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Change the life of a child with special needs with a hashtag

Well, they’ve done it again. A while back, I wrote about a television ad campaign from insurance company MassMutual that showed a blonde-haired boy who doesn’t have Down syndrome like my 4-year-old, Charlie, but could be Charlie in every other way depicted: from his trouble with maneuvering stairs to his wholehearted aversion to hair-washing and teeth-brushing.

But one frame of that ad stood out the most: when the mom steps out into the dusk of another long day and lets out a breath.

I’ve had that moment. My cheeks have filled with air and deflated with frustration, fatigue and just general emotion. As I watched that mom who was me, I thought, “that company gets it.”

Now, MassMutual has launched a campaign called “Love is a gift.” The ad peeks at intimate moments between people and those they love the most.

MassMutual says its SpecialCare Program is “an innovative outreach initiative that provides access to information, specialists and financial solutions that can help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and other special needs and their families and caregivers.” What’s not to love, right?

But for me, the best component of MassMutual’s campaign is that for every use of the hashtag #loveisagift, the company will donate $1 to Easter Seals.

Easter Seals.

Easter Seals gifted us with our first (and only, because she’s irreplaceable) play therapist, Lennie. Lennie sat criss-cross-applesauce on our cramped living room floor from the time Charlie was only 4 months old until the month he aged out of the county’s Early Intervention Program.

While she played with him and maneuvered him in such a way as to strengthen his muscles and challenge his comfort zone, she also strengthened my most vulnerable muscle at the time: confidence. Was I doing enough? Surely I wasn’t doing enough.

She assured me Charlie would roll over. He did. She assured me he would walk. Today, he runs. She gave me permission to stop worrying about every milestone and instead rejoice in the beautiful baby who quickly became a toddler before our eyes. She became family.

Charlie was the first child to steal my heart and teach me about love without boundaries. He taught me that love truly is a gift — an incredible, overwhelming, surprisingly forceful tide of unconditional love. It can shower you with positives in the form of milestones and “Mum lub” (“Mom, love”) utterances one day and suck the life from your veins the next when his breathing is shallow and the nebulizer can’t seem to break through the muck.

Love is a gift. I’ll never forget that. And wouldn’t you know, MassMutual keeps reminding me.

More about parenting a child with special needs

These inhumane discipline practices are still legal in U.S. schools
Down syndrome: Why I don’t want my child to hug everyone
Down syndrome diagnosis: Find support, not propaganda

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