As a mother of a child with severe food allergies, there are¬†tough days when we have to advocate for our kids through meetings at school, tell them what they can’t have and can’t do, and then there are even tougher days when we have¬†had¬†to witness a potentially life-threatening¬†allergic reaction. But as a mother of four children who have had developmental delays since their preschool years, I’ve also had many other types of tough days,¬†filled with therapies, difficult play dates and parties, long IEP meetings, 504 Plan meetings, and then even more meetings with teachers and aides to ensure those documents are being enforced at school. But the hardest part of¬†these issues is when your child comes home from school to say they felt different because of a harsh comment made about them.
Which is exactly what happened earlier this week when my 9-year-old daughter told me¬†she overheard a group of kids make fun of her because she has to take her state standardized tests in a different room. “That’s where all the dumb kids go to test” is what she heard as she left. It crushed her spirit and broke my heart. It isn’t the first time my kids have had to endure¬†rude comments from other kids, whether it was about making fun of John because he can’t have pizza and cake at a party, or when he was teased last summer at camp for his stuttering, or even when John sat at a separate table at camp because of his allergies. But when my daughter told about the “dumb” comment, it infuriated me for¬†many reasons.
The biggest reason is obviously their words made my otherwise bright and sweet girl feel like she was stupid and different. As someone with visual processing difficulties, she simply requires certain accommodations in the classroom to help her succeed. For the record, she is a pretty smart cookie, and takes advanced writing classes at a local university. So I would hardly call her dumb.¬†I had to fight very hard to get her those accommodations through a 504 Plan, because once she tested out of special education in first grade and lost her IEP, it was nearly impossible to get any additional support or help¬† for her learning difficulties. So to hear my daughter beg me to get rid of her 504 Plan¬†made me feel frustrated and defeated.
Every year around this time I¬†have meetings at¬†my children’s schools to discuss their progress,¬†limitations and to draft new educational goals¬†per their IEP’s.¬†In addition,¬†it is the time of¬†year to start thinking¬†about camps¬†and how to handle them with food allergies.¬†During “IEP¬†Season” I often wonder what it is like to not have to address the special limitations our children face, whether it is¬†development concerns, food allergies or other¬†issues. What is it like to have a typical child?
But then I eventually remember that¬†though all my children have some¬†challenges, they also have incredible strengths,¬†and to embrace¬†both. If¬†my kids didn’t have special needs or food allergies, maybe I wouldn’t have gone down the road to advocacy, or even¬†bothered to write a cookbook for families¬†with allergies. Maybe I would¬†find something else to write about, or maybe not.¬†I have no idea why my¬†children¬†face the issues they face, but I can¬†honestly say¬†I am¬†very proud¬†of my children and¬†am honored to be their mother.¬†They’ve worked harder¬†because of these challenges and have continued to thrive. Will¬†baby Michael face the same paths? I don’t know, but¬†we’ll get through it if that is the case.
So¬†how did I try to make Chloe feel better? Well,¬†a trip to Baker’s Square for French Silk Pie and a long talk about why kids say stupid things did the trick.¬†John was pretty jealous¬†about the pie, so he made me promise to make him a dairy¬†free version of the French Silk Wonder soon. I will someday soon, when I get a little more sleep!