It's come to my attention that you've made a request to the school. You don't want my son in your child's classroom next year. You think my boy is a problem. You think he's a distraction. You don't want your child around him. My guy is a bad influence.
I get it. I do. I see things from your perspective. You don't know my guy. You've never had the chance to get to know him. No one has explained him to you. You don't know about his special needs. They've just let you go on judging him and silently thanking God that your child isn't like mine.
Here, take my shoes. Walk in them for just a day. See my boy through my eyes. See his desperate desire to be loved. Feel his constant need to be reassured. He needs your constant approval. Try to help him fit in. Help him cope when he knows he's doing wrong but can't make his body do right. Hold him tight when he cries because he doesn't like himself or how others perceive him. Feel his struggle to behave the way society expects him to. See the light begin to go out in his eyes as he starts to realize he's different. Be there when a person of authority in his life shames him. Try to keep it together when his little spirit is broken.
Feel the frustration I feel when others don't know him like I do. Try to fix him. Remember each and every special need he has. Feel the constant worry that you're doing it wrong. Don't yell...even when his disability infuriates you. Be a constant model of good behavior. Apologize profusely to the parents of those he's wronged. Try to change their minds about him.
Remind him everyday how to be a friend, how to make a friend and how to keep a friend. Remind him to control himself and that his choices have consequences. Whatever you do, don't mess up. Endure the constant worry about making mistakes and missteps. Don't mar the work that's been done. You'll never forgive yourself.
Be sure to always wear your armor. There's lots of fighting to do. Fighting for your child's good. Fighting to be sure he gets the education he deserves. Fighting those who, though it's their job, won't fight for him. You'll have to be his warrior.
Always have your thinking cap on. You'll need to do research, read journals, send emails, contact experts. You'll need to know laws and statutes and codes. You'll need to know who to contact, who to ask for help and who to avoid. You'll need to be an expert when it comes to special education, too.
Be sure to have plenty of funds available for specialists that aren't covered by your insurance. You're going to see doctors...and more doctors...and more doctors, until you find one that really wants to help. You'll need to decide whether or not to medicate your baby. It's gut-wrenching but you're going to have to watch your boy be poked and prodded and tested and questioned. None of which he'll understand.
You'll get to hear all the whispers about how your child is out of control and how you need to show him who's in charge, need to give him a good spanking or teach him a lesson. Listen politely and take into consideration every bit of unsolicited advice no matter how far-fetched. You wouldn't want to offend anyone. Be ready to educate those that don't know about his disability but have lots of opinions about how to handle him.
You're going to ugly-cry. A lot. Have your tissues ready. You'll need a lot of tissues. Tissues for the days that you just can't keep it together anymore. For the the big, fat, proud tears you cry when you guy has a breakthrough. You'll cry about everything. About how dirty your house is. About how you forgot to feed the dogs. About how you're not fighting hard enough for your boy. About how he has to work so hard to learn the simple things that are supposed to come naturally. You'll cry because he's starting to notice that he's not the same as the other kids and you'll cry because he doesn't know how incredible he is.
Don't forget to keep your marriage strong and take care of the rest of your family while you do all of the above. Don't let anyone slip through the cracks. Forget about yourself, there's no time for that. You're going to lose friends. It's ok though because you're also going to gain some amazing new friends.
It's not all bad. In fact, a lot of your life will be immeasurably amazing. You're going to have days when you feel so lucky and so proud. But it's never going to be easy.
No? You don't like my shoes? Hmmm. That's ok. I'll gladly take them back. They aren't always comfortable and they aren't always in style but they're mine. Walking in them has made me who I am and I'm proud of my shoes.
Before you return to your own comfortable shoes I ask just this: The next time you begin to judge a child who's not like yours or to criticize or question his parent, please remember how it felt to walk in my shoes.