Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A "Special Needs" Valentine's Day...

I don't mean to be a downer on the day of celebration, but I'm afraid this is one of those posts.  It's been a great day, a day not so out of the ordinary except that the kids are wearing clothes that might lean more toward reds and pinks than 'normal' and there was a party at school.  Our younger two girls and our older son all enjoyed the parties, and the little girls came home and looked at the little cards, separated out the candies, and had a fun time at "Daddy Love Lunch" with their dad today!

But we have 5 more kids... Five kids whose needs are more significant than some and who have a totally different kind of day on Valentine's Day.  It happens with other celebration days as well, but those generally have more educational or spiritual value than Valentine's Day, so there's some net worth in the difficulties they have to overcome.

For my 5 little ones with special needs that go to school today was an ordinary start to the day.  As painstaking as it was for ME to have to write out 58 valentine's cards that said "To My friend From (Aleksa, Emma, Welsey, James, or Micah-- and I did Lynae and Brianna's as well),"  The idea of having the kids participate in this activity would need to have been started weeks ago since none of the 5 can write a letter independently, much less entire names or words.  So I filled out the cards to friends and I put them all in their backpacks, ready for the day.

The kids were dressed a little more in the lines of pinks and reds than any ordinary day, and of course we woke with "Happy Valentine's Day!"... but otherwise the day was much like any other before school.

Our kids have great teachers that truly DO start weeks in advance at times in preparing things like crafts for the kids to do, and I'm sure that the kids enjoyed school both today and in the days leading up.  I'm sure they found it fun to pass out the little cards that I'd prepped for their day (presuming that the teachers had the students hand them out...).  And they were truly excited when they saw that they had that same bag/box in their backpack when we got home today.

Then we sit down at the table and the day goes on... And this is where the scrooge of Valentine's Day in me comes out, I suppose.  It's a time when I look at the things dumped out in front of each child.  I quickly pull the candy out of Micah and James' bags since it is either hard or gummy, neither of which they can eat.  Then I look on to Emma, Micah, and Aleksa's piles and notice the squished mini cupcakes with icing mushed in to a ziplock baggie.  No name for who it's from, not idea what's in it.  Those are the next to go.  I believe most parents in their class would cook a great sweet treat for the kids.  Others would likely try to poison them :).  We just won't go there.  Then we remove the pencils that have already become sticks to hit one another with, and the erasers that are quickly about to be mistaken for candy.

What Micah and James are left with is a pile of little folded papers with pictures on them and names scribbled on by hurried parents.  Aleksa and Emma still have a mountain of candy along with their papers.  Wesley's whole bounty is sitting there because he doesn't really care one way or another and I haven't needed to confiscate from him yet because of that.  If they had their way, I'm sure the girls would have eaten every piece of food in front of them (and the erasers, and the packaging) if I'd let them, but we really don't let the kids have much sugar.  Especially those that have attention and/or behavior issues...

So, I open one package of candy and spread it out among the kids that can have some.  The rest goes to the refrigerator drawer to be eaten by hungry visitors and otherwise to wait to be purged again around Easter.  The kids take one glance at the pile of cards and decide they're done.  They left the table and I realized that not only are the little cards pretty useless, but all of the candy and food that they brought home from school will most likely go to waste.  The idea of the holiday is wrapped around children that can eat without restrictions, that can read and recognize common characters and pictures, and who understand the idea of giving the cards to friends.  My 5 children with Down syndrome have no ability to do any of those things.

It's almost like giving a 2 year old an adult bicycle without training wheels for Christmas.  OOOOHHHH!! SO FUN!  Then they realize all they can do is look at it, and the perspective changes to uuuuuuhhhhh..... not that!!!!!!!!!

My more involved special needs kids aren't disappointed.  They don't realize that other kids can eat the candies, or can play with tiny toys, or that the little papers are supposed to be neat things from friends at school.  They enjoyed the momentary time of getting and giving, then they came home and saw it... and are done.  Their teachers made it fun

Yes, those that have the ability to eat the candy will eat a small amount over the next few days as appropriate.  But otherwise, the idea of a "School Valentine's Day" is lost on them... and it's back to being just another day...

Now the kids are having a blast with the windows open in the playroom, swinging and playing with music on and dancing around... this is what a Special Needs Valentine's Day should be :).  Regardless of whether it centers around hearts and candies and a naked baby armed with a bow and arrow... :)


  1. amen, so loved your post, i dont even know you and i want to give you a huge hug!! i totally uunderstand your point!! praying for you and your family, you all inspire me soo much, GOD BLESS!!oh , and HAPPY VALENTINES DAY , JUST BECAUSE... :)

  2. AMEN, i love your post and i totally back you on this, i dont even know you, (but i think we live in the same town)lol, but i want to give you a hugeee hug, you and your family inspire me... praying for you all and GOD BLESS!! and... HAPPY VALENTINES DAY TO ALL YOUR HEARTS... !!

  3. I'm very relieved, really, that in our county kids aren't allowed to bring candies or cookies for Valentine's Day, or birthdays, or anything else.

    Sounds like you have the process down to a science! You guys are amazing!! Happy Valentine's Day!!

  4. It's that kind of Valentine's Day for two of mine (2 with Down Syndrome) too...realizing that you have more than I do....but reading your post made me think of myself. It can be hard at times, can't it?

    Stephanie Lynch

  5. I am really tired of having to throw away all the candy and sweet treats my typical children bring home. I would love for them to come home with one or two but I have to intercept the candy because of the high cost of our dental bills (no insurance), their fragile teeth, and the trauma a trip to the dentist will cause them and our family (sleepless nights, etc.). Why can't a paper valentine be enough? I don't like being a scrooge~

  6. I understand exactly what you mean....my two with DS have no clue what is going on related to Valentine's Day and the SPECIAL NEEDS TEACHER sent them a laffy taffy bar (neither could possibly chew). It really blows my mind. These are some of the reasons I don't want them in a full inclusive class room.

  7. I love this. It's nice to know I'm not the only scrooge, and my kids don't even go to school. We have to strike the balance between the three. Thankfully my typically developing son doesn't like much candy, and knows to celebrate without making to much of a show in front of his brother and sister. He was more happy with the homemade card from mommy :)

  8. We always make Valentine's day a special day at home with our kids. This year especially with two teen girls, Jerry gave each daughter a special invitation to a date later that night. Whatever happens at school, never compares to what mom and dad do at home! We don't sweat it-for some of the kids at school however, it's all the "special" they get and I don't begrudge them that.