Ash is significantly if somewhat inconsistently disabled. He is one of four special education students integrated into his kindergarten classroom, and he is generally well-liked there, by those who know him. In the community of Ash’s elementary school, however, he has a reputation that precedes him. Everyone seems to know about him. The staff. The students. Their parents. They talk about him, sometimes with eyes a little too wide. They don’t talk about how cute he is, or how friendly he is, or how it’s hard not to smile around him because he finds everything excitingly fascinating and entertaining. Those are all things we see as intrinsic to Ash’s nature, of course, but they aren’t exactly all that sets him apart in a crowd. No, they talk about what he does, that they’d….y’know….they’d heard about it, but it’s different to see it first hand, if you’re not used to it. When we are there and they realize who we are, who HE is, we hear sidelong whispers and slightly embarrassed questions along the lines of, “Isn’t he the one who…?”
Ash is the kid…
…who can read anything.
We don’t even usually hear that followed by, “…even though…” Hot damn, our child once needed so much aid support during a holiday celebration at school that we literally could not SEE him past the bodies of the aids when we looked to find him, and yet it is one of his ABILITIES which is the subject of gossip! The parent of Neuro-Typical R- in his class first heard about Ash during parent-teacher conference, when they were told, “R- actually reads very well for his age. I mean, not as well as Ash, but…”
I can’t tell you how much I love this.
I love what it says (that we already knew) about him. I love that it sets us up to be able to brag like any other proud parent without it being viewed condescendingly as overcompensation (always a slap in the face of how we instinctively look at our son) – because it is a strength respected by parents and admired by children of that age, that is making the first impression. I love what it says about the school (well, I did fight to get him into their program for a reason). I love that perhaps long before Ash transitions out of this school (which goes through the 8th grade), we can stop being surprised, at least for a while, when it is this kind of thing I can report.
That’s the thing. We’re not surprised when Ash proves himself fabulous, and yet, we can’t help but be at least somewhat surprised, sometimes, when he doesn’t have to prove himself. I am incredibly, incredibly proud of my child. I am also realistic about him. Similarly, as piercing as my mama-warrior battle cry is when I go to kick reality’s ass….I’m also realistic about reality, and the number of asses it has. As much as I believe we need to nourish all the reasons we are so lucky in this situation, I also can’t take for granted the fact that some of it is luck. The intro to the post was written in a certain way to lead you on, and to lead you to the kind of exalted, triumphant, self-righteous relief we catch ourselves feeling. It probably worked, on at least most of you, and that’s because regardless of what you know about Ash, what you know about society is that, too often, it doesn’t matter what an incredible person someone is.
Well I’m raising my can-o-consciousness to incredible people, and the incredible people who can recognize them, in whatever form they might take. Here — *clink* — especially, is to my incredible little person, and to the fact that he could read this whole dang thing. At the end, he’d probably say, “Good job.”