To the Other Parents Who’ve Heard About ‘That Kid’ at School


When my son was still in a public bricks and mortar school, he did a lot of things that others would find odd and unexpected. You might see him doing different things like shouting in the office, but that’s just it. That’s all you would see. And you might have some thoughts about why that was happening, but you wouldn’t really know what was happening unless you knew me or asked me.

What you didn’t see is the number of times he was trying to let his support person know what he needed. What you didn’t see or know about is the strict boundaries that were placed on him, which sometimes didn’t make sense even to me. What you didn’t see is me coming to pick him up 30 minutes later, because there was no point in him sitting in the office for the remainder of the day.

You wouldn’t know how many phone calls I made to the school and to the district helping teacher to try and get a plan in place so my son could be a part of his school community. You wouldn’t know my son thrives on consistency, and the last-minute changes in staffing threw him off.

You wouldn’t know how hard we had worked to get our son to where he was, and that we experienced a glimpse of success only to have supports changed and withdrawn. His success did a nosedive, and we had to try to start all over again.

For the parents who don’t have a child with special needs and are here because you want to know more about our experiences, I celebrate you. I cherish that you want to know more, that you’re curious and you want to support us. The truth is, I fought hard so my son could be a part of his school community alongside your child. Not so he could hurt them or disrupt them, but because he needed a chance to be a kid. He wanted to be there, and I know he could have still been there had I simply not gotten exhausted and given up trying to get appropriate supports in place. (Not that this was a bad thing; we’re in such a better place and space for learning now.)

I know it can be hard to have kids who struggle in our schools, especially when they’re not getting the support they need. But I want you to know that we can’t give up on these kids. If you know of a child who is struggling, ask the parent if there’s something you can do to help or if they would like to chat about their experience. You could start with “I hear it is really tough to get children the support they need in school. I’d like to understand more.”

Talk to the teacher or principal and ask for the child to receive the support he/she needs so all kids can benefit from learning from and with each other.

If your friends start talking about “that kid,” try asking an “I wonder” question. I wonder if we know the whole story? I wonder if the parents have tried to get support for their child and been turned down? We need to remind ourselves that everyone deserves a chance. And we need to dispel the myth that parents aren’t doing anything to help their kids because most of us really are. It just isn’t known or seen.

I appreciate everyone who has joined us and supported us on this advocacy journey.

Follow this journey on Champions for Community Mental Wellness.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Other

Dirty (and Not-So-Dirty) Secrets of Parents of Kids With Life-Limiting Illness

It has been 11 years now on this journey with my son, Brendan Bjorn, my angel boy who has a life-limiting illness. But to be clear, those aren’t your typical 11 years. You see, when you are a parent to a child with a life-limiting illness, each year is multiplied in some mystical, cosmic way [...]

The Secret I’m Ashamed of as an Autism Mom

As an autism mom, I probably have a ton of secrets I don’t even know about. I don’t realize they’re secrets. But one stands out, and I’m not proud of it. I desperately want to be perfect, superhuman and without emotion. I want to be unabashedly proud 100 percent of the time. I want to [...]

To the Special Needs Parent Feeling Anxiety About the Unknown

To the new special needs parent, I was like you once, overwhelmed with sadness, anger, guilt, fear and anxiety regarding the unknown. The anxiety was so strong and overwhelming that it became an extension of myself. Questions whirled around in my head in what seemed like a non-ending loop: Will he walk? Will he talk? Why did [...]

What These Everyday Disability Phrases All Have in Common

“Confined to a wheelchair.” “Wheelchair-bound.” I was born three months premature and had to be transported from one hospital to another when I was only 2 hours old to receive oxygen treatments. It remains a mystery whether my premature birth caused my diagnosis or vice versa, but regardless, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 15 [...]