Just What is This “Normal” Stuff Anyways?

normal: adjective. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

In the Special World we constantly hear about “normal” benchmarks and “typically” developing children. Our children are often measured against the “normals” to get an idea or a glimpse into just how delayed they really are. I know the intent is good and it does provide a somewhat accurate view of what our children need to work on. But if there is one thing that stings worse than a bee, feels more painful than a face slap, it’s hearing how “not normal” your kid is. OUCH. You know, because we haven’t had enough to cry about and there hasn’t been enough pain and guilt. SO GIVE ME SOME MORE! YEAH!

It’s especially difficult for me because I have two children who could not be more polar opposite. Well, actually they could, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say that they are far apart on any spectrum or measure. Luke is leagues above grade level and Ian, well, we think might know part of his alphabet. Maybe. Luke does complex mathematics in his head and Ian makes little noises to indicate he can count, “One…two…THREEEEEE!” when we push him on the swing. Ian has an above average IQ and recieves enrichment services and Ian can’t even be given an IQ test because he couldn’t answer one question and it wouldn’t be an accurate measure.But he could eat the paper faster than the interviewer could take it away from him. So there’s that.

And yet Ian brilliant in his own way.

My “more typical” kid is book smart, for sure. Luke is an ace student, an avid reader. And except for the occasional classroom issue (I CAN HEAR HIM BREATHING, MR. G! HE’S LOOKING AT ME!) he’s pretty much a teacher’s dream. Books, books, books. Enthusiastic learner. Raises his hand for every question.They actually ask him to give other kids a turn to answer.

Ian? Ian is a different kid of “smart”. He may not exhibit book smarts (yet) but he knows his way around a Target or a Home Depot, even if he’s never been at that particular store before (he figures it out by context clues). He can smell an IKEA miles away. He knows the way to his aunts’ and uncles’ houses and makes unhappy noises if we take a one-block detour. He knows he can get fries or a milkshake in a drive-through (though the pharmacy drive-through? So not fair. Poor kid.). He never met a lock he couldn’t unlock. Padlocks, keys, combos…EASY! Just call him houdini. He is stealthy and sneaky and can creep around the house to steal things. He can hear a lock open from a mile away, come running, swipe a desired item and make off with it before I’ve turned around to close the door. He has lightening speed, the grace of a gazelle and always lands on his feet, like a cat. His body is smart. His brain is always moving, plotting, thinking.

And yet he’s not considered “normal”.

But he does “normal” things. He refuses to put shoes on to go outside and then complains when his feet are cold. He pulls the covers up over his head and refuses to get out of bed. He stomps up to his room and SLAMS the door when he is angry with me. He has the typical eight-year-old diet of dry cereal, pancakes, chicken fingers and pizza.

Do I really want him to “conform?”

Do I really want him to be “common?”

Do I really want him to be like everyone else and lose his uniqueness?


Normal is boring. We’re just fine the way we are. We’re never, ever bored.

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