Saturday, September 8, 2012


The other day I found myself sitting next to some teachers (not teachers at the school my son attends). One says to the other, “How is Tommy doing?” The second answers, “He’s okay, but do you know Bobby? He knows NOTHING. I’m like, has anyone ever read him a book or anything? Because they might want to. That boy doesn’t know anything.’”

Later, I heard someone say, after a difficult interaction with a young girl, “Wow, I can just picture the parents of that one. Sheesh.”

Here is the thing: I don’t know what to say in those situations. I feel like I should say something, or else become complicit in a culture of constant judgement, and I don’t want to do that. But I have no idea what the right thing is to say. My goal is not to pick a fight. I don’t want to bare my soul, and I’m surely not looking for pity.

Whether they meant it or not, what I heard was:

* That child is stupid, and what’s more, it’s his parents’ neglect at fault.
* That child is awful, and her parents must be, too.
* I am better than these families.

I felt stunned, queasy, and angry.
If I did not have high needs children of my own, would I have heard the conversations this way? Or, if I did have the same feelings, would I have been able to voice them somehow? Hard to say. It all happened very quickly, but as I’ve replayed it my head many times I have not found much clarity.

All I know is that I am a special needs parent, and as such I have even greater respect for all kids, all parents, all families, all differences. As such, I have less respect for judgmental and derisive comments.

I want to find the right words to say next time something like that happens. I welcome your (positive) comments if you have suggestions.

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Rooster's Mom is a parent, educator, wife, mom, and writer. She blogs at


  1. If you told them you are the parent of a special needs child and their comments offended you they'd probably rationalize by saying they weren't talking about YOUR kid.
    A better tactic might be to scare them into being more discreet by saying something along the lines of, "Oh, you're talking about Brittany! I know her mother. She works very hard on helping her learn to read and she'll definitely be interested when I tell her what you said."
    Then get up and walk away.

  2. Yes, it is hard to find the right words when you need them.I know that I really battle to say what I want, I usually just keep my mouth shut. Try writing down your thoughts and feelings and then let them go... bin them OR blog them!

  3. Hi. I had a similar kind of experience. A random on-looker made a comment about a little girl that she thought was behaving badly and so was obviously spoiled rotten. It burned me so deeply that I HAD to say something even though that's not typically in my nature. Here's what I said ... "I don’t think it’s our place to judge. We don’t know what’s going on in their family or what has brought them to this place."
    The on-looker didn't say much after that but she did have the decency to look embarrassed. I don't know if what I said will have any lasting impact on how she views others but I sure hope so.

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