I have been so livid this past week, I must be glowing.
My fellow special needs parents know how people in positions of authority over our kids can sometimes take a strong dislike to their personalities, or ways of expressing themselves. And since our kids are relatively unable to step back from the dynamic and alter themselves to be “more acceptable,” plus their behaviors can sometimes worsen when they become afraid or perceive that they are disliked, things can spiral to the point of no return more often than not.
Sigh. So that’s what happened with both my kids at a very cherished activity outside of school.
I want to say two things to the people who teach or mentor special needs kids, and who are feeling burned out enough that they have started taking these things personally:
1. We appreciate your work. And we know that our kids’ issues can often trigger your own fatigue, anxiety, rage, and a sense that you are failing at your job. We feel all those things too, and we live with our kids, so we experience them very often.
Please know that if you react from these negative emotions, our kids will too. They don’t know how to be more noble than you, and they feel a sense of defeat and uselessness when they cannot find ways to earn your respect. They also notice when you give more praise and attention to other kids, while reserving cold glances and harshly delivered curt instructions for them. Then they have to spend a whole semester or a whole year knowing that they won’t get picked for anything special or fun because the teacher doesn’t want to deal with them.
It is beyond difficult for our kids to participate in the affairs of the larger world. If you raise your voice, or touch them without warning or kindness, you are often triggering their sensory dysfunction. Getting angry with them for shutting down or acting out is sort of punishing them for a condition they cannot change, and also, you created the stress, so your rage is really just an abusive “see what you made me do,” isn’t it?
All that said, we know how challenging it is to teach kids like ours. We work hard at it from our end, and we are sorry when it doesn’t go well. Which brings me to
2. When things don’t go well, it is usually our kids who have to leave. Not the kids whose bullying of them goes unchecked. And not you, who will probably never admit you dropped the rope.
So we are bidding adieu to yet another place that we thought would work for our family. We cannot, for the sake of abstract justice, allow our kids to stay in an environment that is actively detrimental to their mental wellbeing.
We don’t know if you will learn anything valuable from all this. But we have. We have learned to always believe our kids when they react to a toxic person. You are not the first, and you won’t be the last. Some things are worth fighting for, but your continued presence in our lives is definitely not one of them. There are other mentors. God willing, we will find better ones.
Each time someone like you crosses our path, it takes so much to trust in other people. The damage you have done is inexcusable.
The next time I hear an educator talk about how useless parents can be, I will not be staying quiet and pretending to agree. We are the ones who do not ever get to drop the rope. We pick up every psychological piece other people broke. And we keep searching for those environments where our kids won’t be the charity cases; the problem cases; the basket cases; the mental cases. They deserve more from you than the toxic fumes you reserve for people you consider irredeemable.