"Can I ask what his disability is?" he says.
"He has cerebral palsy," I say.
"Ohhhh," he says. "That must be hard for him."
"Nope," I say, cheerfully. "He's a happy kid."
"How does it affect him?" he asks.
I explain that Max has issues with speech and using his hands, the simplified way I usually explain cp.
"Doesn't it bother him that he can't talk like other kids can?" the guy asks.
Wow. That's bold. "No, it doesn't—because he doesn't think he's different," I say. "He tries to talk in his own way, and he has an iPad with a communication app. He plays like other kids play. He laughs like other kids laugh. His cerebral palsy does not impair his ability to be a kid!"
And then I pull out a picture of Max with his gigantic grin and show it to the guy. "Does this kid look unhappy to you?" I ask.
"No," he says, and we move on to other topics, and I'm just a little flustered at having to explain, once again, that Max's special needs are not a tragedy.
It's not just strangers. I've had conversations along these lines with friends and family. Early on in Max's life, a very close family member once wondered out loud whether the reason Max smiled a lot was because he was simple-minded. It took a few therapy sessions to get past that one.
My child is happy with who he is.
I need the t-shirt.