Is HE Going to be in our Class?

Today we had “Back to School Night” and I was nervous all week thinking about it.

Every year when my oldest has a new teacher, I hope and pray that they are kind, understanding, and teach the other students about inclusion and things that make us different…and that its okay.

We walked up to the list for 2nd grade, I ran my finger down the list to find his name, and we proceeded down the hall to her room.

Max was making loud noises, he held my hand, he has all his comfort pieces of paper with him as we trek down the hall.

His fingers are in his ears because its loud and kids are running and I can tell he is overwhelmed but working through it. 

I get an upset stomach, and anxiety fills my body. I see other 2nd grade boys with their parents and I see them talking about how excited they are, and say hi to their friends, and a tear falls from my eye and down my cheek.

I hug him, say I am proud of you.

He signs, “I love you.” 

He verbalized it in his sweet little quiet voice. We walk in holding hands and immediately there it is…colored paper. EVERYWHERE.

Other kids were filling out their paperwork for an “About Me” assignment and I ask him to try, but he put his name on it and he was done with writing.

I wasn’t going to push it. 

We move on and find the teacher. Max waited patiently as we stood in line to talk to her.

I wanted to see a smiling face, I wanted someone who saw him, I wanted someone who understood him. 

I didn’t get that. 

I introduced myself, and Max says, “Hi”.

If she only knew how long it took for him to say “Hi” with ease maybe she would of appreciated it more. 

She shakes my hand and then she doesn’t move. She doesn’t talk to him, she doesn’t introduce herself, she has no smile and isn’t connecting with him.

I was surprised but then again not.

I have had more heartache when I expect the best from people. 

Side Bar: When people first meet my son, I ALWAYS look at their faces. I want to see their reactions to his smile, his noises, his bright eyes.

When I see burrowed brow and concern on your face, I feel ill. Don’t judge him. Don’t you dare judge him. That mama bear is a beast and she roars with fire. 

She says, “You can just fill these at home and bring them in later, no big deal, he obviously wants to leave.” 

No encouragement, no getting down to look at his face and letting him see yours, no kind words of wanting to get to know him…not a damn thing.

We walk around the cubbies and notice you didn’t make a cubby box in your room. He doesn’t even have a cubby?

I check all the names twice…nope, not here. That can’t be.

I want out. We go to leave. 

Max says, “Bye!” 

I could tell he wanted to connect.

If she would have bent down, held his hand, saw his face, maybe taken ONE SECOND to look at him it would have changed that whole experience for both of us. 

We start walking out and behind us as we are rounding the corner, and I hear a little girl voice ask you, 

“Is he going to be in our class!?”

Instead of that being an opportunity to talk about differences, to help encourage support for her peers she said, 

“Well, not exactly.”

I felt ill.  I should have spoken up. I should have said something.

I have been advocating for you for almost 8 years. Why wasn’t I braver?

I cry walking down the hall. I throw my arm around Max and he looks up at me with those big eyes and that was the friendly face I needed.

He has a way to calm me with just a look. How is it he is there for me in these moments? I know, he knows when I need it.

When he was born, I became a mother. I looked at him, and he looked at me and that was it for me. I got you kid. Heart and soul. 

Now we are in the hallway with your special ed/resource teacher. She sees you, lights up, and she looks right at you and says, “Max! You’re back! I missed you! You’re so tall!” 

He hugged her, and I felt like bawling. We hung out in the sensory room where you were right back into the routine and then we started down the hall towards the front doors.

We had to stop in the Art room because she has A WALL OF COLORED PAPER!

She says, “Hi Max! It’s so nice to see you! Would you like a piece of paper?” 

He is in his Heaven. He goes through all of them reciting each color. 


Finally, he picks a brown, crisp piece of paper and we say and signs, “Thank you.” 

She says, “I look forward to seeing you in class, Max!”

I thank her and we go on our way. 

I wanted to go back to that 1st teacher. I didn’t. I wanted to go back and ask questions, try again, but I felt tired and crushed. I had let that get to me.

It didn’t seem to phase Max, but I believe it did in a way we don’t understand.

I think he knows when someone doesn’t “get” him. I think he can feel it.

I think on a whole other level he can feel the understanding, acceptance, kindness, genuine sincerity and, on the flip side, the uncertainty,  fear, and mild distaste. 

I am hoping that this school year goes well and that the pain of that first impression was an accident because of the chaos of back to school night.

I am praying that she sees and loves his quirks, how smart he is, how he will put his heart right into the palm of your hands, if you let him. 

I hope this letter reaches some General education teachers and they can maybe understand that these kids with different abilities are members of your class.

The students in your class are their peers and making a little extra effort to help spread awareness and acceptance of all different abilities will only benefit them as human beings. 

If these students must step away for speech, occupational therapy, resource room… that they are welcome to your room with the warmth and acceptance they deserve. 

Written by, Caiti Christensen

Cait is a wife, mother of 3 sons, and advocate. Her two oldest sons are on the Autism Spectrum, her oldest being nonverbal. He loves colored paper,  purple and all things involving water. Her second son has Echolelia, loves peanut butter, anything squishy and loves animals. Her third is a neurotypical, friend to all, and loves anything on wheels. She is the Vice President for the Panhandle Autism Society here in North Idaho (an affiliate for Autism Society of America) and a board member for Idaho Parents Unlimited, a nonprofit that supports, empowers, educates, and advocates to enhance the quality of life for Idahoans With disabilities and their families.”

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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