A family's story

Awkwardness

Small talk…the necessary evil of survival in parenthood. Some conversations start out of politeness. Others out of a dislike of the uncomfortable quiet between acquaintances. Regardless of why we engage in it, chances are that we do..and that it can lead to awkwardness…especially so when a child has special needs.

The following exchange often occurs:
Hi.
Hi.
Do you have a child at P.S.#3?
Mmm, hmm. I do.
I thought so. What grade?
My son is a 2nd grader. His name is Jake. And you?
Oh, ok. Yes, my (insert child here) is in (insert grade).  Just Jake, or any other kids?
Yes. I have 2 other boys. A 5 y.o. and a 2 1/2 y.o.
Oh, wow. 3 boys?! Is your 5 y.o. in kindergarten…or?
Yes, he is…but at P.S.#1.
(Insert confused face here.) Oh, really? (So desperately trying to figure out why 5 y.o.  isn’t at our “home” school.)
Yeah. Tate is in the Early Childhood Kindergarten Program. It’s special ed.
Oh. (Non-verbal cues indicate curiosity. I feel the need to explain.)
He has Autism. He needs the extra attention and therapies, as well as the aides and inclusion setting.
Ahhh…I see. (Some people end the convo. Some smile, nod, and change the subject…or wait for me to do it so they can flee the discomfort. Occasionally a parent has a comment about Autism.)

I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation. I just feel like I should provide one.

I hope that one day I stop feeling so awkward about these conversations…Tate isn’t a problem, he isn’t carrying the plague, he hasn’t done anything wrong. I need to remember that this is the best way to get Tate a fair and balanced education…and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But, even though this has been our reality for a few years now, the feeling of being different, of having a child who isn’t typical, it still makes me feel awkward…and I just wish it wouldn’t.

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Comments on: "Awkwardness" (2)

  1. I hate when that happens. Or when you actually get out for a night out (maybe a girl’s night, maybe a work thing with the hubby, etc) meet somebody new that “heard your son has Autism” and then proceeds to treat you totally weird, like you should be sainted because your kid has a disability… Then your whole night has turns into the Autism talk where you have to explain it is a spectrum and some high functioning, some low, blah blah blah when all you wanted to do was have a night out.

  2. My daughter isn’t in school yet but when we are out and about or at church, I often feel that I have to explain Kailey’s actions. I recently went to Barns & Noble to pick up a book our Child Psychologist asked us to read and Kailey was all over the place. I had to keep a hold of one hand or arm to prevent her from running away or destroying the place. As Kailey reads every letter and number she sees on every book in the line, the people around us smiles and thinks she is so cute. In these situations, someone always seems to ask, “How old is she?” I tell them 3.5 and they just smile and have nothing further to say. Shortly thereafter the reading letters turns into screaming, yelling and melting down. Their smiles change and normally I find that I need to apologize and feel as if I should mention that she has special needs. This particular time I didn’t and I walked out with a store full of people burning me with their eyes.

    It doesn’t seem to matter where we are, when we have a child with special needs the topic tends to come up and when it does people just don’t seem to understand and it gets Awkward. Thank you for this post. It helps to see that I am not alone in this journey and we have each other to lean on.

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