In truth, she did not bubble OMG! or spit like totally when, in medias res, the teacher skipped into the meeting being held to discuss my autistic son, his progress, inclusion in a regular first grade classroom, but this is how I will retell the story of how the twenty-something teacher paralleled my son to her dog. Again.
My son had begun wearing a weighted vest at school, a replacement for inappropriate touching, which sounds much worse than it is. Neck, face, smooth undersides of arms of classmates, teachers, support staff. Extra feels copped for baggy, dysfunctional skin, deformities. The vest is designed to help by applying constant pressure, to deliver a hug of sorts. The weights bring him down from the ceiling where he is not hovering, but zipping above his peers in wingless glory, laughing the kind of laugh that makes everyone want to be that happy, able to forget fact families and bar graphs, the meaning of dipthongs and consonant blends. The vest had been working, progress noted.
"So," and here I will always insert the word like, "when I first saw this vest, my question was, how long can he leave it on? I had all these questions about [like] how this device worked and I had to laugh at myself for asking because, well, we got one for our dog" (emphasis mine, mostly).
No, she didn't just say that.
Yes, she did, and she went on to describe how this garment "like, calms the dog," that though it was meant for thunderstorms, they knew, the just knew Fido or Fifi didn't want them to take it off. "What's even funnier," she went on (and on and on), "was how we decided to order one (no it isn't) and if you tell anyone, my husband will just die" (does that apply to you as well?), "but, [like], we put a Christmas dress on her and she was so, y'know, like happy! So this vest just made sense . . . " Wait, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you feel about your child, your dog, or both.
In a separate incident, my son had been sick and after missing three days of school, I emailed this teacher to giver her an update on his progress. He had been weak and I had to carry him to the bathroom, when we made it at all. Shit, piss, vomit, covered us for several days. Toilet, tub, washing machine, an endless assembly line of cleaning. My mistake was adding any detail to the email I decided to send her. Simplicity would have been so much better. This time, she actually did say, "oh my God!" adding praise for the strength it must have taken me to haul this stocky boy to the bathroom. "I can't even pick up my dog!" How that was relevant, I am still not sure.
When combined with the autistic support teacher labeling my son more a pet than a peer during an IEP meeting, I feel justified in saying I have had my fill of this metaphor rolling off everyone's tongue like thunder. I feel justified in ridiculing her epic fail as a small token of a smaller act of revenge on behalf of my son, who knows none of this now, and probably never will, dog willing.
April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons. She is currently working on a memoir on raising a child with autism and several collections of poetry. Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in journals such as Convergence, Ascent Aspirations, The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. Her first chapbook, The Girl of My Dreams, is forthcoming in spring, 2015, from Dancing Girl Press. The author serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press (www.kindofahurricanepress.com)