We had our “Welcome Back to School” with our Special Education Parent Council. I was happy to see many new faces there. The discussion began and people started sharing some challenges they are having with their children and things they hope to see improve in this coming school year.
One parent was sitting back quietly listening and observing. He was one of the newer faces at the meeting. He raised his hand to share and from the moment he started talking I knew he did not have a child who received Special Education services. Some of the things he asked and spoke about could have been easily been taken offensively by most in attendance. Some parents, myself included patiently and calmly answered his questions as best we could. If I am honest when I first heard what he had to say I could feel my heart racing and I was thinking "is he seriously saying that". I was wondering why he even came to our meeting to begin with.
As people were still in discussion I sat in reflection of what he had said thinking sadly many people think and feel the same way he does. But then something happened a friend sitting near me thanked him for coming and for being brave to ask questions. In that instance I realized she was right and this was our opportunity to share and hopefully give him knowledge that will change his views. I too thanked him and said it would be great if more people asked questions rather than hold onto notions that were not true. I told him most of our children deal with invisible challenges that are not seen outwardly. I shared that they need our support and acceptance to succeed. I told him most people wouldn't think it was okay to ask a person in a wheelchair to get up and walk.
I honestly don’t know if he will walk away taking in what we shared but I can certainly hold onto the hope that he will remember that day. This situation made me realize that it could have been so easy for all of us to have been reactive to his statements but what good would that have done. The only way to break the ignorance cycle is not to meet it with anger but to shed light into its darkness. I’m hoping that’s what we did. I am really proud of our small group of parents. We chose to live by the words “treat others the way you want to be treated”.