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I was a little snotty with the assistant principal at “K’s” parent-teacher conference last night. The middle school was alive with activity parents and students were all over the school meeting with teachers, signing up for after-school activities and having photos taken for what I don’t even know. I don’t know because none of that activity had anything to do with me or my child.

My child is a beautiful 13-year-old girl who wears diapers, speaks in two-word phrases at most and arrives to school every morning riding the “short bus” strapped into a harness that she can’t get out of without assistance and carrying a large stuffed Blue doll from “Blue’s Clues”. My daughter doesn’t have the opportunity to participate in after school activities. There is no reason for me to meet with the gym teacher, art teacher or music teacher as my child does not participate in their classes.

Walking into the middle school my anxiety level was pretty high. I hate these kinds of events. I hate mingling with the “regular ed” parents and students. I hate that my child is not at our home school and I know no one here. My friends and neighbors are all at our home school tonight for their children’s conferences. There are no friendly faces here to greet me. There is also no indication of where I am supposed to go.

Walking into the school parents are greeted with a large sign telling them where to go, in the middle school the students are separated by grade, 6th, 7th and 8th, and within their grade they are divided into “teams”. “K” is not a part of any of that. Her class operates completely independent of these systems. There is nothing indicating what room the parents like me are to head to. This is my first time at this school; “K’s” classroom was transferred here at the beginning of the school year. I begin wandering the halls of the school, hoping to run into a familiar staff member or a sign of some sort. When I get my bearings I realize this school is identical to the middle school “J” was placed at two years ago. I remember where his special needs classroom was located and I head in that direction. My instincts were right and I locate “K’s” room and teacher.

By the time I reach the room my anxiety level is on high. When the assistant principal introduces herself and says she’s just here to say “hi” I immediately launch into an explanation of how difficult it for me to find the room. “Oh, I forgot to write anything on the sign” the assistant principal laments. “Yes you did.” I respond curtly. “Our kids are a part of this school you know. Everyone tends to forget about them, but they do exist they are real people.” She didn’t respond. She just sat at the table and let the conference start. I didn’t make eye contact with her the entire time. When I left she gave me her card and I simply said thank you.

I left completely embarrassed by my mini-meltdown. Why do I continue to do things like that? Why do I constantly go on the offensive? Why couldn’t I just say what I was really feeling? It wasn’t about a sign or no sign. It was about being in an environment that made it clear as day what I was never going to have. I was never going to have a “normal” child. I was never going to be able to talk with my child about their teachers or friends or anything that these other kids and their parents were talking about. I was never going to know what it was like to be one of “those” parents. I was always going to be the odd mom, with the odd kid, looking to find where we both belong.

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1. Katie Perera

United States

2. Trishawna Robinson

Scarborough, Canada

3. Leah Schulz

Fresno, CA, United States

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