I gotta vent. And this is going to come out really catty, but I just really don’t get it.
As any of you who’ve read this blog for any period of time know, both the wee ones go to a special needs preschool. In Illinois, once you turn three you can be screened to see if you qualify to go to the Early Learning Center in your school district. As of this year, you need only one qualifying criteria, but you used to need two.
They range anything from being a multiple to low income to having been a part of the Early Intervention program to English not being your native language to having a sibling who attended and more. Of course, if you have a developmental delay, you automatically qualify and receive an IEP (an Individual Education Program) that has the goals your child is striving to meet that year.
Mister Man qualified to go because he was part of Early Intervention (which meant he had to be screened and evaluated as to whether or not he needed to attend before his third birthday) because he was a part of the EI program, as well as because he had gross and fine motor delays and some pragmatic language delays. He doesn’t have an official diagnosis, and my sincere hope is that he never needs one. But this is the right place for him.
Do I love him any less because he attends this school? Am I embarrassed about the fact that he attendst his school when the majority of my friends have “normal” kids who go to private preschool? Absolutely not on either count.
Little Miss probably would be fine not at the school. She was part of EI but graduated just after turning two. She doesn’t have an IEP but attends as an at-risk child. They are somewhat concerned about her balance, but I’m still waiting for that call saying they want to test her to possibly develop an IEP. Cynically, I think the principal wanted Little Miss at the preschool so that I would still be involved after this year.
Because this year, I’m the PTO president for the preschool, and I do a lot of work for it. I enjoy trying to make a difference there, and I recognize the importance of it. The woman who was president for the two years before me was quite possibly a better president. She’s a stay at home mom and is involved in a ton of community organizations so has network connections everywhere. Hats off to her for doing a great job.
This year, her son moved to kindergarten, so she handed over the reins of the presidency. She didn’t totally step away from her involvement in special needs causes, however. She co-founded a special needs organization for our area that focuses on all the support and advocacy you need outside school. She’s currently the president of that organization.
I can’t commit to any more meetings or organizations right now with my schedule, so I haven’t seen her in action in this organization firsthand, but I can only imagine the effort she’s putting forth and the bang-up job that she’s doing. She’s very vocal in her support or her child and all children with special needs. In fact, she was one of those spearheading the effort to get our board to approve building a new school.
So you can imagine the shock when she friended me on Facebook but then immediately sent me a note on my home account. “I want to be your friend on Facebook, but please don’t say anything about Bart (her son). None of my friends from high school or college know anything about him, and I’d prefer it stay that way.”
Her son doesn’t stick out. He’s much like Mister Man in many ways. In fact, they were in the same class last year and got along famously with another boy. I keep thinking about this. Mulling it over in my mind why she doesn’t want anyone to know.
In a way, I’d totally understand if she were just someone that I’d met through Mister Man at school who wasn’t involved and who just sort of stayed quiet. But she’s not. She was the face and the voice of our program for two and a half years. She was an advocate. And now, I feel like she’s a hypocrite.
It can’t be that she’s embarrassed by him, can it? I keep going back and forth between that and wanting to protect him from anyone saying something to him to hurt his feeling about not being “normal.” But these are people from high school. From college. Who she’s connected to only via Facebook and not people that she sees on a regular basis or who would really come into contact with her son where they’d say something to him.
It really feels like she’s just trying to save face and create the illusion of a perfect life. And to me… that’s truly disheartening. What kind of a message is she sending to all those people who think that being special needs doesn’t affect them? What is she saying to all those people who should have their child tested for delays but don’t because they’re afraid of the labels they might receive?
Why wouldn’t she tell these people that it’s ok. That you can have a child with special needs and that there are so many flavors of it from things that are barely perceptible to very severe delays. That everyone needs a little help, and that it’s better to get the help when they’re young than to pretend it doesn’t exist and just hope it goes away. That special needs doesn’t just happen to someone else but that it impacts more people than you’d ever guess.
I really don’t get it. And unfortunately, that single email caused me to lose a lot of respect for her. And that makes me sad.