I understand that for many people disability is not something that they encounter on a regular basis and certainly not closely enough to understand the complexities that arise when either living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability. My own twins certainly shook me up when they arrived, teaching me a hard and fast lesson about neurodiversity!
Recently, during the school holidays, we headed off for lunch at a trusty favourite of ours – the good old golden arches, McDonalds. It was the usual chaos of ordering, finding a table and being as close as we could to the play area, to minimise the run time between (a) the door to the playground; (b) the door to the carpark and (c) the door to the toilets. Those three points are like our Bermuda Triangle and somewhere in the middle, without a doubt, is where I’ll lose one of the twins!
This particular Maccas is a familiar and safe space for us; the staff are used to us coming in on a regular basis and I usually tune out a bit while there.
On this particular day however, I noticed that my son was being looked at (ok, stared at) by a bunch of older kids who were with an adult. In fact, they were all staring. After moments, they realised that I was looking at them, waiting for a response, a smile, anything. Instead of responding, they were shushed out the door and away they went!
Right there was a missed opportunity to return the smile of a mother and her little boy who were just out and about, just like anybody else, grabbing an ice-cream. And if they had dared to step out of their comfort zone, a little ‘hi dude’ would also have been most welcome!
Younger kids adore my son, Mikey. Once they realise he doesn’t speak in full sentences, they tend to slow down their own speech to give him chance to reply in the way he does. I noticed this quite recently when we were at our local park; Mikey was signing and saying help to a young child’s dad, who then helped him up on to the flying fox. As all the younger kids watched on, including the dad who had a bit of fear in his eyes(!), I bolted across the park to reassure him – ‘he’s ok, he’s got the flying fox down pat with his one good arm/hand!’
All the kids were mesmerised as this ballsy kid, with the decent battle scar on the side of his head, went pelting across the playground yelling – ‘wahooooooo’. (I don’t know where he gets that from?!).
As I watch Mikey interact with the world around him, it makes me realise that he is not the one with the problem. It’s others who need to open up, confront what makes them uncomfortable and change their views. Our levels of tolerance and acceptance can only really shift and evolve, if this happens.
Use YOUR voice to ask us questions, my son loves telling you about what he does, even though he communicates in a different way. If you were to smile or ask just one question, you will show us that you are willing to open up your world and we will gladly share you ours.