This is me: Lessons from a movie

Published 8:09 am Friday, January 19, 2018

We’ve all had them. The scornful looks, thoughtless remarks and outright hostility because our special needs child is not behaving as others expect.

Too often people resort to anger rather than compassion for something they don’t understand.

They see people as one-dimensional and the only right way is their way.

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They don’t understand that telling a special needs child to stop melting down is akin to telling a paraplegic to walk.

The adulterated ignorance of people can cut deep and leave permanent scars.

I struggle to find words of encouragement because I know the depth of the pain. I’m constantly asking myself what I can say or do to block the fiery arrows aimed at our hearts. An answer came to me in a darkened movie theater.

I’m not big on musicals, but I am a Hugh Jackman fan. That combined with the trailer of his latest movie, “The Greatest Showman,” piqued my interest. I couldn’t wait to see the movie. Then once I saw it, I had to see it again.

The characters are a group discounted, cast aside and mocked people rejected for something beyond their control. Their disabilities, so to speak. There is a bearded lady, conjoined twins and a man with dwarfism to name a few.

Jackman’s character takes these people from the shadows of shame and condemnation where society tossed them and teaches them how to celebrate who they are and embrace their uniqueness.

The group arrives at a party only to have the door slammed in their faces. The consensus was they were not acceptable to be among “polite society.” It was a frequent occurrence.

But this time they rejected their rejection. Rather than hide themselves as they had in the past, they stroll with purpose into the party. The song “This Is Me” plays. The words of the song should be the mantra of parents with special needs kids.

“I won’t let them break me down to dust.

I know there’s a place for us.

For we are glorious.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

I am brave, I am bruised.

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.

Look out cause here I come. And I’m marching on the beat I drum.

I’m not scared to be seen. I make no apologies.

This is me.”

Those words nestled in our deepest heart and wielded like a sword are powerful enough to intercept and obliterate any missile of hate, ignorance or intolerance launched at us.

I encourage you to see the movie.

It will inspire you and fill you with hope.

You can listen to the song on YouTube and online music sites. Use the words to build you and your child up. And the next time someone criticizes you or your child for being different, quote one of Jackman’s lines from the movie — “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”

Joan Graves is a mother to five boys and an advocate and activist for children with special needs and their families. For more, go to