Monday, October 8, 2012

He is pretty special

Last Tuesday, one of my friends called L "Special Ed".   As in, "Don't worry, I don't mind taking care of Special Ed kids."

(Background: L is 2, so he's not any kind of Ed.  He is un-Ed.   But two years from now, barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will go to a typical classroom with the other 4-year-olds.  He is not developmentally delayed.  He just has seizures.)

I mumbled something about L not being "Special Ed" but I couldn't put my finger on exactly why it bothered me. Everybody knows you don't call someone by their diagnosis (or in this case, the program they qualify for), so there was that.  But it was something else.    It's still on my mind 6 days later.

I wasn't offended that she thought Lennon was mentally retarded.  I don't even think she actually did.  I think she meant "special needs" and was just careless with her language.  And I guess L's seizures do qualify as a special need, though I hardly feel like I can claim that title.  I know others who are facing much more, who need much more support.  It's like a stutter, or color blindness, or being tone deaf.  It's real, and it impacts our daily lives, but it isn't that pervasive.   

But what if she did mistakenly think L was developmentally delayed?  Or what if L really was?  Even though that isn't what you spend your pregnancy lying awake praying for, if he did have a developmental delay, that would be our life and it wouldn't be the end of the world.  So that wasn't what bothered me, either.

But if my friend -a caring person in general- was willing to reduce L to a program she thought he would one day be a part of, without even knowing his full story, who's to say what kind of comments he's going to have to deal with in the future?  That's what was bothering me. How can I raise him to shrug off senseless comments without letting them get to him, if I can hardly manage it myself?


  1. May be small comfort, but one way to think of it is to realize that all kinds of people get reduced this way for all kinds of reasons--their physical size, their ethnicity, their religion, their gender, their sexual preferences. I'm guessing that all of us, at some point in our lives, get labeled/defined by something that is only one part of us.

    Obviously, this health issue is one that's a challenge for all of you. But it might also be the thing that helps your son learn to have understanding and compassion for others who are set apart in some way. (And you, too, in a deeper way than you previously have.)

    Parenting a child with special needs is hard in part because it stretches you so. They're called growing pains for a reason, you know? :-)

    1. Thank you, Rita. I hadn't thought about it that way. I do pray that our boys will grow up compassionate towards others. Maybe this is the way that prayer is being answered.

  2. I just discovered your blog today. Lovely to meet you and your family living in one of my favourite countries x I too have a big issue with people not using person first language or labelling people.sometimes it just comes down to education and making peoople aware that in this day and age indpendent of their ability or special need or health issue we all have the right to be the person first and not called a label and access education in which ever setting is best for our child xx

    1. Good to meet you! I just had a peek at your blog- you have such beautiful children. I think you are right... most people just don't know, and that's why they use those words.

      Drop me a line if you come through Thailand again. :)