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Working as a parenting writer I see a lot of good things, but sadly, I see more than an equal number of bad.
When Daniel started becoming school-aged I took every opportunity to read all the horror stories that popped up in the news when it came to special needs and the education system. It terrified me. Even now, writing this, it is hard not to think about the kids who were publicly mocked by caregivers, tasered, handcuffed, and physically assaulted at school
Not only did all these big issues frighten me, all the little worries about going to school became overwhelming.
What if Daniel didn’t make it to the bathroom in time and has an accident in school? How is the teacher going to know that this grunt means "that," or that sound means "this?" Who is going to help him eat if he refuses to hold a spoon that day?
And while it's still hard not to worry about these things, a recent article took a load off my heavy heart. This May an online publication called The Mighty posted a story written by a special education teacher.
In her piece titled “When My Dates Would Ask Why I Teach ‘Those’ Kids,” Adrian Underwood explains why she is a special education teacher:
I get to hear kids labeled ‘nonverbal’ speak words for the first time.I’m there when they finally make eye contact and spontaneously request Goldfish.I feel complete and total joy when one of my students says ‘hi’ and interacts with another student in the hallway.And the feeling you get when your student is finally, completely and totally potty trained, well nothing tops that.
Through tears I read on, and came to a point in Adrian’s story where she describes a bad day and a conversation that had taken place between her and her now-boyfriend.
I came home upset and crying after a particularly hard day.[My boyfriend] looked at me and said, “Why do you teach those kids?”I answered, “Because if I don’t do it then someone else is doing it, and I cannot bear to think of someone who doesn’t love them as much as I do being with them.”Then he said, “And if I told you to just quit, that we’ll be OK. What would you do?”“Work with kids with disabilities,” I said. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”“And so,” he said, “Why do you teach those kids?”“Because I love them,” I answered. “Because this was one bad day and one bad day does not make a year.”He hugged me and said, “You better suck it up, Buttercup. Sounds to me like you’re the perfect person for those kids.”I smiled… I teach those kids because for them, I am their person.
And so, to the future teachers of my special-needs son, thank you. Thank you in advance for all of the difficulties we will face together.
Thank you for celebrating with me when he shatters each milestone.
Thank you for relieving me of the feeling that I’m alone in raising my child with special needs.
Thank you for loving him like I love him.
And THANK YOU for being “his person.”
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.