All of us

Welcome, parents and all, to our third-annual Special Needs Issue! 

I’m so glad you’re here. And I’m delighted that, three years ago, we decided to build an issue around this theme. Although not every story in this month’s magazine touches on special needs, our focus on this topic has been an amazing learning experience for our writers and entire staff. 

Whether or not you have a child with special needs, you’re affected by the challenges all kinds of children face. Our kids go to preschool/school together and become friends, weaving all of our lives together into a community of typical and not-so-typical kids.

You know what else I’ve learned in my almost 11 years of parenting?

Who’s to say your typical kid doesn’t have a special need that just hasn’t presented itself yet? So many special needs reveal themselves as our kids move into formal schooling. And even then, things can slip below the radar. 

In other words, aren’t we all in this together?

In the age of social media, it can be easy to feel that everyone is “normal” — and not dealing with anything other than choosing the most flattering Instagram filter.

But the truth is, our public highlight reels don’t show it all — the recently diagnosed autism spectrum disorder that fell below the radar until the fourth grade, the school-day struggles with ADHD, the eating disorders that came up in middle school, the severe social anxiety that spiked in high school or the many other trials we don’t make public.

Cheers to those parents who share their real stories of distress — and triumph — because they make space for the rest of us who are different. 

In this issue, our writers not only tell stories of the differences some kids might exhibit, but also explain how to talk to typical kids about what differences mean — and what they don’t.

On our Bookshelf pages — featuring five books that address all kinds of diversity — our writer, a father of three, makes the point that ignoring differences actually does kids a disservice. 

In one book, a boy meets a girl with limb differences. The boy clearly needs guidance on how to acknowledge the physical difference. (Kids can’t turn off their exploratory minds.) But he also needs help learning how to move past this basic observation to move on to something truly special: Friendship.

That’s what I want for my son — an open heart that isn’t blind to difference, but is led by that Minnesota-born mantra: All Are Welcome Here. 

Now that’s a meme I can get behind.