To the Parent of the “Perfect Daughter” in My Son’s Class

Dear parent of a child in my son’s class,

You didn’t see me.

I was walking up to pick up my autistic (non-verbal) son from preschool and overheard you and one of the other parents waiting for your kids and talking about him.

You didn’t think I heard you, but I did.

I heard that you got to stay and sit in class today with your “perfect daughter” and you got a taste of Jonah’s behavior in class first-hand. I heard you got to experience Jonah, unfiltered in his environment, and you start flippantly talking about him, like you know him.

Let me tell you something. YOU DON’T KNOW HIM. You don’t know what he’s like at home. You don’t spend all day with him. And you talk about him like you know. But you don’t know. You don’t know how it feels.

I heard every word you said, parent.

Let me tell you how that feels.

We are waiting for specialized services. We are on countless waiting lists. This school is our last resort until we can find specialists to accommodate him. I don’t get to see Jonah at school. I don’t know what his day is like and he can’t tell me.

I drop him off at school looking for his reaction at being there to gauge his desire to attend. I don’t know if he likes being there or not. I don’t know what he’s learning or IF he’s learning. I don’t know if he’s being bullied or has any friends or is completely miserable.

I hear stories about bullies and awful teachers and abuse, and it fills me with fear. I pick up Jonah every day looking for possible bruises or unusual personality/mood swings, because I just DON’T know.

And then I heard you talking about him behind my back…but you didn’t see me behind YOUR back.

I heard you talk about how your “perfect daughter” loves to play with Jonah at school. I heard how your daughter tries to get Jonah to play tag with her even when he doesn’t respond. She plays with him anyways. I heard how you said she knows he won’t really respond to her, but she doesn’t care. She is his friend. And she wants to play with him. She makes sure he is included in everything.

You don’t know how that makes me feel.

I heard you talk about how your daughter will go home and pretend to play with him even when she is not at school. I heard how your daughter likes to walk on her heels at home because Jonah likes to walk on his heels at school.

I heard you talking about him and didn’t even mention the words, “meltdown” or “hitting,” or “stimming” or ANYTHING related to autism.

You don’t know how that makes me feel.

But I know something you don’t know. When we were leaving, your daughter waved and said “bye-bye” to Jonah. And you couldn’t see it, but Jonah was waving back, with a big smile on his face. This is something he will RARELY do, and only for special people.

You don’t know how that makes me feel. To know that Jonah at least has a friend at school and that it makes him happy to see her.

So thank you, parent. Thank you for having a child who is a true friend to my son.

Thank you for having a “Perfect Daughter.”

Jason Reynolds
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Jason Reynolds

Jason is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He is also a parent of Jonny (9) and Jonah (4) who was diagnosed with Autism in December 2016.
Jason Reynolds
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