I am a failed fellow. As in, I joined the New York City Teaching Fellows program to teach special education, and then I quit. There is truly a lot that went into my decision to leave the program including a death in the family, depression, and a myriad of other things. But the thing I remember saying to my husband over and over as I left the program was this:
“It’s not like I don’t want to work with special needs children. It’s that I love them all too much, and it hurts. I just can’t handle it as a teacher. I think I could handle it as their Mom.”
It’s interesting how life’s journey changes and curves as we grow. I never once thought I would have a child diagnosed with autism. I remember being pregnant and very briefly thinking about parents with special needs children and thinking, “How do they do it?” as if our child would never be a special needs child. It wasn’t like I thought we were above it or something–nobody is ‘above’ anything; it just didn’t dawn on me that there was a chance for something in our lives to be so unique.
I look back at when I left the teaching fellowship with a sort of irony because I walked out of that opportunity and attempted to figure some things out with my professional life, and lo and behold, we found ourselves expecting our son.
It’s like I literally left teaching special needs to raise special needs. Is it a coincidence? Sometimes I think not. And I think that if there is some sort of plan out there for me, and this is what I am supposed to do, then I am okay with it. My son– and my daughter– have filled my heart with such tremendous joy, and so many amazing adventures await us.
I’m writing about all of this because of Autism Awareness Month. I’m writing this because I think many of the people who read this blog might not even have children yet, and I want you to be aware… you could someday be a special needs parent, maybe an autism parent. And you can be awesome at it.