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When My Elementary School Principal Told My Mom I’d Never 'Amount to Anything'

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I shudder each time I hear a parent talk about some professional who told them their autistic child will never amount to anything. I’m not quite sure what gives these professionals the right to say that to any parent. By professionals I mean teachers, principals, doctors, psychologists, anyone in authority.

No one has the right to tell any parent what they believe a child can or cannot accomplish in their lifetime. I have seen parents take those words to heart and actually believe them, because they came from a professional. Dear parent, take heart and listen up! I’m living proof of why you should never listen to such negative words.

I fell in love with horses at the age of 4. I was obsessed with them. When I was in fifth grade, I begged my mom for riding lessons at a nearby stable. The only problem was that the group lessons were every Friday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. That would mean I’d have to get out of school by 2 p.m. in order to get to the stable on time.

Not diagnosed with autism until age 50, all throughout my school years I was viewed as the “weird” kid, and no one knew what to do with me.

My mom went to talk to the elementary school principal to inquire about me getting out one hour earlier each Friday for the next eight weeks. She took me with her to go talk to him. So there I stood, gingerly peering out from behind my mom as she asked if I could be released from school the one hour earlier each Friday. He calmly smiled and replied, “Sure! Anita’s never going to amount to anything anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” I can remember the rage my mom was in for weeks after that statement. She didn’t believe that for one minute, and simply continued to encourage me to do my best at whatever I chose to do.

As I now have been working the past 28 years as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, having graduated from Columbia University with my Master’s in Nurse Anesthesia, I can still see that man saying that to my mom. I also became an internationally published military aviation photojournalist, an accomplished equestrienne, and now an internationally recognized autism advocate, author, national speaker, and blogger.

So the next time anyone tells you that your child will never amount to anything, or will never do X, Y, or Z, simply smile at their ignorance. Go home and be your child’s cheerleading squad, their emotional support, and their source of encouragement to be all they can.

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Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: October 18, 2016
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