There we sat at one of the pavement tables, taking in the sights with the puppy at our feet. Well, I was the one taking in the sights whilst nonchalantly sipping on one of the best cappuccinos in Durban. Nick sat there with big sorrowful eyes and continually asked for my phone! Every now and then I would shake my head for "no" and make some declarative comment to see if he would react about the dog, the people, the surroundings... anything!!! Sigh, he remained stubborn and continued to look at me with those sad sad eyes! I held off for quite a while and Nick coped just fine. I passed the phone over to him when some familiar faces stopped by to say "hi".
Although I live in a large city, our community is relatively small, therefore I always bump into someone I know! Hence the reason for this blog post.....
I am getting to my point in a roundabout way!!!!
I realised many years ago that if and when I take Nick out into the community we are bound to attract some attention. I even organised for my sister to collect me some autism awareness cards from the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom. You see, I was fully prepared for attack.... if anyone gave me grief, I was just going to whip out a card and silently hand it to the offending person and then I was going to walk away. Yep, I had it all planned!
I still have those cards and I have not handed out even one of them! I can actually count on one hand the amount of times that a member of the public has been deliberately unkind. It was hurtful, it made us angry and we may have made a smart remark..... I can also remember each incident. But, that was it!
I have learned that it is my attitude that makes the difference! The way I am with my child; and the way in which I interact with the people I come into contact with has prevented any unwanted remarks. I smile a LOT. I shrug my shoulders. I laugh with my boy. I say "my son has special needs". I say "my son is autistic". I say "my son has autism". I say "my son cannot speak". If I see people staring a lot.... I must admit, I do give them a bit of a *look*.
Generally people are kind and understanding. They may think my son is rather odd, however, that is their problem, not mine! Perhaps my skin has got tougher over the years, who knows!
Being friendly, open and positive has made my life a lot easier. I really do think that having a good attitude helps the general public to be more accepting of children and adults with special needs. Perhaps it also makes them realise that they need to be more mindful of that child/adult who is making a strange noise. I also think that the more I take Nick out into the community... the more the community will get to know him and accept him without judgement.
I remember going to the supermarket a year or so ago... Nick was pushing the trolley and he mistakenly pushed it too hard and it caught the ankles of a woman in front of him. She spun around and made an extremely cutting remark. I quietly said "I am so sorry, my son has special needs". The poor woman was absolutely mortified and couldn't apologize enough. I would rather that the woman went away thinking to herself that she must be more mindful; rather than her go away muttering and moaning about that special needs mother throwing a hissy fit!
Back to the beach...
The familiar faces that stopped by my table had a good old stare, but so what...... As I was leaving the cafe I bumped into another acquaintance; and we spoke for a little bit about Nick. She also waved to Nick... I like that, I like that people acknowledge my son.
I also like my lovely lurking friends who read my blog..... Thank you xx