I remember exactly where I was the day "it" happened -- the first time someone referred to me as a "special needs mom." I had just walked over to a group of women who were chatting in a semicircle when one of them casually introduced me to the others. "This is Ali," she said, "She's a special needs mom."
I paused for a moment. My chest tightened. I forced a smile.
Maybe it was the easy way her words seemed to float out into the air around me, or maybe it was the way in which her simple phrase seemed to fill every empty space in that semicircle. Maybe it was the lack of reaction from the others, or maybe it was the simple fact that hearing those words connected with my name -- for the first time -- was something I hadn't prepared for.
. . . . . .
Maybe I had finally found people who could understand me -- people who understood the struggle of shopping for shoes that can fit over braces, people who shared my frustrations about wait times for neurology appointments, people who could celebrate with me the "inchstones" in our lives. Maybe I had finally found my "village."
Slowly, I became accustomed to the introduction, to the conversation, to the title -- to being a "special needs mom."
But that all changed the day a woman insinuated I didn't belong in the special needs community. "Well, your kid has some struggles," she stated, "but all kids do. At least your kid walks and talks. She doesn't really have special needs."
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