Saturday, April 26, 2014

PSA: There's Nothing "Wrong" With Our Children

I just got back from a child's birthday party. I've recently adopted the term "knackered" from British slang, not because I'm a wannabe Brit (I'm a total wannabe Brit), but because it better describes the state one is left in after certain parental obligations. It means "tired", but I prefer it because it has a certain onomatopoeic value that sounds more than just normal tired. It sounds like, beat-up, sore, dirty, and stained with frosting tired. That's me. Right now.

That's also Liam and Finn right now. Consequently they're both asleep so I can sit and blog about something that I think is important. That thing is: What do you do when you hear someone's child is in "special ed"?

The mother of the child who just had the birthday party and I were bonding because we both have boys diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I'm starting to notice that every parent with an ASD diagnosed kid kind of rolls their eyes at the whole thing. We appreciate that it gets them the help they need, so the experts can call it whatever the hell they want, but ultimately the label is pretty much meaningless. Anyway, we were bonding because a lot of you well meaning folks don't know how to react when we answer your question "what school does your child go to?" This mom put it perfectly, "It's like you have to talk them down off the ledge. Like you just told them your child has cancer."

So here's what you do: When you hear someone's child is in special ed, stay calm, don't make that face, and try not to tell us how sorry you are. I know it's hard. Sure there was a moment when we first heard about it that it all seemed tragic, but we're well past that now. If you want to be cool, treat the news of our child's special education like you would treat the news that a friend of yours is going to start riding their bike to work everyday. It's a little more challenging and might take more time, but it's rewarding and kind of fun. 

That's a crappy analogy. I'm knackered. 

I guess my point is, see it how we see it. There's nothing wrong with our kids. They're not sick. Their path is just a bit unorthodox. They're going to get where every other kid will get but it might take more time and be slightly wackier a process. That's all.

I think the safest default is to share your own experience. A quick little "everyone develops differently" anecdote is always relatable. We all know someone, or may even be that someone, who wasn't a superstar academically or socially when they were younger. "Hey, my brother Percy couldn't say his 'r's until he was thirteen and got into trouble every time he introduced himself. Now he's the CEO of Roederer." It's nice to be reminded that peaking early is never a good thing.

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