The following post was inspired by Kristi's Our Land recent post (Do All Kids Have Special Needs?) and the pictures I took after reading her Facebook request.
There was a gathering at our local park last weekend for families with children attending Kindergarten next year. It was a lovely day, and I got to sign up for the PTA and all that. But I was nervous. Would my daughter interact with the other children? Would her delays stand out so much that she would not be able to keep up? Would she be found out as a special needs, hindering her social chances from the get-go?
Let me be clear, I'm not ashamed of my daughter's special needs, and I don't try to hide the fact that she has them. But neither do I want to introduce her as "my daughter with special needs." She is so much more, and there is a stigma to the special needs label. I know this because I have awarded too freely (before I had a child with special needs) and then because of this conversation that occurred soon after we arrived.
Parent One: How many Kindergarten classrooms are there?
Me: Seven, I believe.
Parent Two: Actually, six. And then there's a special needs classroom.
There's a prejudice, and as a perceived member of the Parents of Typically Developing Children Clan, I was allowed to hear it. And you now what? I walked away. At the time I could only think of how I might be labelling my own child in the eyes of this woman with a narrow view of children with special needs. I don't feel any anger towards her. It never occurred to her that one of the parents she was talking to had a child with special needs, that special needs can hit as close to home as our neighborhood park. With hindsight (the wonderful clarity of hindsight), I can think of numerous polite, confident responses to her statement that would cause her to think twice about exclusionary statements in the future. And I can also realize that speaking up and using my personal experience would have probably have made a lasting impression. So, next time...
It turns out Maggie did find a little buddy. The buddy was more invested in the relationship than she was, and I fulfilled most of Maggie's side, but Maggie kept up, albeit slowly and with some assistance, with everything the other little girl did. She climbed and slid and and bounced on the swinging bridge (holding on). When the other little girl made a comment about Maggie taking longer than she did to climb the chain ladder, I simply commented that some activities are harder for some people than others. While the chain ladder might be difficult for Maggie and easy for the other little girl, there are other tasks that are challenging for the other little girl and easy for Maggie.
It was an easy, smooth exchange, and that's what I really wanted to say anyway. That will probably turn into my public school mantra.
With that and Kristi's post in mind, I'm publishing the photos I sent to her. Three of us came up with our own challenges (and I chose Leo's). Some tasks come easy to each of us, and some tasks are hard.