Dear Typical Parent,
Hi there! I saw you this morning at the bus stop, taking pictures of your kids in their new clothes with shiny backpacks and haircuts. My son was the little guy with a hole in the back of his shirt where he ripped out the label because he couldn’t stand the feel of it against his skin. He had last year’s backpack even though the zipper is broken, because it’s familiar to him and he was also wearing last year’s shoes because he doesn’t grow much and they feel just right. Kids with autism like things that are broken in.
I noticed your son’s shiny braces, too! My son needs braces, but he can’t get them yet. He’s had two surgeries to have teeth removed (not at the dentist’s office, but at the hospital because that’s where kids with heart defects have to go), but he needs to have even more taken out before we can think about braces. That will be surgery number 14…I think. I’ve lost track.
Your daughter was the one first to ask how old my son was; probably because she’s seven and taller than he is. See above, regarding heart defects. He gets a shot of growth hormone every day, though, so I’m hoping he looks like a nine year old by Christmas break!
At first he didn’t hear the question, because his new hearing aids are still on order. After she asked three times, your son was shocked after my son said his age, so I said, “No, really. He is 13.”
Your boy replied, “He’s so little. That’s weird” and it was awesome how you nervously laughed and didn’t correct him.
When your kids come home this afternoon, they may tell you that my son sang the entire time he was on the bus. Or, that he bounced in his seat, or that he did something completely off the wall like throw something out of the window. I hope you are like the parents at his first primary school and tell your kids that he may not be able to help it, but if you’re like the parents at his second primary school, I understand that your first reaction will be to call the school and attempt to get him removed from the bus.
I know my son doesn’t look like yours, act like yours, play sports like yours, eat like yours, or talk like yours. That’s because he is not yours. He is mine. He is unique and quirky and sometimes the most frustrating human being in the world, but he is a child. And, he’s a child who needs an education just like yours. He’s smart enough to score on a 10th grade math level, but sometimes he can’t get his actions and words to match what’s in his brain.
Tomorrow, after you’ve had a chance to talk to your kids about inclusion and how every child deserves a chance to go to school I hope they will greet him with hearty hellos. I promise, if they do, I’ll do the exact same for you.