‘This isn’t your typical first day crying drop-off photo.’: Special needs mom shares back-to-school PSA on disability equity

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“This isn’t your typical kindergarten mom crying after the first day drop-off picture.

Okay, it is, but there are extra layers to it.

Yes, you’re seeing a touch of sadness over the fact that my child, Anderson, is a big kid now. That we have closed the chapter on the toddler years and are beginning the kid years.

But that’s not what made me gasp for air as I walked away from his arm outstretched, waving his chubby fingers goodbye. For parents whose children have disabilities, and/or significant speech delays, well, there are extra layers to the first day of school, regardless of age.

Because we are the ones who love the most vulnerable inside.

special needs mom sits on porch with sunglasses on
Courtesy of Jillian Benfield

We might get a sheet with some activities circled and a sentence about how our child’s day went, but we won’t get to hear the first-hand account. We won’t hear who they had lunch with, who got to pick a prize from the treasure chest, or if they made a friend.

And we worry, will the teachers and administrators believe that my child deserves equity this year? Or will my child be subjected to the slow and steady oppression of low expectations?

And we wonder, did the other kids’ parents teach them about children who are different before they entered the classroom doors? Will the other kids try to get to know my child when communication and physical differences are evident? Or will my child be in the classroom but sit on the outskirts alone?

The tears are different. They are not really of one chapter ending and another beginning. They are of fear and a desperate hope that someone inside that school building will be our child’s champion in our absence, until our kids can be their own.

We hope a teacher, an aide, an administrator will step up. We hope they push our kids when they need the nudge and that they advocate for them when they need the extra help. We pray a child steps in and includes our kids in their games even if they don’t quite understand the rules yet.

We pull away wanting desperately to be optimistic. We advocate in all the ways we can, but we know our advocacy has limits. Because although we can fight for services, we can’t make those inside embrace our children for who they are.

Because that’s all any of us want.

You see, there are extra layers to the first day of school drop-off when you love the most vulnerable inside.”

Boy with down syndrome stands outside with his arms in the air
Courtesy of Jillian Benfield

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jillian Benfield. Get her free e-book here. You can find her writing at JillianBenfield.comFacebookand Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Jillian:

How A Sick Day With My Son Taught Me Productivity Doesn’t Add To Our Worth As Human Beings

‘I carry him. I know it looks silly. His toes dangle past my knees. But still, I carry his awkwardly long body against my own.’: Special needs mom says ‘he carries me, too’

‘The doctor called…the blood screen came back, it’s not good.’ My heavy 22-week pregnant body fell to the floor. It’s normally at this point people want to talk about their options.’

‘My disabled child is not an ‘angel.’ He is not ‘celestial’ or ‘heavenly.’ He’s just like you, fully human.’: Down syndrome mom claims son ‘wasn’t sent here to teach you or me something’

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