Maybe Mama Gump went a little far “ensuring Forrest’s education” on a hot summer evening with the principal, but as a special needs parent, I watched Forrest Gump in a whole new light, after my son was born and diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy.
This life is a bit more complex raising and trying to empower a child with disabilities, and taking on a society that is still woefully behind on inclusion and accommodations to ensure equity. It’s a battle many of us fight with school districts, parks and recreation programs, and even the perceptions of our neighbors.
Take for instance Mama Gump’s moment when Forrest gets his braces stuck in the grate. Having a son who walks and wears “magic shoes” (AFOs), I find myself standing a little taller and finding more gracious ways to address the stares, whispers and looks of pity. Although I REALLY want to say “Haven’t you ever seen a little boy with braces on his legs??” Actually, I’d buy that t-shirt.
And, let’s talk about Forrest himself. Is he not the best example of what a full and wonderful life someone with a cognitive disability can have?
The movie itself addresses many of the topics we as parents are scared about – bullying, independence, love, family. And above all, it truly promotes hope. That no matter what your child may face, there is a full and wonderful life ahead, to balance out any of the hurricanes, bus rides and confusion that life may throw at you.
So, as Mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’ll get”. And truly, when you face disability with a child, you don’t know. But you can channel the courage of Mama, of Forrest, of Jenny and of the others who believed in Forrest to ensure that your child, too, will have a happy ending that they so richly deserve.