What's Up With Special Needs Families Wanting "All That Special Treatment"?
The second time we came across him, he said, "Boy, you got it made. Enjoy it while you can. She can't push you around forever." Once again, I just brushed it off. I could have told him my son would have much rather been out and free to explore. I could have told him I would much rather that my son had the impulse control and danger awareness to walk next to my cart and not ride in it. I could have pointed out that my son has autism and would fit much better if the store had a cart that could accommodate children and adults with any number of special needs. But I didn't. Because as much as I have taken it upon myself to raise the banner of autism awareness, sometimes I am tired and do not feel like I owe everyone we encounter a detailed explanation as to why we do the things we do.
Although the man didn't say it, I am sure he thought my son was spoiled or receiving special treatment. And even though he did not know my son is special needs, there are a number of people in our society that know someone is special needs and cannot stand the "special treatment" that person seemingly receives. Why does someone with autism need a handicap placard? Why does an autistic preschooler get free preschool from the state? Why does the little girl with cerebral palsy get a one to one aide in the classroom? Why does the little autistic boy get to be in the play if he can't remember the lines?
But to the people that ask these questions, I guess I want you to realize that more than anything we want our children to be treated the same and have the same opportunities as anyone else. I would have loved it if my son would not have needed special needs preschool from the state, but no private preschools would accept an autistic preschooler with behavior issues who was not potty trained. And when we lived in a county without public options we were not treated the same, we had no options. I would love it if my son was not a bolting risk and parking lots presented the same risk to him as they present to any other child, but the truth is he is much more at risk in a parking lot and parking close could save his life. I would love it if my son could use the same mens bathroom on his own, but he cannot and a family or neutral bathroom is incredibly helpful. The mothers of grown children in diapers would love it if their children toileted independently, but they need changing tables big enough to fit their children and when they do not have the same access to a table that fits they have to change their large children on public bathroom floors. We would love it if our children did not need aides in the classroom, but unfortunately many of our children cannot make academic gains or even function without one. So in order to access the same education, many children need an aide. We would love it if our kid could be in the play, say his lines, and stay in his place without help, but right now he can't do it on his own. I would do everything in my power to make it work, but sadly most of the time, our kids are excluded all together rather than being given help or a chance to be in the same play as everyone else. We would love it if our kids could go on the same field trips and get the same experiences as the rest of their class, but many times they aren't given the option.
So the next time you hear someone proclaiming that our children with special needs should be treated the same as their typical peers tell them you agree that our kids should have the same opportunities and be treated with the same respect as everyone else. But the way to achieve our children being treated the same is to accept that their most basic needs are genuinely different and everyone has a right to have their needs (not wants) met accordingly.