Connie Vigneau is my mother, but also the mother of five other children (four boys and one girl). The oldest male child, now thirty nine, has special needs and the mental capacity of an eight-year old. Two of my other brothers have learning disabilities, too. But these challenges have not caused my mother to lose hope or stop living her life; they have developed her into the loving, caring, patient, and selfless person that she is. Her trust in God is her greatest virtue and something that helped me develop my relationship with God.
My parents tried to shield us from the hardest parts about raising a special needs child: physical ailments, doctors’ visits, school IEP meetings, being his advocate, developmental issues, and financial hardships. But they were sure to share the many joys that only come when you raise a special needs child. Siblings of special needs children are the only ones who can understand these joys, things like when he sings “Happy Birthday” on your voicemail every year, when he wants to get dressed up and hand out candy on Halloween, when he decorates for each holiday (even the Big Game), and when he teases you by innocently picking on you and laughing.
Through their actions, my parents instilled in each of us a unique sense of family: unconditional love and care. They were able to balance the extra care my brother needed and the attention that every child needs. My siblings and I each have a special bond with our oldest brother, and we have always protected him when we find him in trouble. My parents raised my brother to be a fun-loving and innocent person. He is the bond that keeps the family together. He calls everyone in the immediate and extended family at least once a week to find out how our lives are going and to keep us informed of events that are coming up.
Although life presented my mother with many challenges, she overcame those challenges through her daily devotion to the Rosary and frequenting of Daily Mass. I will never know everything my parents did for us, but I will be forever grateful for how they raised me and my siblings.