Why being a special needs parent has made me a better teacher…

I see a child struggling to grasp a concept and I don’t ask myself “what’s wrong with them?” instead I ask what can I do better to help them understand. I see the whole child. I see struggle in their faces. I see the light switch on when they first grasp a concept. I rejoice in their successes and stand by them in their failures. I see their families. I see the whole picture. I see the big picture.

 I see the mother who’s rushed that morning to get her kids up, fought complaints and battles between tooth brushing and breakfast, got her kids to school on time and all before 8am. I see that mother, because I’ve been that mother. I’ve had breakfast thrown at me, changed my outfits three times in a single morning and let my child go to school without brushing her teeth all to get to school on time.

I see the mother who’s late to school with her child every morning and, I don’t judge her. I know that I don’t know what she’s going through or her reasoning for being late every morning but I know if she could, she would get there on time. I don’t know the hard night she’s had or the struggles she’s facing but I know struggle and that makes me know her. I welcome her child into my classroom with a warm “good morning” and a nod for her. I see this mother because I’ve been this mother. I know what it’s like to wake a child who’s sleep means so much, who’s sleep literally means a healing brain. I know what it means to drag a sleepy child out of bed for school, mix up medication with sleepy eyes, get her crazy hair combed, feed her breakfast, brush her teeth and get her to drink 12mls of medication before leaving the door because if she doesn’t you’ll worry all day that it won’t have been enough. 

I consol the mother in my conference who cries over her child’s performance according to some arbitrary guideline of life and I assure her that he/she will get there. I let her know that everyone has a different path, everyone runs at a different speed and everyone gets to  their place in the end. I do so because I know what it feels like to be the parent who’s crying on the other side of the table. I know the blank stare and the sad look of “not sure what to do here” and I know the “I don’t care look.” I never want anyone to feel that look from me and so I feel with my whole heart and show her I care. 

I see the parent who worries her child is “different” from the others. Who asks me if this is “normal” or if I’ve seen it before. She racks her brain changing her child’s diet, reinforcing her home behavior system and providing her child with the healthiest and enriching home environment she can and still, her child is “different.” I see this mother because I’ve been this mother. I know the feeling of “different” and I know the sleepless nights of worry behinds these feelings. For her, I am there, I am a support and hopefully a resource.

I see the mom that doesn’t quite fit in because her child’s not “in” the circle. Sure, they are invited to things, included, but her son/daughter isn’t the friend that’s asked for on the weekend or is first on her birthday list. She knows her friends try but she’s lonely. She’s very lonely. I know this mom, because I’ve been this mom. I know the feeling of being included to be “nice” and I know the loneliness of being the mother of the non verbal child that everyone’s scared to ask about. 

I see the mom who wants the best for their child. Who has her own activities at home for her child. Who bought the latest new this or that to help her child grow. Who’s working two or three jobs to support her family and all their extra costs. I feel her tears each night and her drain in the morning. I feel her happiness, her rejoicement in inchstones instead of milestones and I know her.

I know that mother because I am  that mother. 

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