Why atypical

Two months or so after T. moved into our home we attended an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting. Also in attendance were his DHHS adoption worker, his Guardian ad Litem, a combination of special education teachers, an OT (occupational therapist), a PT (physical therapist) and a speech therapist. In the course of the meeting we heard a lot about “typicals” – as in the typicals would see him at free play and, they would send a typical in to his classroom as a model for him and the others. If you send more than one typical in to a classroom they tend to stick together so it’s better to just send one. Theses typicals were important and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out who they were. I was nervous. I asked, “Who are these typicals?” I think to call it an awkward silence is too strong but a silence. Ward turned to me and said, “They’re the ones who don’t have Down syndrome.” Ah, I thought the typicals. There was murmuring and nods.

On the way home in the car – Ward said, “Isn’t that just typical.” To which I responded “Those poor bastard typicals.” And – it was another moment of understanding.

We are a family of atypicals. When we married I was two days shy of 47 and Ward was 33. We ended up adopting through DHHS a 3-year-old boy with Down syndrome in foster care. There are many beginnings to this story, a couple middles and more than more ending.

We first heard about T. January 6, 2009. We saw his picture February 3rd. We agreed to adopt him on February 4th. We first meet him April 24th. He moved in to our home May 8th. We were finally able to adopt him today, April 1, 2010.

Two themes reinforce our atypical-ness through these eleven months. The first comes when people hear we’re adopting. The second comes when they see who we are adopting. When I say we are adopting I am almost always asked – “What country?” When I say, “Maine” I have been met with “Isn’t that nice.” Or “Really?” and even one “Yuck.” I cut that guy some slack because that might have been me at one point.

When people see who it is, they often say, “They are happy, aren’t they?” The first time – I was unbuckling T. from his car seat and a neighbor came up to me, looked in at him and said that. And – I knew immediately what he was saying. “They are happy, aren’t they?” I didn’t know what to say. Now I do. It’s a variation on a theme. Sometimes I say, “Well, if you saw him yesterday at 2:00 when he bounced a sippy cup off the dog’s head you might not agree.” Or, if I am feeling particularly full of myself I say “Paris Hilton is happy when she gets a new miniature pig. T. is evolved.” And that is the reality or at least our belief system. He is evolved. He is in the moment. Is that 3 or is it Down syndrome?

That’s part of what this blog is about.

This entry was posted in Adopting, By Notatypicalmom, Special Needs by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a blogger, writer & social justice storyteller who unschools with her son. She also has a M.S.W. and was at various times a practicing social worker, documentary videographer and film festival director She is the author of Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald, Parents, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Follow her on Twitter @atypicalson and like her at Not Always Happy Facebook page. Email her: atypicalson@gmail.com

9 thoughts on “Why atypical

  1. I am so delighted to hear about your new family. Keep coloring outside the lines. Our grandson is enrolled in a nursery school class where he is the only remaining “typical.” He has no idea, and is happy as a lark.

  2. I was a volunteer for special olympics for about ten years (throughout highschool, and again after college up in Boston, MA). It was a wonderful experience. My husband and I were JUST looking into joining a local chapter and hoping we could bring along an 8 month old to practices… still waiting to hear back. Congratulations on completing your family- the fun is just beginning. Can’t wait to meet T. in September when Henry and I are in Portland.
    Also, I was adopted from Scotland as a child- This is a wonderful gift that you have given.

    • Still trying to figure out this blog thing. I didn’t know I could reply to comments! Thanks for the nice thoughts. As for your volunteering, I’m sure they can use the help, even if you are parents of a “typical.” See you in the fall.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s