As goes the public domain of the internet, all bloggers get trolls on their pages. I handle them by deleting their posts and shutting them down. I deleted four comments this week because I’m too busy to engage with people who can’t be reached. I want to be here for all of the moms who have emailed me and reached out to tell me how my story has helped them.
This leads me to why I share our story. Why do I expose myself to the crazies of the internet?
Why am I outing us and our child’s business and life out into the world? Why?
I do it for every child after mine.
For every parent who is hiding in a closet crying after their child goes to bed.
About 10-15 times per day, unique visitors view my page and solely read the posts about my daughter’s daycare expulsions. These visitors are typing “kicked out of daycare” into their Google search engines and finding my blog. This means it is happening a lot and all over the country (and globe). And it is NOT okay.
Parents of children on the autism spectrum don’t have access to affordable childcare options and parents are losing their jobs over it. I was that parent. I get it. Families should not go through what I have been through.
I share our journey because our experiences with discrimination are not okay. I do it to document that children with Autism have been forgotten along the way in the advances of civil rights.
Having advanced degrees in Writing and Literature, I know that people sharing their stories is what drives change. The world needs to know about the issues before we can even begin to make progress towards meaningful change.
Earlier I was thinking about the first time anyone ever said something discriminatory to me about my child and I want to share it because it was a daycare provider.
When my daughter was two and a half years old, we put her into a new preschool for four days before I got a letter requesting a meeting to discuss her enrollment.
The director of “The Elephant School” said things to me that I’ll never forget. Let us call her “Shannon” and she told me there was something very wrong with my child. Just like that. “There is something very wrong with Ally.”
She then continued and said that her center was not a good fit for us because Ally needed too much individualized attention. Let that sink in. Too much individualized attention. At the time I had no idea what she meant. All kids need individualized attention.
She then went on to tell me that she could always tell right away when she gets a child like Ally. A child who won’t ever make it in a regular Kindergarten class, who will always need a small class and individual attention, she added.
“Shannon” was the first person to ever say anything about my daughter not being okay and she had only known her for a few days. She made assumptions about my child’s abilities three years into the future as if she had a crystal ball.
To this day, I never forgot it.
Those of you who are enraged reading this right now, don’t worry. I complained to their corporate, left messages for the owners and they didn’t care. I never received any acknowledgment from the owners or a refund on the unused tuition for days I paid for. All I got was, “She shouldn’t have said that” from their compliance person who returned my call and claimed to know all about my child. All she cared about was asking me whether or not my child had an IEP or a 504 plan so she could check off a box on her report.
Years later, “Shannon” is still the director and she is still telling parents that their children don’t belong there.
But this post is not just about just “Shannon’s” inappropriate and discriminatory comments towards my toddler, this is about documenting our journey. Our experiences. Our hardships. Things are never going to change until we start being public about our real-life experiences, especially ones like this.
While I would love to throw a glass of water at that woman’s face and tell her she was wrong, that Ally is going to a regular Kindergarten class next week and that she did function at daycare after that, that she has come so far since she was two—it wouldn’t change anything unless it meant that she could never treat another family that way. She was the first person and she won’t be the last to criticize my child.
When it comes to caring for our children, many can succeed in the right environment. If and when that environment exists.
Ally functioned when teachers acknowledged her when she walked in the room.
When teachers took the time to ask why she was upset. When they treated her with kindness and compassion, even when she was in one of her moods.
My child is a social and remarkably intelligent little person who has every right to be part of the community without judgment. Without people like “Shannon” out there setting them up for failure.
As a writer, it is my obligation to advocate and record this.
So I write this today not about one specific person or place because “Shannon” is long gone from our life, but about all of us who remember that first person who tastelessly judged our child and fueled the fire to our fight.
Share your stories. Make Noise. We can’t change a situation no one knows exists.