Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's not just our kids who are different

Most days I just amble along, being a parent, not thinking much about it, but some days something comes up to remind me that parents of kids with special needs just think differently. Chatting with a mom who was worried about her second-grader getting into Harvard was one of those days. Certainly any day that has an IEP meeting in it is one of those days. And tragedies like the school shooting in Minnesota brings on one of those days, too.

I imagine most parents react to stories like that with fear for their children's safety, worries that some crazy kid might bring violence to their own peaceful campuses, determination to weed out kids with mental health problems pronto. And sure, I worry about my kids' safety, too, and get that shiver of dread that one day they could go to school and never come home. But honestly, the first thing that went through my mind when I heard about the shooting at a high school on an Indian reservation was: I wonder if that kid had fetal alcohol syndrome? And hard upon that: If he did and that becomes part of the news story, will people look at my fetal-alcohol-affected kid as a threat, or a freak? How much teasing does it take to throw a kid over the edge, anyway?

I shudder to think about my child being hurt by a classmate, but in the back of my head, always, is the wondering whether someday, somehow, with poor administrative handling and IEP violations and abuse from teachers and other students, my kid could ever, in any way, be the one doing the hurting. It's unimaginable to me now, and I am beyond vigilant. But I'll bet I'm not the only mom of a behaviorally challenged kid who thinks that way. Who thinks differently.

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