Someone in our support group had mentioned that the greatest disability our children had was: they didn’t “look handicapped”. With some disabilities it is visible and with others once a child moves or behaves a certain way it becomes visible. In a lot of cases, with my child, it’s not always apparent that he has a disability until you talk to him or if you watch him for an extended period of time. The other person will get this “funny feeling” that something is just not right.
I either leave to avoid embarrassment or try to explain why they are experiencing this strange sensation. A lot of times there is no quick explanation. I suppose this happens with other disabilities but sometimes there is a handy quick label to supply for an explanation. That just isn’t so with this type of disability.
It actually doesn’t matter what the disability is. Because whether or not it is visible or there is an explanation I am brought back full circle to the idea of who really is the disabled person here.
My child is usually not aware that he is receiving this type of reaction and quite often he doesn’t really care. So who is the disabled person? Why, me, of course! I am the one who feels compelled to explain why my child is acting the way he is. I am the one who feel compelled to leave because either I have to give the long version of his disability or give the short one and most definitely risk misunderstanding. That’s a whole other story.
In the first case I am disabled by my ability to succinctly explain what is different. I am disabled by the fact I feel compelled to explain my child’s behavior. My mind races for a simple way. I try to gauge how understanding this person is and how much I can tell them so they understand but don’t jump to conclusions.
If I run away I am disabled by my compulsion to hide my child, to protect him. I am afraid of their judgment and opinions, which really won’t make a hoot of difference to my child.
In truth, I am under no obligation to do either of these things but because I am disabled I feel driven to do this. But I have a lot of experience with both of these situations. I have a lot of experience with people who stare, glare at my inability to “control” my child so he meets their standards of how a child his age should act and talk. I have a lot of experience using different speeches to explain why he does what he does. Not many of them have been successful.
But that was awhile ago. I’m not cured of this disability but I’ve learned a new way to handle these situations and I learned from the best. I choose not to be too concerned by what my child is saying or doing. I choose to focus on the moment and deal with what I find inappropriate behavior, actions or verbal outbursts. If nothing too bad is happening I often will look at people’s reactions but quietly I say to myself, “It’s not me or my son who has the disability here. They do. And the sad thing is they don’t even know it.”