Over the years I've often read articles offering guidelines (?) on all the Do's and Don'ts one needs to keep in mind when interacting with parents of children who have special needs. In the beginning I would read through the points, thinking to myself that it was an article I may as well have written myself, it was THAT relative, softly rebutting folks who stare and then in turn, rebutting those who didn't look...who offer the "God only gives special kids to special parents" and so on and so on. But as time went on, I found myself vacaying on the fence for a while, seldom actually opening the links I found zooming passed on my timeline. Then, as the articles seemed to be posted more and more frequently, I worried that I might be missing something new so turned to reading through them again but now find myself becoming concerned that we, as parents who quite often fear becoming isolated from society due to our children's differences and challenges, are making ourselves almost unapproachable by constantly advocating these fairly uncompromising "rules" others need to adhere to when our paths happened to cross.
It goes without saying that certain things do remain an absolute no-no...judging another's walk when you know nothing of their journey is never okay and all the ad-hocs that go with that sentiment...disapproval or scorn in any shape or form is malicious to anyone, whether effected by disability or not. I think parents of children with special needs just have a supersonic radar that picks up more easily the possible "starers"and "scorners" so we are more aware of them. Within seconds of entering any social setting, be it 10 people or 100, I have identified our "critics" and found myself migrating to those who seem more less taken aback by the flapping , often screeching-in-protest little guy leading our flustered convoy.
The very first official day of Meg's high school career saw me heading to a very long queue at the school's financial office, this after waiting in the parking lot for
at least a half hour first. By the time we joined the back end of the line, Sam was on 99% FULLBLOWN MELTDOWN...with the only element stopping us from that extra 1% being the already-threatening vomit. Just to make it that little bit more exciting, no sooner had the wheels of his pushchair reached a stop when a gentleman carrying out some DIY chores started up on his drill, about 2 metres away! There were easily 10-15 ladies surrounding us and do you know how many stared on in obvious disapproval? Just one! And the rest? The rest of the women instantly jumped on board, two staff members asked others if we could be moved to the front of the queue and requested the contractor to quiet his drill until they advised him all was okay and the mom who had given us a place upfront tried to distract Sam, along with another two moms, while I made my payment. Imagine where I'd have been if all those involved had first had to mentally tick a checklist of what to do and not to do! I'd have been sweeping up loads of semi-digested bananas and yoghurt with wetwipes while they still pondered No. 2 on the list.
So many times I've heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" and it most certainly does, that afternoon was a wonderful reminder of just that ...so you need to make sure you're part of that village too by being approachable (how else will others learn?) and (and this is the hard one) by being forgiving. There are always going to be those ignorant few whose inconsiderate stares and uncalled for remarks will break you down...just a little. But there are so many more who make up for these imbeciles' poor behaviour! JUST KIDDING! #winkwink
Seriously, I'd be near devastated to find out that a fear of offending, instigated by all these Do's and Don'ts floating around, had preventated someone from offering a smile, striking up a conversation...becoming a part of our village.
Just for interest's sake, this was the most recent Dreaded Statements List wafting on the web :
1. Wow! You must be so busy?
2. I'm sorry.
3. You're lucky you have a normal kid too.
4. He'll catch up.
5. You should take care of yourself so you can take care of him.
6. We're only given what we can handle.
7. Have you tried...
8. Kids aren't really autistic, they just need discipline.
9. What's wrong with him?
Sure, No's 8 and most definitely 9 might elicit a somewhat sarcastic remark from myself (I've already thought of at least 5 fab comebacks for No. 9), but I've never had anyone say anything of the sort to us. Go figure!
Aaaaand in other Smurfy News...we've had a one-on-one session with the lady who runs the SNAP Academy, which has been a bit of a saving grace, and we're looking forward to another session this weekend. I'm still way out of my depth with the Autism thing and needed someone to guide me as to when to indulge Sam's sensory/anxiety issues and when to stand firm. Having a clear protocol to follow sure does provide a bit of confidence when it comes to going out with Sam. And we've also introduced some chores into Sam's life like washing dishes, picking up toys, etc. (all with the necessary support of course).
While we were on a roll trying new things, I thought it a good time to introduce Sam to a sippy cup. I couldn't have been more horribly wrong!!! You cannot imagine the amount of vomit this seemingly-unremarkable item caused in our home...simply by its presence on the kitchen counter.
For the first time last week I noticed Sam engaging in a little imaginative play and playing independently (he usually requires constant interaction)
And just for the sake of ADORABLE!