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with Disability
Special Needs School


Unabashed Joy

Doors open. Ding. Doors closed.
Doors open. Ding. Doors closed.
Doors open. Ding. Doors closed.
Doors open. Ding. Doors closed.

I’m pretty certain we could be here for hours and he’d be thrilled. I indulge him in the moment, even as I know some people might be staring. J is younger and I’m still new to embracing this “we are going to look different” family role and what that means to be out in the community. But he’s so happy and he’s learning to press the buttons on his own. It’s a moment of all around success for him when sometimes those moments were more challenging to find. I wanted him to soak in the confidence and happiness.

An elderly woman enters. I move my grocery bag to the side and J and I press the button for the garage floor for her. The doors close. Ding. He smiles and does a little jump. I feel her look at him and then quickly glance away. We are in an elevator and he knows the best, most magical part is to come. He starts to make happy sounds. This is not your average toddler excited sounds. These are different, unusual with unusual hand and arm movements.

The elevator starts to go up. He’s very excited now! Sounds are louder, movements bigger. There is no denying it’s different. She can’t help but look, but she doesn’t want to look. As people often seem to do with those different than them. Her discomfort is palpable. I imagine her generation would never accept such a wild open expression of happiness.

I looked at her and saw her shoulders were forward, her head down. She was making herself small. Quiet. Unnoticeable. I thought about how the elderly are often invisible too, just like my son and family.

Something rises in me and I want to ease the tension felt by her and me (not at all, might I add, by J who was joyful as could be).

I look at him and smile broadly.

I say to her: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all could feel joy so freely in our bodies and we weren’t concerned how it looked?”

She smiled and her shoulders relaxed, her gaze lifts: “Yes, it really would. Your son is adorable. How old is he?”

And with that one sentence she was now free to look, engage, accept someones different experience.. free to see what was true: my son was adorable, happy and radiating it all in the most unique different ways because of a simple elevator ride. And that was ALL OK. It was simply different.

How do we expect joy to look anyways? Is it supposed to be a certain way? Why is that? Do you monitor and filter your own joy, or have you lost the magic of joy in small moments?


Doors opened, she lingered as I held the door. J was looking up and excitedly moving his arms awaiting the ride back down. She smiled at him and as she looked at me I could feel how her energy had changed. She had a little more brightness and what felt like alertness in her eyes.

And off she went… smiling.

The whole interaction took about 5 mins. 5 mins and something shifted for all of us. He was allowed to be him, seen. She allowed herself to see him and it not only lightened her energy, but she felt seen too. And I saw my son in a whole new light. I saw our family role in a deeper dimension and I embraced being this awesomely different Mama in a less anxious, more joyful way.

What if you expressed joy unabashed? How would it affect you and perhaps others around you in ways you can’t yet even imagine? Maybe it would be contagious. Maybe it would free someone else to do the same. Maybe we all could feel a little more connected, a little bit lighter, a little bit happier with the simple things.




I am a single Mom to two amazing boys. One neurotypical, one Autistic. As I write that I wonder what that means to you and how that shapes how you perceive us, even more interestingly yourself.

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