Wednesday 25 March 2020

A letter to... the school parents who ignore me and my autistic child

‘Your children are very kind to my child – I think they could teach you a thing or two’: the letter you always wanted to write

I see your glances in the playground at 3pm; I am fully aware that I am the parent of the “naughty child”. I understand that you are worried about your child’s education when my child is disruptive. Perhaps you are one of those who have complained to the headteacher.

I keep my head down, I breathe slowly; I have to save my strength for greeting my child with a smile and holding his worries. I am hoping the teacher doesn’t appear with a list of complaints, and we can just go home.

I don’t know what you have been told, if anything. My son has autism and struggles to cope with the busy, noisy classroom. In the past, he has turned over tables and chairs trying to communicate his discomfort, and the class has been evacuated. I understand that your child was frightened. My child was frightened, too – frightened to a point where he could no longer control his actions; not naughty.
I keep my head down and breathe slowly.’ Posed by models. Composite: Sarah Habershon/Getty

When you read in the news that the budget for special education needs has been slashed across the country, you probably think you are not affected, but you are. It took us more than a year, with help from the school, to get a diagnosis and funding to provide some support. I am told this is relatively quick, but it didn’t feel like that to my child. I had to give up my job in the process.

Your children are very kind to my child; I think they could teach you a thing or two. If you took the time to talk to him, or to invite him for a playdate or to a party (he doesn’t go to many), you would find that he is well-behaved and polite. He is also bright, funny, caring and interesting; he has a refreshingly different way of looking at the world. Your children know that; perhaps they have mentioned it?

I am not completely without allies; a few other outcast parents will chat to me. One of them once asked if you talk to me. When I said you don’t, he shook his head slowly and replied with feeling: “They’re full of shit.” I laughed, and I replay it in my mind when I need it.

Beyond the school gates, I have met other parents of autistic children, outcasts in different playgrounds. They are an innovative, resilient and supportive bunch, from all walks of life, and their children have so much to offer the world. I am proud of this secret tribe.

So you can continue to ignore, complain and whisper. I am here only for my child.

(Source: The Guardian)

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