The author holding her son after completing the Best Buddies 5K in August 2012.
I hold my breath as my five-year old son zooms around the playground. There are children laughing and squealing all around us. Games of tag and the sound of ring-around-the-rosey sung in unison fill the evening air.
My son continues to run in circles as if he is the only child on the playground. Another child approaches him and catches his attention. He stops. My heart starts pounding and I convince myself to wait and watch before jumping in to help him navigate this brief social encounter. It’s over as quickly as it began and he is back to zooming around the playground.
Some of the moms and other children begin to stare. Most smile politely and continue on with what they were doing and I sink back into my seat, wondering what the future will hold for my son. This is a typical day in the life of my five-year old son who is diagnosed with autism and cognitive delay. While my other typically developing five-year old son is eager to play with friends on the playground, my son with special needs is satisfied to stay within his comfort zone of isolation.
Could you imagine a world without friendship? I certainly could not.
So one day I asked myself if my son is truly happy playing alone with only brief and superficial social encounters. Doesn’t he really crave friendship like his brother? Although my son is limited verbally, a single conversation was enough to clarify that he did indeed want to make friends. As his mother, I was determined to help him do it. (more…)
December 1st is World AIDS Day. As a tribute, our World Voice writer, Lauren, submitted this post.
They cry and yearn to be held, but there are not enough arms to hold them. Many of them have watched their parents die. Some have parents who are too sick to care for them. But all of them want the same thing—to be loved and to know that they matter.
They are just like you and me, but they are the tiniest victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some, like their parents, are HIV positive. Others are considered lucky and have escaped infection. All are residing in an orphanage with a future that is uncertain.
How do I know what an AIDS orphan wants and needs? Because on a hot August Day in 2008, I stood inside an orphanage that houses orphans affected by HIV/AIDS and I held my son for the first time. So it should come as no surprise that tomorrow, on World AID Day, I will join millions of people around the globe to unite in the fight against AIDS.
World AIDS Day aims to educate, inform and empower people to join the effort to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic.According to UNAIDS, more than 34 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS and a staggering 3.3 million of them are under the age of 15. The HIV/AIDS epidemic claims the lives of 1.7 people each year. With 2.5 million new infections occurring annually, the epidemic is far from over.
But there is hope. (more…)
Lauren with her son adopted from Hong Kong on the day the adoption was finalized in court.
There is no denying the stress and challenges that often accompany living life with a disability or chronic illness. As a mom to a child with significant special needs, I am keenly aware of those daily challenges. With the support of family, however, many children born with special needs go on to live healthy, meaningful lives. But for children around the globe who live in orphanages and lack access to a family unit and good medical care, being born with special needs most often means a life-long sentence of institutionalization and neglect. My son was almost one such statistic.
In 2011, my family and I traveled to Hong Kong, China to adopt a four-year old child with autism and significant cognitive delay. After living in two different orphanages, international adoption was his last option before being sent to a mental institution to live out the remainder of his life.
UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 143 million orphaned children around the globe. There are no hard statistics on how many of those are special needs children. (more…)