3 times a special needs child did the perfect thing, and they had no idea what I was going through

Throughout the three short years I’ve had of working with elementary special needs children, there have been several encounters that brought me to tears of joy. I feel like sharing three of these precious moments with you to let you know just how comforting a child that’s “different” really can be, even when they don’t know what you’re going through.


When Jesse hugged me after I was diagnosed with a chronic illness called systemic lupus in April of 2014.

Jesse had a traumatic brain injury. He also had a speech impairment and needed help in many different ways. I loved helping him. The day after I was officially diagnosed, I was sitting at the lunch table with Jesse in the cafeteria and he was playing with orange slices in his mouth. He put one in his mouth, like we all did when we were little to show the other person that our smile was in fact not teeth, but an orange’s skin. I giggled, but the smile didn’t reach my eyes. He looked at me for more than three seconds and said, “Nee hug.” He reached out his arms gesturing me to come to him, but it sounded more like, “Come he, come he.” I scooted towards him and hugged him, feeling like he became the adult and I was all of a sudden a child in desperate need of a hug. I instantly felt like everything was going to be OK. A child’s hug is everything.


When my hands were too sensitive to pain, and Aveah told me to sit on the swing, so she could push me instead.

Aveah has Down syndrome (DS) and she was probably the giggliest little girl I ever worked with. One day, I was barely able to push her on the swing due to the disease affecting my hands and wrists. She wanted me to stop; I thought maybe she was annoyed at how soft I was pushing. As I was expecting her to walk away, she told me to sit in her place and then started to push me. She didn’t speak, but she had a grin on her face the whole time. My joy couldn’t be self-contained and I started to laugh with joy. She inwardly let me know that even when you can’t do something well, there will always be someone there to help you.


When Colten touched my cheek and said, “You’re important,” while I was going through my first heartbreak. 

Colten is an autistic child I work with currently. He’s fun, caring and sweet as pie. In December of 2015, I felt my first heartbreak from a man I loved who broke me in every way, and it’s something I’ve had to heal from throughout this hectic year. One day was particularly hard for me while we were outside playing tag and monsters with the kids. I was running and laughing, catching kids in my arms, grateful for the slight wind that would dry the tears springing in my eyes. I slid down the slide and Colten was waiting for me at the bottom. I saw him and immediately reached out to tag him and said, “Got ya, Colten!”

Instead of running away from me, he looked down at me, touched my cheek and said, “You’re important.”

Stunned, I replied, “So are you, Colten.”

I sat there for a second trying to recall a movie where a woman went down a slide and if he was playing a character, but I couldn’t think of anything. Either way, it couldn’t have been more perfect. I’ll never forget those words.

Though every day is unpredictable working with special needs children, every day I gather special memories in my pocket. You see, special needs children are not so different after all. They feed you love, joy and laughter. They are there for you without having to know what you’re going through.

This is what makes them special — not because they have any kind of disability or special need, but because they are beautiful human beings who can feel the heart of another person in silent ways. That, my friends, is pretty special.

**This article was published on The Mighty. Any future stories I write for The Mighty can be found here!**


43 thoughts on “3 times a special needs child did the perfect thing, and they had no idea what I was going through

  1. April Box

    I have an autistic son named Jesse too :) This story touched my heart and served as a soft reminder to see him the way God does- as a beautiful gift. One time Jesse saw me crying and he leaned in to discern what was going on, and then with a sweet and sympathetic voice says, “tis-ue? tis-ue?” I nodded and he ran to the bathroom coming back with a tissue for his mama. In that moment God used him to comfort me and I felt like the child. Thank you for loving the work you do and the kids you help. As a parent, I know these teachers can be rare and we are thankful for them :)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bowmanauthor

    My heart bleeds for you, but I understand. I was diagnosed with SLE Lupus 23 years ago. I also have RA. It’s been a difficult journey, but we both must fight it everyday. My character, Annie, in my latest book is my way of releasing the fear and crying for help. Annie symbolizes the past and the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Savannah Hardcastle

      Hi friend. :) Thanks for sharing some of your heart.
      This whole past week I’ve had one of my more rough flares, but I’m trying to get better at not doing so much at once- I literally flare up when I push myself..I just can’t do anything the same anymore, but this is okay, because I still usually get what needs to be done.
      I think writing is a wonderful way to express the real pain of living chronic illness, I’ll have to check out your little stories. <3


  3. gspottedpen

    Very emotive and heart touching. I have a son who is autistic (border line). He is good is music and has a photographic memory. He loves machines and automobiles. How do I go about teaching him Maths. Could you guide me to sites which have maths lessons for autistic children. Thanks Anand Bose from Kerala.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. treacledays

    Loved your post. Those people really are special! I too have worked with them in 2004, just before my illness. They know about unconditional love, something that most of us have yet to learn. They trust deeply and know only truth. That is what I learned from my time with these special people. Thank you for reaching out and sharing your world.
    Sharon Marie xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. dvaal

    Beautiful and adorable. I spend time every day following the lives of children with special needs, cancer, heart disease etc. Knowing these children -they are gifts. Many of them have short lives but the time they are here is special.
    I would love to work with children like you do. Although, I live in a small community and there is nothing like that here. I tried working at a children’s hospital but I kept getting sick so I had to give that up.
    Please continue your work -you are loved and needed by these children. I’m praying for your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Zohre Esmaeeli

    I ‘ve never worked with children with special needs, I am a mother of them. A mother of handsome, clever and special autistic child. I beilieve it is an opportunity to receive God’s message.
    It was not just being patient with him, it was a life lesson, you know… and rewarding.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Savannah Hardcastle

      Absolutely rewarding…I can imagine. I currently work mainly with autistic children and love them. I too, need patience though I’m not a mother of one, but it’s been such a blessing…
      Thanks for the read, Zohre. <3

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hannah

    This is lovely. I work I a special needs school as a teacher in England and they just know sometimes! It is hard work and people ask why I do it with my chronic illness but it is moments like you’ve just written about that make everything worthwhile. Thank you for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Savannah Hardcastle

      I know it can be tough. Isn’t working with special needs children the absolute best thing? Yes, I’ve been asked the same thing once, but children are part of my healing and therapy for my illness too. I love being there for them, but they have no idea how much they’re there for me.


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