I saw K’s old early intervention preschool teacher’s aide (who is in her late 30s) outside of school today. We had a little chat while we were both stuck trying to get out of the parking lot. K and my other two daughters were in the car.
She asked how K was doing, and I said, “K’s sick – she puked today in school, but on a good note, she read OUT LOUD in class today from her favorite book because she’s “star of the week”.
She replied to me, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that she’s sick. But that’s great about the reading. Oh, by the way, I saw K in the hallway last week with her little classmates looking at a little caterpillar that was on the floor and she was talking to her friends and you know what? She looked NORMAL”.
Uh, come again? You did NOT just say that within earshot of my daughter, did you? You work with kids who have special needs, not ABNORMAL kids.
But I didn’t say that. I might have, had I not had a run-in with her last year and I really wasn’t about to start another one.
Not missing a beat, I said to her, “K’s always been normal…(laugh) but she IS doing really great with speaking this year”.
When I look at special needs children, I don’t see abnormal children. I see children with different needs than you and me. And my children don’t see abnormal children. They see their friends.
We have a 16 year old nephew with cerebral palsy, that helped prepare all of us for the different challenges that having a disability gives a person. He’s 16 and still wheelchair bound (and yes, still drools a lot). But exposure to him and discussing what special needs means and what it does not has made my girls have a special heart for their special needs friends.
We don’t think of him as abnormal.
My oldest daughter often helps a set of twins with special needs, one of whom has CP and in a wheelchair and one of whom has other special needs and can walk with some difficulties. I’m grateful to say that she goes right up to them and plays with them, talks with them, and even helps them when they need something done (like when S’s shoe fell off, she put it back on him and tied it for him). They seem to appreciate the kindnesses my daughter gives them.
We don’t think of them as abnormal.
My K had selective mutism for 2 years. I never once considered her abnormal. In fact, I have always considered her highly bright (and proved to have a second grade reading level during the first assessment of school) but with a special need.
Selective mutism isn’t an disease, or a disorder (not a permanent one anyway), I believe (as her neuropsychologist explained) it’s simply a neurodevelopmental delay or better yet, a limbic mood dysregulation. Give the child proper tools and support, and s/he will “outgrow” the selective mutism and flourish. I did, and she has. 2 years ago, I never thought I’d see her read a book out loud, in front of her classmates. But today she did. I am so proud of her.
I’m not angry at the teacher’s aide, only saddened by the fact that she categorizes children in her charge as normal/abnormal and she ought to know better.