The following article was written by Ashley Bieber, mother of Avery, who has special needs. Letter published with permission.
This school year 2023-2024 would be the year for Avery to graduate alongside her peers. When she was younger, I often imagined her high school years creating memories with kids her age even though they were different.
Every step of the way, I have tried to include her in all the typical milestones and experiences and even some extraordinary ones, BUT as she has grown, so has the isolation. So has the gap. No personal invitations to parties. No outreach by others. No one noticed Avery wasn’t around, much less in the center of the social world—or at least if they noticed, it was likely just a fleeting afterthought. Avery doesn’t get to share her beautiful life as her peers do. No Facebook posts of “last first day of school”, Homecoming, Fall Ball, Last Blast, sports, cheerleading, dance, Prom, Graduation, etc. I never thought we wouldn’t be experiencing these things at all. I knew we would experience them differently, but I thought we WOULD experience them. Oh how naive a young mother of a special needs child I was!
Now, even though we are out and about, very few people even acknowledge Avery. Few people greet her or speak directly to her. Not one of her peers have ever said “I want Avery to come hang out.” Or asked, “How can I include Avery in x, y, or z?” I don’t say this to complain because, if you knew anything about Avery, you’d know she is very content and happy hanging out with her family. We make sure we do things that she enjoys. It just disappoints me that society, as a whole, has not done better. It’s 2023!! On the flip side, I see all of the things I’m thankful that Avery will never have to deal with like the petty politics and emotional character crushing of teenagers that I witness by her peers. Avery will NEVER hurt another individual! She will never make them feel inferior.
Despite the struggles she obviously has, she will never be an ugly person. It is not in her character. She exudes the purest form of love, acceptance, and forgiveness of others. As a special needs parent, I have accepted her diagnoses a long time ago—all of them—and love her for the person she is. I wish outsiders could truly know what our life is like. I wish they could develop a sincere appreciation for all people with special needs. I wish more people could see the importance of this population in society.
I hope by reading this article, that people have a better understanding of why we aren’t as involved as we used to be—even though we want to be. I hope people are thankful for how easy their lives are even when they think life isn’t fair. And, maybe occasionally, spend some time getting to know someone with special needs and their families. It might not change your life, but it will change your perspective of it!
Ashley Bieber, mother of Avery