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Dear Reader: Keeping Our Compassion This Fall

Alayne Sulkin

Published on: September 29, 2016

ParentMap October 2016

My bestie girlfriend with her four active school-age kids seems to masterfully juggle their various school curriculum nights, schedules and inevitable doctor appointments while I, with just one delightful dancing high schooler gracing our presence, most often feel dazed, disorganized and short on patience.

My empathy and understanding is elevated as I read each article in this issue devoted to raising kids with learning differences and special needs. Before we’re parents, we envision near-perfect babies. Once we’re blessed to have our children, we begin to understand each of their unique gifts and challenges. We devote much of our prime years supporting them as they develop into their best selves, while also bettering ourselves along the way.

Our October cover boy is the never overwhelmed Milo. Milo is a socially assistive robot (SAR) with the patience to repeat things as many times as necessary without frustration. (Can you imagine?) He’s programmed to adapt to the needs of his young human friends, helping kids emotionally and socially connect while expanding the landscape of possibility for those with special needs. 

There are also myriad therapies, programs and specialists to engage every child’s body, heart and mind. Take our piece on equine-assisted therapy. The mood-boosting effect of the horse empowers these kids, and the horses don’t judge. “While everyone else is still stuck on my unfocused
eyes ... horses see me for who I am on the inside” says Ali Steenis, who’s been visually impaired since birth.

To feel the pain of parents who observe the most uncomfortable things — to know that their child is extremely visible, but to see her treated as if she is invisible — is crushing.

No doubt, we will be better role models to our kids by being more overtly kind, outgoing and accepting when we observe, meet or interact with a child or adult with special needs. By reaching out to hear all voices, we will learn important lessons about others and about ourselves.

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