Scary Mommy has a great blog post this week – well, they are all great, but this one has caused some reflection on my part because my son has Autism. It’s inviting parents of typical kids to ask those hard questions to us parents of special needs kids that they are afraid to ask.
I have three pet peeves…firstly, don’t ask “what’s wrong” with my son. There’s nothing “wrong” with him. He just interacts with the world differently, same as there’s nothing “wrong” with me for not aceing science and math in school the way you might have; or that you didn’t ace languages, music and history the way I did.
My second pet peeve is when someone calls my son “Autistic”. Someone with Cancer, isn’t “Cancerous”. My son has Autistic traits, but he isn’t Autistic.
Lastly, when people tell me that they are “sorry” about my DS having Autism, I try not to look at them like they have three heads. Why are you sorry? I’m not. Autism is PART of how my son learns and interacts, it isn’t WHO he is. My son is AWESOME!
There is also a long discussion on Scary Mommy about how to help a parent of a child of special needs. My advice is to be there, whether emotionally or physically. If you hear we are having a bad day and that we aren’t leaving the house because of it, show up. Give us time to have a shower while you are there, bring us our favourite drink (mine’s a Starbucks chai latte, lactose-free milk, no water…in case you were wondering), do the dishes, fold laundry, bring us a home-cooked meal, etc. Sure, they are “chores” that you probably don’t want to do at your place but I can tell you from experience that my stress levels increase exponentially by the second if I haven’t had time to do the dishes (don’t have a dishwasher) and I can’t find counter space to prepare whatever food my DS wants at that moment.
At the end of the day though, just ask how you can help – please don’t be offended if we say there’s nothing you can do though…sometimes it’s just harder for us to explain how to help because you might unintentionally trigger a meltdown. Ask about the specialist appointment we took our child to today – just be prepared for a detailed answer if you ask about the appointment. Invite us out at a time of day that works best for us, whether it’s a playdate for the kids or some grown-up time. We get very isolated very easily as we have been asked if “other moms groups might be more suitable for my son” often.
Most of all though, share in our excitement about developmental advances our child makes. Remember how excited you were when your child started talking/walking/went potty the first time? We are just as excited, if not more so, when we finally get to experience those advances when our kids are older. Can you imagine how excited I’ll be when my soon to be 6yo son will finally be potty trained??!!!
Above all, if you happen to witness my son’s complete meltdown in public, walk over, ask if there’s anything you can do to help and offer to hold my bags, then try to keep up with us as my son takes us on a “Meltdown Adventure”, which can lead anywhere or nowhere. Hope you’re wearing your running shoes!