A friend of mine recently told me that she sent her son into swimming lessons without any mention to the teacher about his developmental delays. She is my new hero.

She is brave and brazen, and a little bit reckless, but in a good way. After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen? She could always mention it later if the need arises, but why not let her son deal with the world, including new swimming teachers, the way it is, without any “special” padding. If her son doesn’t respond to an instruction the first time, the teacher will likely repeat it, and the two of them can forge their relationship just like any other teacher and student, in or out of the pool.

For better or worse, I am generally a discloser. At first, it was out of necessity; Brooks’s severe language delays and anxiety in new situations prompted me to use every opportunity to smooth out his very rocky road. Not saying anything in those days would have been tantamount to child abuse.

These days, I do it partly out of habit, and partly because Brooks’s self-confidence is just beginning to emerge, and deep down, I know he’s the same extremely sensitive boy he’s always been. I want to give folks a heads-up that he might not hear an instruction the first time, because a new teacher might misinterpret his distractibility for misbehavior, and I know Brooks would sense this new adult’s disappointment in him. A dent in his self-esteem, even a small one, seems to me an unfair way to honor how hard he’s worked and how far he’s come.

Of course, the other side of that coin is that the world is out there, the world in which my husband and I want Brooks to fully participate, and this protective shield we build around him with our disclosures is not giving him the opportunity to begin to navigate it on his own.

Brooks loves the water and is overdue for swimming lessons. As exhilarated as I am by my adventurous special-ed parent friend and the chances she takes, my overly cautious nature tells me it’s too soon to dive in.

At some point, I can see myself standing by and watching Brooks sink or swim; that’s part of my job as a parent and has nothing to do with special needs. Maybe next week, next month, or next year. Just not yet.

 

This post was originally published on Inisdeschools.org.

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