“Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer, had a very shiny nose”. I am sure you all know the song! It’s been playing a lot in this house this Christmas, and my 4 year old is responsible for this being in my head. My 4 year old, who is developmentally delayed and medically fragile, has taken an incredible liking to this very cute story. It wasn’t until we sat down and watched the movie as a family that I realized WHY this story is so important for my son and many children like him.
Rudolph LOOKS different. He has a very shiny and very obvious nose the doesn’t look like the rest. He stands out. Reindeer make fun of him. Those lousy reindeer won’t let him play in their games and they even call him names! How mean is that? It’s just not nice I tell you. As I was watching the movie, it dawned on me this story isn’t just a Christmas story but a story for children to understand that even though something is different it isn’t a bad thing. It is to demonstrate that even a reindeer that stands out in a crowd and is ridiculed can be the HERO of the story. I am sure I’m late the to game. I’m probably not the first nor the last that figured this story out in adulthood vs in childhood. As a child, I paid NO attention to the story or the meaning. I simply liked the song. However, my child is very intuitive, and he has been drawn to Rudolph and his nose for a reason. My son is just like Rudolph.
Children with special needs are different than the mainstream. Many of them carry equipment with them that looks strange. Many can be seen in Wheel Chairs, Gait trainers, with canes, walkers, or they may be wearing bracing on their feet, ankles or calves. Some will walk attached to tubes for either eating or oxygen. While you may see others with bags attached to them to drain fluid from their bodies and the various organs that may not be working properly. Children may have physical differences with how their heads are structured, may have limbs smaller or shorter than other children, or they could be missing limbs. No matter what the difference is for the child, they look different than the most other children. Often children like this are ridiculed, mocked, or stared at by others. When we are out, we are often stared at when we are feeding our son. I am sure the stares are not meant to offend, but they definitely can make me feel insecure and on the spot. I am only the care taker. I cannot imagine what it must feel to be the child in that case.
Teasing is a normal part of life, and I know most kids don’t mean harm in it. However, it certainly does hurt, and children with special needs are teased and bullied at higher rates than any other child population. In studies that have been conducted Children with disabilities and special needs are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied than their typical peer. Pacer wrote this article about it: Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities.
All of the statistics about Bullying can be hard to swallow for most parents. This is why stories like Rudolph give hope to children like my son and so many others dealing with differences of any kind. We as a society get so stuck with comparing and trying to be like everyone else. Yet, we fail to realize that the beauty of life is that there are differences in all of us. One persons strength could be another weakness. Often we focus on our weaknesses, but the truth is if we focus on our strengths and find our strengths we can all be the HERO of the story. Rudolph used his nose to guide the sleigh. He made sure Santa made the trip to deliver all the toys to the children. His difference became his strength!
We are all born with differences and gifts. While my son most certainly lacks in some areas, his mind is deep and his memory is long. While physically he has not been gifted with strength, his mind has been gifted with the ability to memorize and categorize anything he finds an interest in. He knows more about Dinosaurs and trucks than I have ever known in all the years I have walked this planet. Every child possesses a strength within their differences that we as their parents and mentors need to encourage to come out. We need to stop focusing on their deficiencies and find ways to cultivate their strengths. We need to stop encouraging their need to compare themselves with others, and we as adults need to also stop this behavior. We are all DIFFERENT. We all have unique gifts, and none of us are built the same. Instead of celebrating what you don’t have, we could all be a little bit more like Rudolph and celebrate what we DO HAVE! I Encourage you all to find a way to encourage your chid to be a little bit more like Rudolph. Thank you Rudolph for helping this mom understand this very fundamental and simple lesson of life. Our lives will forever be changed.