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What is normal

March 12, 2015
Maria Smaldino Spencer , MOV Parent

What does the word 'normal' mean anyway? People use it as a baseline when referring to so many things. I guess since I became a special mom, I notice when and how people use the word more often-I seem to be more in tuned to it. When referring to human beings, our society uses the word very casually, and it doesn't seem to matter to most people.

One dictionary definition of normal is: "conforming to the standard type; usual, regular."

I don't know about you, but 'regular' seems pretty boring to me. I don't know that I'd want someone to refer to me as usual and regular-it suggests no trace of individuality or uniqueness. I want people to remember the special and "irregular" things about me and my personalitynot just another face, another voice, another person And I want the same for my kids. I would hate for others to look at just the surface and not know what they are truly made of-inside and out. All of our kids have so much to offer in their own unique way.

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A very special Mom told me a story recently about her daughter's most current school evaluation. As you may know, they do them every three years to get a baseline and to look for improvements or concerns in all developmental areas. As the psychologist went over the results of the assessment, he commented during the evaluation he asked her daughter if there was anything she would like to say and she stated, "I wish I was normal." For a special mother, that is heart wrenching. We spoke at length about the emotions surrounding hearing those words. Her beautiful 10-year-old daughter is a person with tri-plegic cerebral palsy. She is so very full of life and spunkand her words took her mom by surprise. I also shared how my daughter recently told me some of the kids at school think she is one of "those kids" and they treat her differently.

Unfortunately, at their young age, society has already taught them what they think "normal" is. It is disheartening to think that it doesn't take very long for little children to pick up on how people have chosen to define one another.

I know it is our responsibility, as parents, to help our kids learn a new definition of "normal." My prayer for all of us this month is we will find the right words to say when our special kids verbalize the desire to fit in with others.

As this mom and I continue to speak about her learning of this, one theme resounds with both of us: we all have strengths and weaknesses. All of us.

I feel it is so very important to focus on our kids' abilities with them, and help them to understand that each and every human being has weaknesses. We are all good at some things, we are all bad at some things. It's just how we were all made. We are all different in many ways- that's what makes us all unique, and it's what makes this world fun to live in.

I think the way in which we emphasize this to our kids is essential. We want to build their self-esteem and confidence to a level to where nothing can make them doubt what they are capable of doing. We want them to "get" it at a young age, so they can have the confidence to tackle every challenge that may come their way.

On a consistent basis, we should make a conscious effort to interject this theme in our homes. My hope is that in doing so, our kids will learn that being "regular" isn't a fun thing to be. Being who God made them to be-with their individual personalities, traits, talents, and endless potential is far from regular-and who they are is something to be celebrated!

Maria Smaldino Spencer is a special mom, special needs consultant and a center supervisor administrator at CDI Head Start of Mahoning County in Youngstown. She can be reached at



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