This Is Special Needs

by Tamuira Reid

It’s a hunch. It’s a diagnosis. It’s a long name that leaves you tongue-tied. It’s being horrified over the fact that PDD sounds more like an STD.

It’s blaming yourself. It’s blaming his father. It’s blaming God.

It’s watching a “normal” kid at the playground and wishing, for a split second, that he was yours. It’s hating yourself for wishing that.

It’s puzzles and foam boards and stacking cups. It’s medicine or no medicine. It’s shut-the-fuck-up-vaccinations-don’t-cause-this. But what does? It’s special schools. It’s special diets. It’s the word “special”. It’s cognitive testing. It’s being afraid that he is dumb. Afraid that he is trapped. It’s being afraid to project anything.

It’s sensory processing issues. It’s having to look this up. It’s flapping hands and toys arranged in lines. It’s the crooked smile. It’s a head banging against the wall. It’s his fists in my chest. It’s the word “pervasive”. The word “delayed”. It’s spending too much time in forum chat rooms with all the other mothers with bad news.

It’s dinosaur sheets. It’s trips to the moon. It’s Elmo and Dora and Thomas the Train. It’s trains. It’s trains, trains, trains. It’s taking the trains away. It’s play with this instead. It’s let’s do a puzzle. It’s feeling like a bad parent. It’s feeling like a bad egg donor. It’s feeling bad.

It’s tantrums on city sidewalks. It’s pulling his limp frame up and down Broadway. It’s silence where words should be. It’s classical music and music therapy and dance classes without much dancing.

It’s tears for no reason. It’s waiting rooms. It’s waiting.

It’s nighttime stroller rides through Times Square. It’s the look of half-peace on his face then. It’s jumbo crayons falling through chubby fingers. It’s massage and acupuncture and gluten-free.

It’s wanting to drink. It’s knowing you can’t. It’s wondering how you will get through this.

It’s weighted blankets. It’s spill-proof cups. It’s no play dates. It’s wishing you could trade places. It’s wishing this everyday when he looks at you with that cold broken stare.

It’s when friends come over, when for a night you are a person with a body again. You watch them drink wine until they’re soft and drunk and you’re thankful. For their presence. For their stupid jokes. For bringing you coffee and toilet paper from the bodega because you couldn’t manage to get it together to go outside.

It’s laughing because you don’t want to forget how. Because you don’t want to forget that this isn’t everything even though it feels like it.

It’s watching him grow. It’s years 1-5. It’s cutting his jeans into shorts and taking him to the fountain at Washington Square Park. It’s feet in the water. It’s taking his picture a million times and tickling him under his arms and never wanting the moment to end. It’s when it does because his feet got too wet, too wet! It’s going home.

It’s not knowing. That this will be the worst of it. That he will be one of the “lucky” ones to come out the other side. To mainstream. To camouflage his disability into something more manageable. To hide what needs to be hidden. And when his voice does come it will be full and alive and his this-and-that about this-and-that will keep you up at night, listening.

It’s watching him cook. Cracking eggs into a bowl. It’s a lopsided cake. A spinach mushroom omelette. An apron on backwards. It’s he learned how to make this on tee-yee!

It’s when the doctors go from PDD to ADD to just plain old disability. It’s maybe he’s okay after all. It’s maybe the therapy worked. It’s maybe he’s actually gifted. A gift.

It’s no longer caring about a diagnosis. About fitting your kid in a box. It’s waking-up to his matted brown hair on the pillow next to you and opening the window for air.