I wrote this a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share on the blog..
I often wonder what people think when we are out in public and our little man is making odd sounds, walking on his toes, clapping, or flicking his fingers, or the tantrums! They are probably thinking the same thing I used to think before I knew anything about autism. “What is wrong with that child? Someone needs to discipline that kid! Ugh, I wish that kid would stop because that is so annoying?!” Well, maybe I was more judgmental than you, but that is what I would think.
We went to get him some new shoes today. The store was in the mall, so like most parents of children with special needs, we figured out the closest door to the one store we will be going to, which also means the closest exit! I say the “one store” because as most people with autism, crowded areas with with bright lights and lots of noise is over-stimulating to them. Well, we enter the store, everything is okay. We look at shoes, everything is okay. The trouble began when he started to try the shoes on. They weren’t his shoes?! They were different, they smelled different, they felt different, they were a different color, they were lighter or heavier (not sure which), all of which is change, and to a child with autism this causes major anxiety and fear! The tantrum began, and I mean freaking out screaming, kicking, rolling on the ground. Since he does not and will not tolerate being held (typical for autism) I had to keep saying “you are okay” while I gave him pressure by pushing on his legs, shoulders and arms which soothes him.
And then the stares began. I was angry, I was hurt, my heart broke for my little man. I wanted to yell “you can stop staring, he’s autistic!” but of course I didn’t. Instead I tried focus on our goal, comfort him even more and did not get frustrated. (which did not come from me alone, it came from our good Lord!) After about 10 minutes or so, I started to notice the scowls turn to smiles in that store. I was confused?! What is wrong with these people? They were annoyed one minute and now they seem calm and are smiling? After we chose a pair of shoes and he was calm, a few people came up to me. “How old is he” one lady asked. And another, “what a cute boy you have there”. I suddenly thought, maybe these people learned something or at least noticed a change in his behavior. Maybe they had a bit of understanding and compassion. Maybe our son is a true gift from God to help show others that being “different” is okay, especially since Byron and I prayed pretty hard before our adventure! I left the mall with a smile and a few tears of joy. I know he is going to make a difference. I’m sure the “difference” won’t always be a positive one (LOL!) but he is teachable, and is able to teach! What a blessing we have!