Spec Ed-NOS (#148)

“What grade is your son in?”

I used to waffle when asked this. Now I usually say something like “Charlie has autism. He’s in special ed.”
WhatsinhereSpec Ed-NOS, that is. Many people who ask the “what grade” question get the nervous smile look and move on. Some take a quick gasp of air and say, “Oh……..but he’s doing well? He’s mainstreamed with other kids?” or “I see. How’s he doing? He can talk, then, can he talk?” My answers are telegraphic:

“Oh yeah, no not now.”

“He can talk, ups and downs you know mostly ups these days.”

More than that, I sometimes just want to hand them a card that says:

Go to http://kristinachew.com/ and read all about Charlie and autism and what it’s like.

Sure, there are bumperstickers and t-shirts proclaiming “I love someone with autism” and “1 in 166” and “The Silent Epidemic.” But how do you boil down “autism” into an elevator conversation? How do you explain the labyrinthine details of your child’s educational and therapeutic needs to stranger #398 in the supermarket check-out line?

So that’s why I sometimes just say “Charlie has autism. He’s 8 and a half years old” and leave the rest Not Otherwise Specified. Let my interlocutor watch my boy running a line down and up the store aisles while making a rhythmic series of beeps, “cose open gawage door” and whirls. Let her or him see what there is to see.

And yes, Charlie’s gradeless, highly teachable and loving learning, and not simply “special.” Watching him patiently pull the bubble wrap off a tube of “low-shunn help give, open” and smear a white squiggle into his palms–he smelled like lemons all evening–what makes Charlie Charlie, so winning and so always a winner, is hard to quantify–for is not Charlie Esp. SDD-NOS?

As in “super-deep doo-per!”, as Charlie himself would say.

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