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Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs,
Stories of Love and Understanding for Those Who Care for Children with Disabilities
Coming this fall in bookstores everywhere this September. A great big thank you to everyone who helped us along the way!
Here is one story from the book
The Miracle of Jay-Jay
Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age. - Jeanne Moreau
"He doesn't look like the other boys," Grandpa said as he viewed the blanketed bundle I held in my arms. He was right. James Ryan, whom we called Jay-Jay, with his skinny little legs, almost bald head, and tiny, slanted eyes, bore little resemblance to my other chubby babies with their full heads of hair. But I knew the comment went far beyond looks. Grandpa couldn't accept the fact that Jay-Jay had Down syndrome and had mental retardation.
On subsequent visits, Pa-Pa, the name the other children used for their grandpa, ignored Jay-Jay. He picked him up once at a family reunion when it seemed to be expected for a family picture. Other than that, he never touched him, and looked upon him with something between pity and displeasure.
Then, one day, a miracle began. We were once again at a family reunion, and Jay-Jay, being the outgoing little boy he was at three years old, walked over to his grandpa and crawled onto his lap. Pa-Pa was a little shocked, but what could he do in front of all these people? This was his grandson. How could they understand that he hardly knew Jay-Jay?
Jay-Jay took his grandpa's glasses out of his shirt pocket and placed them on his own face, upside-down, precariously perched on his short, pudgy nose. He looked at Pa-Pa and giggled, making Pa-Pa laugh, too. Soon, they were walking around the room, Jay-Jay leading Pa-Pa, a little smile on the older one's face.
Their next encounter came months later when Pa-Pa decided to visit. Jay-Jay played the clown, making his grandpa laugh, and pick him up and throw him into the air.
Pa-Pa turned to my husband and said, "Why, he's just like any other kid."
We had tried to tell him, but Pa-Pa's preconceived ideas and fears of the disabled had kept him out of his grandson's life. But Jay-Jay, being an effervescent little boy, would not let him remain in darkness. With his love and actions, he showed Pa-Pa and others that they were missing out on some of God's greatest blessings by not loving and caring for him.
After that day, a strong bond began to form. Pa-Pa found that Jay-Jay loved balloons and would have one waiting for him each time we came to visit--visits he now welcomed. Then he discovered that Jay-Jay was not only sweet, but ornery, and he loved pillow fights. So each visit would end up with pillows flying across the room. I never figured out which of the two enjoyed it most. Soon Pa-Pa began to telephone--supposedly to talk to my husband, who was now glowing in the new relationship between his father and son--but always insisting on speaking to his youngest grandson.
Although Jay-Jay has a severe speech articulation disorder, he can understand most of what is said to him. Yet he finds it difficult to form the words he wants to say, making communication difficult. Nevertheless, Pa-Pa always wanted to speak to him by phone, and Jay-Jay would laugh and talk in words that neither his dad nor I understood. Pa-Pa swore he understood every word.
The phone chats became a weekly ritual. Every Saturday morning, Jay-Jay knew it was the day to talk to Pa-Pa. Since it was long distance, they took turns calling. One week, Pa-Pa would call. The next week, all excited, Jay-Jay would make the call and talk until we made him hang up.
Through the years, Jay, as he is called today, and Pa-Pa continued those weekly phone calls, along with letters, cards, fishing trips, and frequent trips to Wal-Mart. They became "best buddies."
When Jay was nineteen, his beloved Pa-Pa died unexpectedly. One of the hardest days of my life was watching Jay stand at his Pa-Pa's graveside as he was presented the American flag that draped the casket. But one of the things I cherish most is knowing that Jay's unconditional love built a bridge to his grandfather's heart and changed both of their worlds forever.
Story Author Louise Tucker Jones
Louise Tucker Jones is a vibrant speaker and award-winning author of Extraordinary Kids (co-author, Cheri Fuller). Her son, Jay has participated in Special Olympics Art for most of his 31 years and has won numerous ribbons and trophies for his photography. Louise resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with her husband, Carl and son, Jay, the youngest of their four children. Contact Louise at LouiseTJ@cox.net or www.LouiseTuckerJones.com.
A virtual alphabet soup of physical and mental disabilities is prevalent in today's world. From ADHD to visual impairments, from autism to paralysis, 20 percent of the U.S. population has some form of special need. Multiply that number by the families, friends, teachers, caregivers, and others whose daily lives are intertwined with theirs and it becomes obvious that most of us are in some way touched by someone with a mental or physical disability.
An excellent gift book or parenting and support resource, topics include:
"Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs: Stories of Love and Understanding for Those Who Care for Children with Disabilities" is full of powerful testaments to the love and strength of families, the dedication and promise of teachers and caregivers, and the resiliency and hope.
Here is another story from the book
- Parents who are adjusting with the unexpected
- Families that work together to help their loved one meet everyday challenges
- Teens who struggle with their needs, as they deal with physical changes, relationship issues, and their desire for independence
- Empowering friendships and life transitions. Told with humor and honesty, these are stories that tug at the heartstrings. They are candid and personal and as unique and special as the person they celebrate.
What They Forgot to Mention
The strongest and sweetest song remains to be sung. - Walt Whitman
I remember the day of my son's diagnosis of autism as if it were yesterday. The tone of the doctor's voice, the silence in the room, the words "lifelong disability, no cure, I'm sorry" still sting when I allow myself to reflect on that day.
But I have paused on occasions too numerous to count and thought, Someone should've mentioned that this would be part of the package when my child was diagnosed with autism.
Someone forgot to mention that I would listen to my child's simple utterances or attempted approximations as if he was a world leader giving the speech of a lifetime. I could never have imagined the worth of a single word despite the fact that I may never hear it again.
Someone forgot to mention that when my son was finally potty-trained at age nine, there would be few people who could understand the significance of such an accomplishment, and even fewer with whom I could actually share it. Accomplishments of any size, their true worth known only to me, would bring quiet celebrations between my son and me.
Someone should've mentioned that autism is messy! Wallpaper's meant to be shredded, bathrooms are designed to be flooded, walls are bare in order to smear stuff on them, washable paint really isn't, and more food will actually be crushed and dropped than eaten.
I wish someone would've mentioned that autism is extremely expensive! Doctors, therapists, medications, supplements, conferences, and sensory equipment are only the tip of the iceberg. I could not have guessed that my child's disability would allow people to cross our path in life who otherwise would not have, and that such people would willingly respond to a child in need.
Someone should have mentioned that each time a child with autism initiates or engages in a reciprocal hug, that feeling that you had when you held him for the first time comes back time and time again.
And they forgot to mention the day my son was diagnosed with autism that the triumphs over this disability would far outweigh the tears, that laughter would eventually ease the sense of loss, and that sheer faith would allow me and millions of other parents to fall into bed exhausted each night, only to get up the next day eager to discover what else they forgot to mention.
Story author Sandy Sotzen
Sandy Sotzen holds a master's degree in education and has been a special-education teacher for twenty-one years. Sandy is the proud mom of two boys, ages fifteen and twelve, the youngest of which is identified with Autism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Authors
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen are co-creators of the national bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Independently, they are widely sought-after motivational speakers. They live in California.
Heather McNamara (Sylmar, CA) has been a freelance contributor to Chicken Soup and became editor-in-chief of Chicken Soup for the Soul Enterprises in 1996. She was one of the coauthors of Chicken Soup for the "Unsinkable Soul".
Karen Simmons (Sherwood Park, AB Canada) is an author and mother to six children, two with special needs. She is also the founder of Autism Today, award winning conference and resource center shining new light on autism and other special needs worldwide.
I know that you'll enjoy this once in a lifetime book. We have loved every minute of pulling all the fabulous heartwarming, touching and joyful stories together for your reading pleasure.
Media contact: Autism Today 1-866-9-AUTISM