Wondertime that contained a series of stories about a special needs family and how they cope with a variety of issues. I decide to give it a try, and the first issue finally arrived. Turns out the magazine only comes out a few times a year, so the issue I got was actually the premier issue.
The story in question is "A Different Kind of Normal", by Charlotte Meryman, a writer who appears to focus largely on parenting and special needs topics. Her series for Wondertime follows a Massachusetts family and their 4 year-old son, Jimmy Foard, who has a rare genetic disorder called Alfi's symdrome and also autism spectrum disorder.
I am particularly interested in this series because in the next installment, Meryman will explore Jimmy's quest to find his own voice, through speech therapy and an augmentative alternative communication device, possibly one like Schuyler's Big Box of Words.
The magazine may be hard for you to find, and there's not yet an online edition you can read, but the story is worth taking the trouble to find and read, not only if you're a special needs parent, but also for anyone who wants to understand what we go through.
The opening paragraphs in particular articulate perfectly one of the more heartbreaking aspects of socializing a broken child.
The moment she reads "Dress as a Superhero" on the invitation, Michelle Foard is sure her 4-year-old son, Jimmy, is headed for yet another birthday party disaster. "They'll have," Michelle guesses, "all the things he doesn't like." Like the dreaded bounce house. With his low muscle tone and poor balance, Jimmy hates being jostled on such a billowy surface. Or an arts and crafts table. It's too frustrating; Jimmy's fingers never seem to do what he wants them to do. The way things usually unfold, when no activities click for him, is that Jimmy retreats into himself. This pains Michelle and her husband, Jim, for it defeats the purpose of braving the party in the first place: connecting with other kids.
Yet this doesn't stop Michelle from RSVPing a firm yes. They will go, but with one concession: She'll intentionally arrive late in hopes of minimizing his time there. When the day comes, she keeps Jimmy quiet at home all morning to conserve both their energies and fights off a sense of quiet doom. At 3:00, she slips a Superman T-shirt over her son's head, waves good-bye to Jim and their almost 2-year-old, Maddie, and lifts him into his car seat. And they set off.
Michelle is determined that Jimmy go to as many parties as he can now. "Because I figure at some point," she says, "the invitations will stop."
That knowledge, it must be said, is one of the most piercing parts of parenting a child with special needs. Differences may not matter much to preschoolers, but as kids grow up and friendships cement, the child who can't easily play with others becomes the child who gets left out. Jimmy has been asked to a few playdates, but already Michelle has noted that unless the mom is a friend of hers, "there's no repeat."