Caring for sick children can be heartbreaking, but the impact of illness on a child with special needs can be downright shocking.

We've been lucky: two colds, a few sniffly noses, and only one real stomach bug. Our son, Charlie, has stayed so healthy since joining us seven weeks early and with a chest tube.

But now this — norovirus.

It hit all four of us, within a 72-hour span. It was horrendous, horrifying and debilitating. We subsisted on Pedialyte popsicles, ginger ale and cinnamon swirl bread.

Three of us bounced right back.

For my son, Charlie, two weeks of not using his muscles meant a noticeable setback in his development. One week after the retching stopped, his cautious, shaky steps forward are a shadow of the hustling toddler he was just a few weeks ago.

His sister, about a year and a half younger, ran circles around him in the back yard the other day. Literally. Circles.

Unprepared

It's not that I mean to compare. It's just right there. I can't avoid it. My oldest is slumped against the slide, and my youngest is wrestling with the puppy in a pile of mud, sticks and stones. And winning.

The sight of my stubborn, strong little boy startles me. I knew Charlie was hit hard, but I wasn't expecting this. I wasn't expecting complete Jell-O.

Sure, it makes sense. But I just hadn't thought about it ever happening. I didn't plan for this feeling of helplessness, to see Charlie struggle to get his muscles to respond and join his imagination, across the room. I just didn't see it coming.

Of all struggles, why walking?

"Honey, he's going to be just fine," The Husband says.

I just want my baby boy to never struggle. I know that's not realistic. But can't he just struggle at algebra, instead, like his mom?

I know it will be fine. I know. I just hate this. I hate feeling helpless. I just want my baby boy to never struggle. I know that's not realistic. But can't he just struggle at algebra, instead, like his mom?

Why does his struggle have to be walking?

I know we're very lucky. In fact, we're incredibly blessed.

But I still find myself standing very still, watching him pull up to take a step. I find myself gripping furniture as if to steady the air in the room. To keep the slightest puff of air from knocking him even farther back.

Read more about child development

Watching the gap close between typical child and child with special needs
Ways to incorporate learning into play
7 Ways to help your child strive for success

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