Last week, I went to the annual IEP evaluation meeting for my son at his school. IEP in case you don't know stands for "Individual Education Plan". Every child included in the Special Needs programs in schools in my province needs to have their own IEP in order for the school board to maintain and follow the child's needs in order for them to succeed at the school curriculum.
While I was there, one of the teachers asked if my son was aware if he had autism. I was actually shocked by the question. I probably shouldn't have been. Someone was going to ask me eventually. I wrote the following prosaic piece in response. But my immediate answer at the time was "Why?"
“Does your child know he’s autistic?”
“Does your child know he’s mixed race?”
“Does your child know he’s different?”
“Does your child know he’s bipolar?”
"Does your child know he's brown?"
My child knows a lot of things.
He knows he’s special. He knows that I love him over any other person on this planet and that is what makes him the most special person in his mother's little world.
He knows that each child is special and unique. That some kids speak out of turn, and some kids get really angry and throw stuff and some kids don’t have words and some kids (like him) have too many words and some kids don’t know how to use words even though they have them.
He knows that some kids have darker skin and some kids have lighter skin and some kids have blue eyes and some kids have brown eyes and some kids have no eyelashes and he has all the eyelashes and some kids are tall and some kids are small. He knows that nobody looks like anyone else unless they are identical twins or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles without masks on.
He knows that some kids can read and some kids can’t read and some kids love reading but he only likes reading Harry Potter, and some kids like math and some kids don’t like math and some kids do well at math and some kids don’t do so well.
He knows that some kids celebrate Easter and some kids celebrate Passover and some kids celebrate Diwali and some kids celebrate Ramadan and that he can celebrate whatever he wants but it doesn’t mean he is going to get presents just because he’s choosing to celebrate it.
He knows that some kids have a mom and dad and some kids just have a mom and some kids just have a dad and some kids have two moms and some kids have two dads and he has a dad with a girlfriend and a mom who should really marry the star from Lab Rats because that would be the coolest thing ever even if mom says she'd rather marry Alexander Gustafsson from the UFC.
But the one thing he doesn’t know is that he is different from any other child out there. That is something I refuse to teach him. That is something that we all should refuse to teach our children.
Every child can accomplish anything they want to accomplish in this world. Every child has limitations. As the saying goes, nobody is good at everything but everybody is good at something.
And every single one of us is the same until we're told by someone that we're not. I won't be the one to tell him that.