I Didn’t Have the Capacity For a Confrontation

Right after we moved into our current home, I registered to attend several open houses for homeschool co-ops and tutorials in this area.

I will never, for as long as I live, forget one specific open house.

As one of the teachers shared her plans for the fall semester, she referenced the potential number of students in her classroom based on the current number of interested families.

“We have seven students…” she began.

That number didn’t include Milo.

I’d attended the open house with a friend who also had a son with special needs.

That number didn’t include her child, either.

Another teacher spoke up. “You forgot about Milo and Ben! You mean nine students!”

The teacher at the whiteboard smiled. “Well, yeah…” she conceded. To this day, I cannot believe the next two words that came out of her mouth. “…nine bodies.”

My mouth dropped.

Say something, I told myself. She just called your son a “body.”

I stood up, threw my purse over my shoulder, and mustered what felt like every ounce of courage I had inside my body. Then, I asked where the restroom was. That was all I could manage at the time.

Someone pointed and I made my way to the restroom. I closed the door and, with shaking hands, pushed the lock on the door. I stared at my reflection in the mirror, dialogue playing on a loop: Seven students… You forgot… There are nine… Nine bodies.

Surely I’d misheard.

There was no other explanation.

I reached over to flush the toilet. I turned on the faucet, let my hands fill with cool water.

What am I supposed to do?

If I’d driven my own car, I would’ve slipped out the back door and left without another word. I needed a ride, though. There was only one choice. I had to get through this meeting.

I went back into the room and sat next to my friend. The topic was still Milo and Ben. A couple of teachers were talking about how “helpful” it would be for the other students to get to know Milo and Ben. One mom agreed. She felt their presence would teach the other kids compassion.

I checked my watch.

The meeting continued, with a couple more references to Milo and Ben as “bonus” students.

Constant differentiation was made between the seven typically developing students and the two students with special needs. 

The number nine was never, ever used for their classroom.

My friend and I were silent as we walked toward her car in the darkness. She glanced at me as she turned the ignition key.

“What?” she asked softly.

I started crying. “She called them bodies,” I choked out.

“I know,” she said.

We never went back. We made up lame excuses as to why.

We didn’t have the capacity for a confrontation.

I wrote about the incident in my journal immediately after it happened: “I just want to scream!!! Why is everything so broken…so futile…why is my baby treated this way!!!???!!

I’ve never known such pain.

Such hopelessness.

Why can’t the world see this precious boy the way I see him?”

That event, while traumatic, birthed a quiet defiance in my heart that exists to this day.

I am not required to confront every person who hurts my family. I can react with my actions, too. I can ignore the call. I can quit the group. I can leave the message on “read.”

My energy is better spent elsewhere.

Written by, Heather Cadenhead

Heather Cadenhead is a mom of boys, homeschool teacher, and autism advocate. She writes about nonverbal autism and homeschooling on Instagram.

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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