A Better Place

I read what you said, how special-needs kids should be kept at home instead of going back to school this fall.

“Let’s just keep these kids at home and when this passes they can come back to school. Do you really think they’ll be any different after a year of staying home with their parents?” 

After that you used a very ugly r-word but I am not going to repeat that quote because honestly, what’s the point? It only makes me feel angry, and raw, and defeated. 

I don’t usually get involved in this kind of stuff. I don’t like to give it my energy, to be honest. 

The article was in the Denver Post. I’ve never been to Denver. 

It said you teach kindergarten. 

Kindergarteners are so sweet, aren’t they? So excited for the newness of school and the crayons and snack time and the playground. 

When my son Jack was in kindergarten, he wore a blue shirt almost every day. Blue was his favorite color. And if it was in the wash, he would scream and flap his hands and get very agitated. 

He has autism, you see. At five years old, he liked things a certain way.

He is sixteen now. He still likes things a certain way. He likes to clean his glasses exactly one time an hour, and he eats lunch at noon on the dot.

Does this make him the r-word? No. It does not.

“Sounds like someone doesn’t want to deal with their special needs kid,” you wrote. “Your problem, not mine.”

 I guess you could say he is my problem. I don’t always see it that way.

I mean, sometimes I do. I see his future as my problem. I see his safety, and his independence, and his happiness as my problem.

I see the possible side effects of his medication as my problem.

His academic plan, his place in our country, his long term independence.

My son has special needs. It has been this way since the day he was born.  

You claimed your account was hacked. I guess that’s possible. Sure, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

You see, I have to believe people are good. Otherwise I might go right out of my mind. 

I love him.

I love this boy who is perpetually marginalized, and sidelined, and overlooked, simply because his brain is wired a little differently. 

Yes, he is different. But he is equal. 

You are under investigation because of what you posted. You will probably lose your job. 

This is good. I guess this is good. 

But will it really teach you anything?

Will it teach you about people like Jack, and all we stand to learn from him?

I doubt it.

You know what I think would help? If you had to spend the whole entire day with my son.

If you sat beside him in the hushed blue dawn, and felt his silence as your own.

If you watched him earnestly prepare his waffles for breakfast, and dutifully wipe down the counter when he’s finished.

He will surprise you with all he knows, and understands, and feels.

If you stay very still and barely breathe your own breath, he will tell you things. He will tell you the last time he ate a hotdog, and the first time he saw fire. 

He will let you inside his dreams, both big and small. 

When the orange sun descends, and the sky is a dusky purple, everything you thought you knew about special needs and problems and teaching will vanish with the evening light.

Because after this day with this boy, you will be a different person. Enlightened, yet humbled. You will know for certain that the world is a better place with him in it. 

And I promise you, the r-word would drop from your lexicon like a hot coal from the palm of your hand. 

I know you can’t walk inside his shoes, exactly, but you can follow in his footsteps. 

The world is changing. 

Please, give him a chance. 

I need you to give him a chance. 

I believe in him.

I believe in you. 

Blue is still his favorite color.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

Interested in writing for Finding Cooper’s Voice? LEARN MORE

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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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 my page!

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