As parents, we all want to see our children make friends. When we discover our children aren't typical, we start focusing on therapies, school, and even just surviving the day. But at some point, we sit and watch our precious child shake two wooden spoons in front of his face for twenty minutes and wonder if there's another child in the world who would understand this behavior. And then you eventually meet another parent of a special needs child and find your answer -- yes, someone does understand! Unfortunately, many of those people exist in a land called The Blogosphere; it is likely you will never step foot in each others' homes.
And even if they did live next door,
one reality would still have to be faced -- the world isn't filled with
people who are exactly like yourself. It's filled mostly with
neurologically and otherwise typical individuals who don't get it when a
seven year old slaps his mother across the face when she asks if his
head hurts or when a little boy at a play group melts down because the
lights are too bright and starts throwing toys like snowballs.
tough being the parent who's constantly running interference, whether
it's because of behavior difficulties, language boundaries, or
navigating basic social interactions. It's a constant game of
interpreting, prompting, and redirecting, but we do it because we hope
for a connection.
I recently read a status update from
a fellow parent of a child with fragile x syndrome. She relayed her
heartache over a conversation with some children in her child's daycare
who said they didn't like her child because they think her child is
mean. I've been there, and it hurts. "He's weird." "He's mean." "He
acts funny." "Why does he do that all the time?" "I don't like him."
parents it is our job to advocate for our children, to be the ones
running interference during play dates. As educators, it's our job to
foster an environment that feels safe and loving. It's our job to listen
for the cues that a child is at risk for alienation and try to stop it;
it's our job to teach tolerance
begins with our own attitudes, with the verbal and non-verbal language
we use while talking to and about challenging children. I'm guilty of
the eye roll, too, I am. I'm guilty of walking in and thinking, "I can
NOT do this another day" and letting it affect my approach to the class.
We've all been there, and we can all probably do better.
I suggested to this parent was that she sit down with the teacher and
let her know about this conversation and her concern over her child's
acceptance. And then I would expect the teacher to do something about
it, even if that meant having a talk with the entire class. Here's what
have said in response to preschoolers questioning me about my son: You
know how you're super smart? Well, he's smart, too, but it takes him
longer to learn new things. He has trouble using his words and making
friends. But you can be a good friend to him and a helper to me by
showing him how to make good choices.
fielded a lot of questions about sensory integration techniques such as
therapeutic brushing. The easiest way to answer, "Why does he do that?"
is to simply say, "It helps him to feel better. It helps his body feel
My name is Erika and blog over at theotherlion about my son, Punkin, who is seven and is diagnosed with fragile x syndrome. I have been a ParaEducator with children who have special needs for seven years.