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How many of you have ever watched the TV show: What Would You do?
I have watched it a handful of times but the episode this last weekend really grabbed a hold of my heart because they showed the public's reaction to an Autistic boy who was acting up in a restaurant. I wish I had a video clip but I don't. I encourage you to look it up online. The boy (who was a very good little actor) starts repeating himself, lightly banging on the table, and wandering away from his parents. The asshole sitting next to them starts to give parenting advice because he is bothered and asks them to leave. The father of the boy explains that his son is Autistic while the mother is visibly upset and just wants to leave and try it again another day. The surrounding tables start to speak up defending the family and encourage them to stay.
Based on a decade of my own personal experiences I wish this is the way it went down while out in public. So many people do not speak up. For many years my husband and I would take turns going anywhere so that one of us would always be home with O. You get sick of giving explanations to complete strangers. The stares and comments get old and you want to protect your child from hearing those things. There was one time many years back that another mother upset me so bad I could still cry today just thinking about those moments that she yelled things at me and O while my other kids watched and listened. It took me a long time to stop being mad at myself for not saying anything back to her. I was trying to take the high road which many of you know can be very difficult for me! Plus while i was on the ground with my child trying to protect her head I couldn't even make out what she was saying until she got the other mothers to chime in also. I have now vowed to myself to never be silent again. In fact, that mother is the main reason I decided to start this blog. I have never been one to take much shit from anyone, but at that moment much like my daughter I couldn't speak. The words just weren't coming out.
With 1 in 88 children currently diagnosed with Autism how could people still be so uninformed? This number doesn't even include other diagnoses or disorders with similar issues. EVERY family must know someone that is fighting for a special needs child. I wish more people could really understand our uphill battle. If people could only see things from a different angle.
A few things to keep in mind:
A) When I take my daughter out anywhere I am using it as a teaching experience for her. I have chosen the time and place very carefully. Doctors offices have to be first thing in the morning so we don't have to wait long. Restaurants can't be too quiet but not too loud either. Stores have to be at a time of day when it's not too busy. The reason for this is because the more times I put her in a situation where she can be successful the quicker she will learn acceptable behavior in public. If I take her at the wrong time and it doesn't turn out good this is what she will remember and she will not want to go next time. I know there are millions of people out there that have to do the same thing.
B) Any child being a little loud and repetitive during a meal is no different than you and your girlfriends having a dinner out laughing hysterically over a bottle of wine, and I guarantee you are louder.
C) Unfortunately, so many special needs children do not have the support they so deserve. It's very sad to admit but I have met people who have given up long ago. They are not even trying to understand anymore. Divorce rates in special needs families are at a ridiculous high. Grandparents turn their cheeks in denial for so long they miss their opportunity to bond.
God doesn't always put these children with people who can handle it. Next time you see a mother struggling out in public try to see things from a different angle. This child could be experiencing some issues. The mother could be trying to teach social skills. You should be applauding them. They have not given up. They are doing their job. They have done the research. They are trying new things. They are fighting for their children.
These mothers do not need your advice or your pity. They need your support. Sometimes support is silent. Let these mothers do what they have to without fear of being judged. Chances are they are not trying to conform their child to be like everyone else. They are trying to teach them to be the very best they can in the best way they know how. Chances are she doesn't agree with the way you raise your kids either, but she has already learned how to love people for their differences. You should feel lucky that you were able to witness a women with such strength and patience.
We can learn so much from other people if we just try. Narrow minded people are just cutting themselves short of that opportunity. How much can you learn from others if you only care to understand people just like yourself. Try for once to stop thinking about what the parents should or shouldn't be doing. Try to think about how many accomplishments that child is making at that moment. Think about how it might be for them to be in your environment. Give that family a nice warm smile knowing that they have already fought and won so many battles to be where they are.