Here I go again, off on a tear about who knows what, right? But hear me out, I beg you.
We have had a run recently of negativity within our home community. It is kind of stunning, honestly. This negativity was never felt during the period where Brooklyn was actually ill and struggling with a few things in public, it’s come during a time where Brooklyn has been on point when working. She has been docile, attentive, friendly and keyed into her tasks. She’s been a joy to work with and a wonder to have in our lives, especially as we watch her and J continue to grow their bond.
But then it starts. The stares. The derisive behaviors. The active detractors who figure that this is something bonus; something extra that J gets just like all his special education services and he’s cheating other people by doing it. They show up with their unruly pets, their bad attitudes and their harsh judgements of our situation. The weather has warmed now, at long last, and with it we have returned to our routine of having some playground time after school. This is very important to J, and Brooklyn is right there with us. She sits watching him and his classmates play, minding where they all go and bothering exactly no one but the people who are pointedly determined to be bothered by her presence.
This is my attempt to educate. I know there are some people who are just so hard-hearted and misguided that this will never get through but I want to always know that I have tried, and tried my best.
The difference between “equal” versus “fairness” or “justice” is the key to all of this. When you are looking at the services my son receives and the fact he requires (yes, requires!) a service dog in public spaces as him receiving extra, bonus things you are truly seeing them wrong. I would love for my son to be in a regular classroom with regular worries and a pet dog at home that only friends who come over to play might meet. This is the typical life. This is the life most people just about to have a child anticipate. This is not J, though. He came into this world with his own agenda and his own way of operating that happens to be autism. He needs extra support to be able to do what most people take for granted. This is not a bonus to him, this is helping him function and helping him to access the world around him in a way that is meaningful, comfortable and as close to equal to his neurotypical peers as possible. These things are not some fun toy for us, they are how we make life not just bearable but great for him.
I listened to a mother outright object to all the services special education students receive because they “take away” from her child’s education. I was appalled. I was hurt. This mother has never sat through an IEP meeting, never sat through hours in doctors offices listening to deficiency after deficiency rather than strength after strength; never filled out disability paperwork with the state government so that services might be covered, never fought for fairness and justice for their child on a daily basis. I do not wish that she did have to go through any of that yet I also wish she would stop and realize the cruelty of her words and thoughts on the matter. Would she also begrudge a child with a wheelchair or crutches the extra time it may take them to proceed from one place to another? What about a child with epilepsy the time out of the day it may take when a seizure suddenly strikes and people must attend to them? These are not paths families choose, they are paths we find ourselves on.
This post may never reach the notice of those who need it most. The people who judge us for Brooklyn in our local community will still exist and I am working to reach out to them on a local basis, to educate them as to why she’s present and what she means. I write this because if I can feel the sting of their looks, their choices and their actions my son very likely does too. I am his mother, I want him protected from that harshness as much as humanly possible. Isn’t that what all loving parents want for their kids? Now to get the adults involved in this to see and understand this too. We want fairness for all our kids, not equality. Let them all have what they need to succeed and grow without judgement and without hatred. It’s not a lot to ask, really.
Just the standard reminder we are still fundraising to celebrate J’s birthday by sponsoring a class of service dog teams graduating from 4 Paws! You can read about our effort here!