My fondest wish is that parents will sit down with their children and read this book together, in the hopes that together they can talk openly and honestly about the issues covered in this book.
Why did I write the book? Well, the Millikan family has been a long-time inspiration to me because I am not only the author but the true character “Uncle Russ.” I am hoping that reading the real life story of the Millikan family will give others families a better understanding of what it’s like to have a child with special needs. Yes, I said special needs, not gifts. Yes, there are difficult challenges and decisions that have to be made on behalf of a special-needs child, but the return of innocent, unconditional love from that child makes the extra responsibilities easier to handle. Parents of kids with special needs are forced very early on of the realization that their child is going to have unique issues as they grow into young adults. Joe and Robin fought hard and made many sacrifices to ensure Troy’s education would help him grow up to be productive adult.
I also hope their story will get parents and their children to embrace the differences among people. Just because a young person looks different does not mean that they or their parents are not approachable. Parents lead by example—if you are at the park and see a mom or dad with a special-needs child, engage them. Ask them about their kid; you will be pleasantly surprised that they like bragging about their child just as much as parents with so-called normal kids do. Introduce your children to special-needs children. If they are able to interact with the child, they will be much more likely to engage them kindly the next time they are faced with the same situation. Let your children ask the parents of special-needs children questions. Children are naturally curious, even if their questions embarrass you. Knowledge is contagious, and the next time your kid is in the park with a friend staring at a special-needs child, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear your kid say to his friend, “Oh, that’s just so and so and his mom. Do you want to meet them?”
Lastly, I am hoping that parents start teaching their children about bullying at an early age. Bullying has become an epidemic in this country. It is not just little kids picking on each other on the playground at school anymore. If we can get to kids early enough and get them to embrace the differences in people, they might not become bullies themselves. And if they ever become a victim of bullying, teach them to never be afraid to tell their parents or any trusted adult, no matter what age they are. Most bullies are just scared, insecure kids or adults that would rather be cruel to others than face their own issues. It is sad that parents have to be so vigilant these days because there are so many new ways and places for bullies to thrive.