On parenting a child whose special needs aren’t obvious
A friend recently posted something about her special needs child being rebuffed — at church, of all places. That is just so sad. I feel the need to speak out because this is a subject I feel very strongly about.
Sometimes the fact that someone has special needs isn’t obvious to others. I have experienced this with my own son, who has a form of autism. Those who have met Ty can testify that to just see him, you wouldn’t initially know there is something “different.” I’m completely biased, but he is a beautiful boy with gorgeous big blue eyes.
by Jamie Aidis
It is awkward when people talk to Tyler and expect an answer back. I just say, “He has special needs, and he doesn’t talk.” That is usually enough.
But there are also times where he is making noises and people assume he is just being a brat. I once had an older man approach me in a drugstore and say, “I was wondering where that g*dawful noise was coming from!” The mama bear in me exploded. But in hindsight, he had no clue. He just saw a little boy making some noise.
But that’s why I think people should always be kind and never make assumptions about others. Education is sometimes possible — especially with children.
Many times, special needs aren’t obvious
On Ty’s last field trip, a little girl about 10 years old saw us in line for the bathroom and was staring at him. I wondered what she was thinking. Finally she asked, “He is so big. Why is he in a stroller and not walking?”
It was a legitimate question. I told her that he has some special needs and that he wears braces/AFOs (ankle-foot orthosis)on his legs. He can walk, and run, and jump — but walking long distances wears him out and his feet get sore. She nodded and said, “Oh.”
Curiosity is okay. That’s how people learn. Sometimes I think people stare because they are just trying to figure things out, not because they are being mean.
But it is uncomfortable for people to stare at your child, and it doesn’t make going places very fun unless you learn how to stop caring. I think Ty understands a lot more than we know, so there is that, too. No one likes to be stared at, and maybe he doesn’t like it either.
If I see kids who don’t know Ty reacting poorly to something he is doing (like trying to touch them), I will give a short explanation and tell them it means he likes them. That usually gets a good response.
When we went to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History last month, I had Ty in the stroller and my usual packed-to-the-top backpack full of his supplies. The woman checking my bag stared me down, just judging the hell out of me. She was even shaking her head like I was the stupidest person she’d ever come upon in her life. I had this large child in a stroller, his lunch, etc. I knew what she was thinking and I felt my anger rising. I said, “You are shaking your head at us? Really?”
I could tell she wanted to say something snappy, but that’s when Ty started babbling, and she found his diapers in the backpack. She looked down and didn’t say anything.
I walked away super ticked off that someone would put me through that when I’m just trying to get my kids — all of my kids — out for some fun. But then I let it go, because parents like me have a lot bigger things to worry about than some dumb guard at the Smithsonian.
So… Be kind. Educate your kids. Don’t be quick to judge.
For the record, being Ty’s mom has made me a better person, and he has been a huge blessing to our family. Sometimes I think God trusts me more than I deserve. There has never been anything challenging that happened in my life (and I’ve had some doozies, like all of us have) where at some later date I didn’t have an aha! moment and realize there was a purpose.
Ty was meant to be here, and he was given to me for a reason. (I think it was more for my benefit than Ty’s, but he still has to live with me. Haha!)
If you are reading this, hang in there! Your child is lucky to have you. And take heart — I once knew a little boy who had significant special needs. I hear he is graduating from college now, and belongs to tons of prestigious honor societies. He is headed to medical school.