As many of you already know, our son has classic autism and is in a special class at school for children on the spectrum. A few years ago, he had a classmate who was very talkative and loved to ask a lot of questions. He was fascinated by my wheelchair and often said things like “OMG! Your legs still don’t work!” or “You can’t feel your legs. Can I touch them and see if I can feel them?”
For obvious reasons, the teacher tried to explain that it’s not really appropriate to focus on someone’s disability and encouraged him to make small talk like they practiced in their social skills group. The next time I visited he was prepared with a long list of socially acceptable questions. Some examples include :
Where did you go to school?
Did you play sports in middle school?
Did you play sports in high school?
Who are your parents?
Did they play sports?
What is your favorite section of the library?
After he quizzed me throughly, he asked my husband the same list of questions until he came to the part about his parents. Completely serious, he asked if my husband and I had the same parents. Of course, our first reaction was to laugh, but then we explained that we are married and N’s parents. He was very confused and got a little agitated.
“But my mom said, only normal people can get married and have kids,” he said sadly.
“When was this?” I asked.
“She was talking to my dad. She said I would never have a wedding or a real life because I’m not normal. Are you sure N isn’t your brother? ”
This broke my heart, because I have worried about the same thing. The world can be cruel. I know that my N is a wonderful person, but could someone see past his struggles and accept him as is? I decided that I would tell this child what I plan on telling N in the future.
I began “Honey, I think you misunderstood your mom. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right person, but when you do they won’t see you as different. They will see you as special and the perfect person for them.”
My darling husband continued with ” I have loved being married to GG and I wouldn’t change anything about her, including the wheelchair. You don’t have to get married, but that’s your choice to make when you’re older. You can do anything you want. ”
The moral of the story is that no one’s future is set in stone, but especially with kids. A diagnosis can be a stumbling block, but it doesn’t dictate what we can do. Also it’s important to remember that our children are always watching and our attitudes can affect them tremendously. Let them see themselves through our eyes and see how awesome they truly are.