It’s today. I am declaring it to be today. Right now.
It’s International Special Needs Kids Amnesty Day.
So here’s the deal: There are plenty of kids with special needs whose challenges you can easily see. You know what it means when a kid is in a wheelchair—you wouldn’t expect him to get up and walk. You know what it means when a kid has the tell-tale facial features of Down Syndrome—you wouldn’t expect him to do some calculus for you.
But for every kid whom you recognize, there’s another one—maybe more than one—who has special needs you can’t easily discern, and those kids are sorely in need of a break from your judgmental jackassery. I am in need of a break from it, because GUESS WHAT! I have enough crap to deal with right now.
So it’s today. You may wish to take notes, because I’m going to tell you how it’s done:
Rules for International Special Needs Kids Amnesty Day
1) You start from a place of assuming that every child you see is a good human being worthy of love and acceptance. Because they are.
2) You further assume that if said kid—who is, remember, a good human being because that’s what children are, GOOD HUMAN BEINGS—is behaving in a way you find objectionable, it may be because there are some issues at play which you don’t understand.
3) You resist the urge to assume that said child’s parent is ineffective, spoiling the child, incapable of discipline, or otherwise creating this behavior in the child.
4) Under no circumstances do you indulge in gossip with other parents about what a rotten, unmanageable child that is. Not even if you think it will never get back to the kid’s parents. Because it will. And it’s a shitty thing to do, particularly to parents who are already emotionally tapped out from trying to deal with their kid’s issues.
5) Practice saying this, instead: “How can I help?” If that doesn’t work for you, then just shut your mouth. Your mama told you that when you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything. And she was right.
6) We bandy about phrases like “Don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” and “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle,” but how often do we actually heed those words? Let me ask you something else: If you’re seeing a kid who is truly out of control, do you really, honestly, deep in your black little heart, think the parents are oblivious or don’t care, and/or that this is a happy child? This is a family in crisis. Don’t make it worse. Just don’t. Because unless you are following steps 1-5, YOU ARE MAKING IT WORSE.
And people, I get it. Believe me, there isn’t a special needs family alive that hasn’t gotten the message LOUD AND CLEAR about what their family looks like to the outside world. We know. It’s enough to deal with, already. Trust me.
Today I declare amnesty. I want one day. ONE DAY. One day where I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or flat-out horrified because of your reaction to my struggling child. Or ANY struggling child.
Just one day. Please? (Who knows, if you can go one day, maybe you can go one more day after that, and then another after that, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, eventually I won’t have to hate people anymore. Crazy concept, huh?)