Many of us parents with special needs children are immersed in the daily world of quirks. Some of our kids have sensory issues, some tactile, some physical, and so on. We see the oddities that they do, and more often than not are used to the different things that look ok to us but are very “odd” to the rest of the world.
We get used to the child bolting toward traffic. We get adjusted to the screeching and screaming. Stimming no longer bothers us. Tics don’t grab our attention anymore. We get so accustomed to behaviors that they are nothing unusual to us.
But they are to others.
When we go to visit family and friends, there’s time we forget that our children are “different”. Our expectations are different, we know what our kids do, we’re used to it, no biggie. Our friends and family–they may not be ready to adjust to what we normally see.
If we go to visit an older family member, they may not appreciate Johnny darting into traffic. An older person may not be able to chase the hyperactive child running all over the house. They may not be able to handle the screaming or screeching. The friend(s) we may visit may not understand why our children must taste everything in sight, why a child feels the need to run around naked, why a child rocks like they are in a rocking chair, etc.
We parents with special needs children really must look beyond our own families. We need to be as understanding of other people as we expect others to be of our situations. For instance, can we really expect people who are from the times when special needs children were institutionalized to truly be comfortable with ours up close and personal? My own parents, I admit, would not have been comfortable around my bio son or stepchildren. My stepchildren’s stepdad (say that 5 times fast) has older parents who absolutely will not let Mr. Michael or Miss Jess in their home. Period. Nada. This stopped any and all visitations while the kids’ mom and stepdad lived with his parents. Do we hold it against the older parents? Of course not. They know they aren’t able to handle the needs the children have. This didn’t stop visitations for mom and stepdad, as long as they found a different location for visits. My father and mother in law are unique, in that at their older ages they are able to handle the quirks the kids have. The kids listen to them, well, usually. They would move the earth for Mami and Papi, Aunt Becky, Cousin Javier, Cousin Luis, etc.
I don’t expect any of my friends to be able to handle my children’s need. The needs are my responsibility, not theirs. I choose not to take them often to other homes, instead I choose parks and areas where the kids can run. There’s not a lot of small toys that one of the children will decide to hoard, tear up, crash into, break, etc. They can run off their energy instead of running wild confined inside four walls. I’ve found this works especially with the two of ours that are severely adhd. It’s much easier to turn them loose at a play area outside than to have them be small tornadoes in someone’s home and break an irreplacable item. I can’t expect my friends to have to handle the damage our children are quite capable of doing, and have done.
While the world we live in is all about tolerance, let’s face it–not everyone is jumping for joy to be one on one with our little ones. Not a whole lot of folks are just chomping at the bit to spend time with special needs children, whether it be physical or mental health needs or both. I’ve had comments from not only older people, but from people my own age (mid 30’s). The person in the mid-30’s was a Pastor, in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area, who told me to institutionalize my Kevin in order to go back to work, when Kevin was 4 years old. So this is not limited to an older age group who have little tolerance for special needs. His comments came out of left field, but I digress.
We as special needs parents do need to keep in mind those who do not have experience with special needs children, who have no knowledge of the needs, etc when we visit. We need to be mindful of their situation, and not expect them to bow to ours. We need to be respectful of them. If they do not accept our special needs children, that is fine. No one can force another person to accept what they will not or cannot.
We need to prayerfully consider what to do before visiting family or friends as we travel about this summer. Speak to God first, seek His counsel, especially when going to family members who are not too fond of the quirks our children have. Shower the situation in prayer, but don’t be hateful or vengeful if the situation goes awry. You have a chance, if you are a blood bought child of God, to show grace and mercy, thoughtfulness of the family member, and be a witness, if you seek God first. Should the family member or friend not accept the quirks and needs of your children, don’t let it get to you. Give it to God and let Him handle it. He has bigger shoulders.
Have a great summer with vacations and visits. Don’t forget that the Lord is with you along the way!