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September 17-23

Fighting for My “Different” Son

I am the parent of a child in “special education” and also work in a preschool for children with “special needs” (in the United States). It has been invaluable to discharge about my own child being “different” (not “typical”). This always gets to the heart of my own early hurts, where I feel on my own1 and not okay about myself. It has also been helpful to connect with other parents of children who have disabilities and who are in the “special education” system. This has reduced my feelings of isolation.

Every child and every situation calls for unique efforts—there is never a “one size fits all” approach that works. I ask myself, “How can I assist teachers and clinicians to see my son as the unique, intelligent, and precious human being that he is? How can I obtain for him the resources that might be available to him in school?”

Recently my son was placed in a class with teachers who seemed particularly rigid and punitive. They were both first-time parents. I decided to meet with them. They talked negatively and harshly about my son. I let myself cry in front of them and recounted some of my son’s early struggles. I also acknowledged how hard it must be for them to leave their own young children at home to come to work. My goal was for them to feel empathy for my son, to see him more fully and appreciate him. I had a sense that the only way I could reach them was by making myself vulnerable and speaking to them parent to parent. It’s not an approach I’d generally recommend, but in this case it had a good effect.

A month later, in a parent-teacher conference, they had nothing but positive things to say about my son. He had been better able to learn and be part of the class. He was also expressing less anger and frustration at home. We had started doing special time2 again, because I’d gathered some slack from having successfully handled what had felt like an impossible situation.

I keep in mind that people are better able to learn when they feel liked. I’ve also found that when young people are given even a little bit of good information about “differences” in other children, they can be curious without being unkind to their peers.

Disability oppression is real, and the educational system is seriously flawed or broken, but many positive things can still happen for us when we fight for our children.

New York, New York, USA

1 "On my own” means by myself, without help.
2 “Special time” is an activity, developed in RC family work, during which an adult puts a young person in full charge of their mutual relationship, as far as the young person can think. For a specific period of time, the adult lets the young person know that he or she is willing to do anything the young person wants to do. The adult focuses his or her entire attention on the young person and follows his or her lead, whether the young person tells, or simply shows, the adult what she or he wants to do.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00