Saturday 23 September 2017

'I won't lie, there are tears in my eyes . . .'

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

It's not easy being mild. A child with a mild intellectual disability can find itself falling between two stools. Mild can be a very lonely place to be. A child who is mild can be a child with no peers.

On one hand they can find that they do not get enough stimulation from many of their friends with intellectual disabilities. On the other hand the mild child will have difficulty fitting into the world of their typically developing friends. It can all go swimmingly for a while, but at certain points the 'normal' ones suddenly take off like rockets, such as when they develop an interest in the opposite sex and all kinds of other complicated matters. The mild child can be left behind then, alone, and hugely aware of being left behind. People with a milder intellectual disability are more prone to depression than their more moderate peers. Perhaps because they feel so close, but yet so far and they are that bit more conscious of what they are missing out on.

I won't lie. There are tears in my eyes as I write this. Because, in general, we don't think about the future in our house. It's one of the first things everyone tells you when you find out your kid is different. And in a sense it is one of the most valuable of the many lessons you learn on this road. You tend to live for now. You know there is a hard, at times lonely road ahead for your child. Loneliness can be the worst emotional disability. But for now you have to focus on love and joy, and you have to imagine that somehow the struggle can enrich you.

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