When we had our second child, my wife immediately thought that something was wrong. I shied away from the idea, insisting that our daughter was fine.

Well, fast forward six months to the exam and our pediatrician is upset with where she is and the next thing you know she’s having a CT scan and a day later the neurologist is sitting us down and telling us that we shouldn’t wait for our daughter to walk, spoke or could feed herself. Someday.

It was, as you might imagine, a gut punch. The world around me shrank and I didn’t know what to do. There was no real diagnosis, just a set of symptoms.

To be honest, the next 18 months were a bit of a blur. I stuck my hand in the sand, insisting that everything was going to be okay. My wife, however, became immersed in trying to figure out what would happen to our daughter.

On two separate occasions – and if I hadn’t witnessed it, I wouldn’t have believed it – the neurologists at CHOP asked my wife what her specialty was. As in her medical specialty. Please note that my wife is not and has never been a doctor. But she could talk to these doctors as a peer, while I sat with my thumb metaphorically up my back.

I was thankful for my wife during those times.

Fast forward two years or so and that initial diagnosis was a failure. Today, our daughter is not only walking, talking and feeding herself, she is still not silent and likes to put together a “snack” that includes five pounds of junk food. (What about walking? A great walker, but like many 11-year-olds, she’s just as happy sitting on the couch looking at her phone.)

But still, not everything is “good”. She is eventually diagnosed with autism and her IQ is not Einsteinian and, well, you know. Not perfect.

But my wife got into it too. When our daughter turned two, my wife began researching what a school would look like for our daughter. She quickly became an expert in special education.

Shortly after that, around the time our daughter was in first grade, she also became an expert in special education law. We had to go to court to get our daughter the education she is legally entitled to.

why? The teachers told us that she could not read. But today? She’s in the right learning environment, you better believe she can read. You can also change the name of the bookstore to Barnes, Noble, and Edelstein.

I was thankful for my wife during those times.

And that concludes the “what I’m thankful for” part of the column.

But here’s the thing: My wife has helped literally hundreds of other families in New Jersey navigate the world of special education without charging a dime for her efforts. Because of our daughter’s situation, my wife has become an expert in special education. Because of our daughter’s situation, hundreds of children have been helped. Because of our daughter’s situation, hundreds of families are happier today than they otherwise would have been.

Chaos theory suggests that a butterfly flapping its wings in Kenya could one day cause a snowstorm in Trenton. One decision point here can lead to another decision point down there.

Thanks to our daughter, my wife has improved the lives of hundreds of children.

As a result, many people don’t even realize how grateful they are for my daughter.

The decisions you make and the paths you take can have a profound effect on others. It should be kept in mind.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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