When Your Child’s Special Need Is The Topic Of Gossip.

Author of 4 books, podcaster, parent trainer, wife and mother.

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Parenting children with special needs brings about many challenges. In fact, there are days when it's nearly paralyzing. But that is exponentially greater when you overhear others criticizing your child for something that is out of their control.

I’m sitting in the bathroom stall sobbing. I’m pleading with myself to just get it together.

It all started an hour earlier at Meet The Teacher night. In the upper middle class suburban school district this is a crucial time. It’s critical to dress nicely, smile and for the love of all that’s holy, put on a little make-up! It’s all about first impressions and signing up for the PTA. You must remember all of your children’s supplies, labeled with their first name and last initial. Don’t forget the last initial! As luck would have it, 1/3 of the parents in the first grade were inspired to name their sons Jake.

Darn-it, I didn’t get to the classroom in time to be one of the room moms. Ok, I admit it, I hate being a room mom, but I do like to get there in time to sign up to bring little heart-shaped paper plates to the valentine’s party. A little commitment, but not too much. It’s a delicate balance. I always chuckle a little at this point in the new school year dance. I’ve caught myself again grasping for a morsel of suburban mom acceptance. I was silently chiding myself as I scurried to the 4th grade hallway.

Just as I was passing the other 4th grade rooms on my way to the resource room (code for Special Education), I heard my son’s name. I curiously turned to see two moms scrolling with pointed fingers down the class list posted on the door.  Mom 1 sighs with relief. “I’m so glad he’s not in my son’s class this year,” she says. Mom 2 leans in with a mock whisper and says, “Did you know he had to have a full time aide all to himself last year?” That’s when Mom 1 admits, “I checked all the class lists, he’s not on any of them.” My curiosity has turned to horror and now a fairly blinding rage. I can’t believe they didn’t see me standing there.

Just as I was about to storm their little gossip party, I veered left and into the girls bathroom.

That’s where I find myself now. Squeezed into a tiny stall, head in my hands, mascara running. I’m silently screaming my hatred for anyone ignorant enough to gossip about a 9 year old. Eventually my fury turns to bitterness as I think of the blissful ignorance of their gossip. My final emotion is sorrow, this is where I land most often as my son’s mother.

With my eyes squeezed shut, all I can see is the handsome face of my son. His protruding ears, endearing brown eyes, and deliciously sweet hugs. Will anyone ever see anything but his disability?

My son has ARND (Alcohol Related Neuro-developmental Disorder). ARND is caused by fetal alcohol exposure. My son’s birth mom was unable to stop drinking while she was pregnant. The body of a fetus is not equipped to process alcohol like the body of an adult.  Therefore, my son was swimming in alcohol, deteriorating his brain before he even had a chance to take his first breath.

My son lacks a fully developed frontal cortex. He lacks the part of his brain that was designed for problem solving and cause and effect. In short, he is like a speeding car without breaks. His brain cannot communicate properly, so he feels emotions without an appropriate outlet and he has ideas without adequate problem solving skills.

I allow myself to cry a bit longer because this knowledge doesn’t change what those women were saying. It doesn’t change how others will see him. He will struggle his whole life. His brain will not ever heal. I dab at my now puffy eyes and remember his kind heart and his selfless generosity. I smile a little, thinking of the courage and bravery that he has in facing his challenges.

After splashing a little cold water on my face, I straighten my carefully chosen skirt and blouse. Finally, I exit the bathroom, clinging to the wise words of Taylor Swift, “Shake it off,” because I know that’s what my son will do.

Have you ever overheard others gossiping about your children or your family? How did you react?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.