Monday, September 21, 2009

What I Wish You Knew

I wish you knew what it's like to try to explain dyspraxia, and learning disabilities, to someone. If I was in a wheelchair, nobody would tell me I'm lazy or using the chair as an excuse. My disability is invisible, and while I can compensate in some ways, sometimes it's glaringly obvious.

I've worked so hard-so desperately hard, and endured so much to get here; I need that computer, that voice to print program, that calculator just as much as one might need a wheelchair, and yet you call me lazy.

Lazy is you sitting there choosing not to do your homework. I spent hours on mine last night, and I still didn't finish. Despite that, I received the lunch hour detention, just like you because I can't get special treatment now, can I?

Sometimes I try so hard, that I just have nothing left. Sometimes I want to just die. Would anyone miss me, anyway? You make it clear that you wouldn't. You think it's funny to throw things at me, bang on my keyboard when I'm in the middle of an assignment, and threaten to "kick my ass" on a daily basis. You snort with laughter when I spell something wrong in front of the class, and say that only retards don't know how to spell such easy words.

Every day you remind me of what I "should" be able to do when I pay for something at the store, or when I can't tie my shoes. Sometimes you call me gay, autistic, or shove me into lockers. I tell myself that you are ignorant and just don't understand, or that you are just jealous that I have a laptop and you don't.

It doesn't help. I hate school. I hate you. I don't understand why people have to be so mean.

You tell me that I will outgrow this, that if I just try a little harder I'll be able to type like you do or read as fast, but you're wrong. There is no magic pill. I have to find ways to get around this, because I will have it for life.

What I need isn't you pushing me, bullying me, being harder on me, or your well intentioned but really bad advice, but rather your compassion. Open your mind.

I wish you took the time to really know me and listen to me, rather than just write me off. I am the expert on myself, you know. I can do everything you do. I just need to do it differently.

Since when is different a bad thing?

I wish you knew what it's like to sit, day after day, at my desk, terrified. Waiting. Knowing that eventually the teacher will call on me to read, and knowing that I won't make sense of those words on the pages. The letters mock me, turning backwards and upside down, looking one way today and changing by tomorrow.

"Just try to read me," they say as they dance. I try to catch them, make them stay still and make sense, but they won't listen. As I watch the other kids read with ease, I feel angry and utterly stupid.

Eventually my turn has come, and 25 pairs of eyes are watching. My mouth is dry, my hands are sweaty. I know I can't do this; that this moment will be one of complete humiliation, but I have to try anyway. There is no escape. I know it will end badly, with a teacher making me try to recite the alphabet in front of the class, and when I can't?

I sit in the back corner of the classroom; hot tears burning my eyes, humiliation and shame washing over me in waves. I feel as small and as incapable as the hat on my head. I may not be able to read, but I know the word written there and it burns into my very soul.


I wish you knew that this is the very reason why, years later as an adult, I won't read out loud.

I wish you knew what a privilege it is to be a wife and mom to two such amazing people, who have taught me more about compassion and perseverance than I ever thought possible. Their disabilities don't define who they are; but rather, are only a tiny sum of their parts.

I have watched them grow over the years into a man and a boy who stand up for other people with disabilities, and who will not take discrimination when it is thrown their way. I've seen them fight the good fight when they have needed to and never back down. They have taught me more about compassion, determination, and love than I ever dreamed possible.

They have made me a better wife, a better mother, a better special ed para, a better PERSON.

I am so lucky to have them in my life.

If you only knew.

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