s behavior or appearance or both, they’ve had people jump to conclusions about them based on scant information, so they’re slow to do that to others. 
  • They know what it’s like to get heart sinking news. Whether it’s a diagnosis, an accident, or what, they’ve been in that terrified space, and therefore have compassion for the family whose terrifying moment has taken over the news. 
  • Those whose kids are mobile have probably been uncomfortably close to that moment more than once. When you know that it could just as easily have been your child who discovered the weakness in the system, you don’t hurry speak against the person it did happen to. 
  • We know that human lives trump animal lives. Period. It’s not that we lack compassion for endangered species or the environment, but many of us have feared losing a child, and some have lost a child. When you have faced down the death of a child, you get perspective. 

I will stick with my special needs clan.  I don’t have time for armchair quarterbacking the parenting of others, it’s all I can do to manage my own family most days. I’d probably just get bucked off a sanctimonious high horse anyway. 


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