Being Polite by Speaking To My Child With Special Needs

On Saturdays, I am not able to sleep, like most people who work, Monday-Friday. Instead, I am waking up before dawn to take my son, Nate swimming.

Nate loves to swim. Well, he doesn’t actually swim laps in the pool, he sort of plays. Nate slashes, jumps, floats, and goes underneath (holding his breath so long, that the lifeguards and I start to panic). He does all this while smiling in pure satisfaction.

Years ago, when we started attending the YMCA, other swimmers watched in awe, as they heard the sound of laughter coming from the heated therapy pool, across from the lap pool. After a while a few people, from swimmers, to lifeguards, and workers became familiar with us. They knew that Saturday mornings were our official swim day. As people began to see us, they would smile and conversations would organically occur. They would ask me my name and the name of my son. Some inquired directly about Nate’s disability, to which I shared freely, always happy to educate people about my child.

Soon those people would see us weekly, smiling and greeting us, by saying “Hello Charlene and Hello Nate.”

Let me go back….. “They Say Hello to Nate.”

Now, this is the simple little gesture that I appreciate…. “Saying Hello to my Son.”

Why is that simple little gesture special to me? Well, because my son is deaf, blind, and he has mental delays and there are numerous times that I have encountered people who look beyond and pass my son, as if he is not even in the room. That annoys me. Let me say that again. THAT ANNOYS ME!

I would appreciate if people would ask me how Nate is doing, or shakes his hand, touches his arm, or shoulder, in a way of acknowledging him. That would be fine with me. When people do that or speak to Him, I feel that they are acknowledging his presence, and that they are recognizing that he is another “person” in the room with us. Also that he exist, that he is a human being, who is very important to me.

Just that little gesture of speaking to my son….. blesses my heart.


Charlene is a teacher and writer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Twitter at @CharleneB .

Originally published at

Want more articles like this? Sign up for my free email newsletter.