*WARNING - you may be offended with some part or every part of this post. However, I am nothing if I am not honest, snarky, and obsessed with making people think outside their box. Read on if you choose.*
I'm not perfect. Not even close. My shoe collection, maybe. But me - not so much. I am kind of known for sticking my foot waaaaaayyyy in my mouth, and diggin' holes deeper than Jimmy Hoffa's grave. SO I GET IT. However, I DO apologize when I realize (or when it's been pointed out to me) that I've said something ignorant, or hurt someone's feelings. I am especially careful in choosing my words when speaking to other moms of children with special needs. Yes, it's an exclusive little club we belong to, but still. Tact is tact is tact. That being said, I have had some VERY interesting things said to me in regards to my munchkin. Some were said out of ignorance, some out of malice, and some out of kindness, but just resulted in a poor choice of nouns and adjectives. Therefore, I've comprised a short list of things you might not ever ever ever ever EVER want to say to the parent of a child with special needs. Seriously - write these down if you need to. It's really, like...EVER.
1. "Kids with special needs deserve to be treated just as well as normal human beings." - Cashier at neighborhood grocery store
- She had been playing with my daughter while I fished out my money, and was very kind as she told me about a kid she knew with special needs (sidenote: why do people do this - is this your way of telling me you're "ok" with special needs? As if I'm craving your acceptance....hmmmm...just a ponderance. What if you had red hair and to strike conversation I decided to tell you about the ONE friend I had in high school with red hair....wouldn't that be weird?? I'm jussayin'.). However, as we were leaving her lane she closed out the conversation with that statement - "kids with special needs deserve to be treated just as well as normal human beings". Her "declaration" caught me mid step, and mid swallow (Dr. Pepper in the checkout lane - don't act like you don't do it), and I literally almost choked AND fell at the same time. WHO SAYS THAT?? Now, I know that is not how she meant it (or at least that's what I've told myself), but damn....try this next time....SAY IT IN YOUR HEAD FIRST. If it sounds weird/strange/offensive/ignorant/justplainridiculous - choose new words. Reshape your thought.
2. "Your child's therapeutic equipment is a safety hazard to the other children at the center." - Early Childhood Learning Center Director
- It took everything in my power not to tell her that her mouth had just become a hazard. As she explained to me the asinine reasons why my two year old had to remain in the infant room, all I wanted to do was punch her in the throat. Seriously. Punch her. In. The throat. I was livid. EDUCATORS - DON'T DO THIS. It's not fair. It's not cool. And it's definitely NOT LEGAL. Besides, you never know who your parents know - or who they may be, They could be, (or could know) someone who is good with words, writes a blog, and children's books for children with special needs, and is garnering a nice, influential network of friends. I'm jussayin'.
3. "Oh my goodness! Your little guy is really having a meltdown! Back in my day, my mom used to....blah blah blah" - overheard in Target checkout line, one woman speaking to mom in front of her
- Now this mama was not blind. And she didn't come across as deaf. So I'm fairly sure she knew her kid was having a rough day. And the giant "AUTISM SPEAKS ARIZONA" emblazoned across her AND HER SON'S tee shirt could have clued the other woman into the fact that maybe something else was going on, and maybe it wasn't just a "meltdown". Idk...maybe I'm the ignorant one. Maybe I'm assuming too much with this one. I will be the first to tell you that I don't know a whole heck of a lot about Autism. But every parent that I know that has a child somewhere on the spectrum has said that they hate when people point out the obvious when they're kid is having a "rough day", and hate even more when people offer unsolicited advice on how to "handle" their child. As if Autism is a product of bad parenting, or lazy parenting. I wanted to run to aisle 17, buy this poor mom a BOX of wine, and crack it open in the parking lot with her. A toast to morons everywhere....
4. "We don't have those kind of people here. We're a full kindergarten class and just don't have time to take a child to the bathroom. If they're not potty trained, this may not be the best fit." - Kindergarten teacher during a pre-registration open house referring to my kid (who is still in diapers) as "those kind of people".
- Ok. So my blood is boiling as I type this one. Because it happened to ME. TODAY. Four hours ago actually. And yes, I'm still pissed about it. My daughter and I were attending a Kindergarten open house with a girlfriend, and her daughter. We'll call her daughter *M*. Little *M* is typically abled, and is one of MY daughter's best friends at preschool. My girlfriend asked what children were expected to have mastered upon entering Kindergarten, and the teacher's FIRST response was "POTTY TRAINED". I immediately quipped "Well what if they're not?", and the above was her response. I made a face as if to say "What the hell did you just say to me?", and her teacher aide must have seen it because she immediately piped up and tried to back pedal out of that nasty little shithole her boss had just created. However, this teacher just kept right on pedaling forward as I stormed out of the room on the brink of tears. I completely fell apart in the car - and vowed that my kid would NOT be held back simply because she has challenges with her fine motor skills, and is in diapers. SHE MAY ALWAYS BE IN DIAPERS, YA ASSHAT! Doesn't say a damn thing about her ability to learn. However, the teacher's insistence that they weren't a good fit for those two reasons spoke VOLUMES about her understanding of pedagogy, Reggio Emilia learning model, and children in general. We don't want your stupid school anyway! And for the record, after leaving there my daughter and I went straight to Target to buy her very first pair of Underroos. And those bad boys are going on right over her diaper. HA! (UGH! I SO WANNA DROP 8,000 'F' BOMBS RIGHT NOW!!!)
And last but not least....the creme de la creme....
5. "I'm sorry she made you so sad, but I don't think she realized that you were asking questions in regards to YOUR daughter possibly attending. I think she thought you were just visiting with your friend." - PRINCIPAL of aforementioned school
- ARE.YOU.SHITTING ME?????? A: Should it matter whether I'm "just visiting" with my girlfriend, or if I'm asking for my own child? Either/or, it doesn't change the fact that I AM STANDING IN FRONT OF YOU WITH A CHILD IN A WHEELCHAIR. For the words "those kinds of people" to even make their way from her brain to her mouth and out into the open air is just...just...ugh...there's not even a word to describe it. Repulsive is an understatement. and B: Do you really think I would CHOOSE to go to a Kindergarten open house with my child on a BEAUTIFUL SATURDAY AFTERNOON, if I wasn't considering your school as a good fit for my child? Really? REALLY? To say I was floored doesn't even cut it. EDUCATORS - please think...please please PLEASE think about the words you use when talking to parents of children with special needs. These are our CHILDREN. OUR BABIES. We carried them for 9 months, and will love them for a lifetime. Whether they can walk, stand, run, pee in a potty, or pee in a diaper, write with a pencil or comunicate with an aud/com device, focus for an hour, or dial in for five minutes...they are our children. And just like any other child in your classroom, they deserve to be afforded the same luxury of learning. Just as a parent can make or break a child's self esteem, so can the educational system, and those within it.
And I know I'm probably gonna catch holy hell from teachers everywhere who are over worked and underpaid...and that's fine. I get it. But I also I don't do what I do and expect EVERYONE to love it. I do what I do because I am the voice my child doesn't have yet. When she gets her aud/com device, I'm sure she'll tell you herself.
See you at my local grocery store/Target/preschool/Kindergarten class! Make sure you stop and say 'Hi!'
That's always a GREAT way to start a conversation!