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“We’ve Learned that Normal Doesn’t Mean Happy”


“The sun is in our solar system, solar system, solar system” is what my daughter Reegan, 3, sings every morning. My husband and I have heard this song every day for the past month. As she sings about the planets, she shows her enjoyment by smiling, laughing hysterically, and repeating fun facts she’s memorized about each planet.  Sounds like a great day so far, right?

As we get ready for school, things change. If we veer from Reegan’s routine, she has a complete meltdown, which usually entails hysterical crying and throwing things. The littlest change can set her off:

If we try to put our shoes on first….

If we don’t dress her in a particular order: shoes, jacket, hat and mittens…

If she isn’t first out the door…

Even before the diagnoses, we realized Reegan had special abilities. At 18 months, Reegan was reciting the alphabet before she said her first words. By 2, she could count to 100, and was reading Dr. Seuss books on her own. We could not be any more proud of Reegan’s academic accomplishments. However, realizing that we cannot have a conversation with her is heartbreaking. When we try to ask Reegan about her day at school, she answers with 1+1=2. 

Despite the challenges, Reegan is a cheerful and content young lady who makes us laugh and smile on a daily basis. We are proud parents who believe you don’t have to be normal to be happy. We wouldn’t trade our family for anything in the world.

By Karen Donnelly, mom of Reegan, 3