Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Just as with What's Heaven, this story has Kate as well. I think every parent that has a child with special needs would hope that friendship and acceptance would come as quickly to them as it does to Timmy in What's Wrong With Timmy?
The story begins with Kate and her mother at the park. Kate is always so full of questions and wonders why the boy she observes playing basketball seems different. Kate learns his name is Timmy from her Mom who happened to be friends with his Mother before they moved away when both kids were babies. When Kate asked her Mother about Timmy her Mother proceeded to speak in the same way as when she has something important to say.
What’s Wrong With Timmy? emphasizes key issues on each page by using a larger type font for the sentence that captures that feeling shared by Kate. For example:
"What’s Wrong With Timmy?
A child with special needs
Timmy isn’t someone to be afraid of
Timmy’s my new friend
Why God makes life so hard
Each of us is here on earth for a reason
We should look at the things he can do
No such thing as a stupid question
Be strong inside"
It turns out that Timmy is a child with special needs. He talks slower, cannot walk or run as fast as Kate but he wants the same things as other children do. Kate kept asking her Mother more questions indicating that she was scared of Timmy because of his differences. Her Mother explained that when we first come in contact with someone different we may feel uncomfortable and that is okay. She than relays in detail about a friend of hers when she was in school who had a sister that was in a wheelchair. To this day Kate's Mother cannot recall if she ever said hello to Rosie the first time she met her when playing with Tina. Kate says that back in those days people were in institutions or just stayed in their homes.
When her Mother told her that Timmy needs special help to do math and spelling Kate seemed surprised. Kate hated math and had a hard time doing her homework because she could not understand it. Kate and her Mother than went over to meet Timmy and his Mom. Kate had trouble at first understanding all the words that Timmy said and felt anxious, but soon realized "He had a big smile like her friend Eduardo and big white teeth life her girlfriend Tanya." While standing there, there seemed to be a lull as Kate could not think of a thing to say to Timmy, so she asked him if he liked math!
After they joked around about math Kate told Timmy she liked recess and playing with her friends. Timmy shared how he feels when others call him names. Kate knew that those words hurt feelings and decided she and Timmy could go over to her friends at the park and play a game of basketball. There was a tense moment when Kate’s friends were staring at Timmy but she hurried off toward the basketball court hoping her friends would follow behind her. Well as in fairy tales What’s Wrong With Timmy? ends on the positive side, having all the kids talking and playing happily with Timmy and Kate.
But Kate is still thinking about her afternoon with Timmy when she goes to bed and sheds a tear for Timmy and continues the conversation the next morning at the breakfast table with her Mother. "Why does God make someone like Timmy retarded?" "Honey, that’s a hard question to answer … but what I’ve come to believe is that God makes us all different, and each of us has a special mission to carry out – Timmy included."
Kate inquires if her Mother became friends’ with Rosie and where she is now. It turns out that Rosie often helped Tina and her Mother with their homework and is now a successful lawyer. Kate tells her Mother that there is nothing at all wrong with Timmy and they will be friends for a long time. Her Mother points out that they have many similarities as opposed to differences.
I am not sure how many typical developing children are as inquisitive as Kate, but find all her questions and feelings quite fascinating. As a parent to two boys on the Autism Spectrum it is hard to know how other children view those who have disabilities and are different.
It is my hope that there will be many children in this world emulating the kindness that was shown to Timmy by Kate in What’s Wrong With Timmy? I feel that Maria Shriver sets an example of what compassion and great parenting are all about. The way the Mother in the story shares her experience as a youngster to her daughter is very thoughtful and touching. I am still surprised by so many questions asked of Kate and had no idea that children would be afraid of those who are different. What’s Wrong With Timmy? enlightens the parents of special needs kids on the thoughts going through the minds of many children and how they relate to a disabled child.
This is certainly a story that can be read to children before they enter the school system and learn about all types of children they will encounter. We should be encouraging all children not to fear another child because they are different but to seek out the similarities within.
Previously published on Epinions
Lunchtime Issues for the autistic child
Preparing for a Field Trip
Having Fun with Idioms