June 4, 2015 | By: Barbara Knighton
The all American parade can be a lot of fun, whether it's the Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving or the rodeo. Everyone loves a parade. That's what I used to think until I had a child with special health care needs. No longer was this all American tradition a part of my life. My son despised loud noises and crowds and everything around him seemed to cause him to have a seizure. I had longed to carry on the family tradition of going to parades. I had even been in several and wanted to share that experience with my child.
My husband, being the analytical one, had figured out a way to make this happen. One step at a time. Like everything else in my son's life, we took things slow. We started attending local hometown parades and after several years, worked our way up to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade. We informed him of when the loud noises were coming and what to expect. He began to understand that nothing there was going to hurt him and to cover his ears when the emergency vehicles came around.
I also helped decorate an organization’s float so he could ride on it and see the behind the scenes aspect of a parade. I showed him how people lined up and got ready to march in the parade. When we went to the rodeo parade, we went with the Lighthouse of Houston, a nonprofit who provides assistance for people who have a visual impairment. There were other families in attendance with children and adults with disabilities. We also got preferential seating so he could see what was going on up close. He very much enjoyed the day and studied the other guests to see how they reacted to the parade participants as they passed.
This past December he participated in the Zavalla Christmas parade and got to ride in a classic car with his Papa. The look on his face was priceless. To see us standing on the side lines cheering him on as went by brought tears to our eyes. He had a smile that lit up like a million stars! We had created a memory for him that will last a lifetime. It is amazing how far all of us have come.
In my darkest hours, I never thought we would have achieved this. He was homebound, had constant seizures and was very medically fragile. It is as if we have emerged from a long, deep sleep and are finally able to begin finding some joy in life. We still have a long way to go, but being able to enjoy an all American tradition once again is a huge step forward. So the next time a parade comes around, go out and enjoy it. Remember, sometimes the smallest steps are our greatest achievements!