If I may preface this Post with a brief word about judgement.
Judgement is a natural instinct, I don’t care who you are, we’re all guilty of it, and we’ve all passed some during the course of our lives. The challenge here is to try to stop yourself before you act, and do any more potential harm. You can’t get your words back. You can never repair the damage, because at the end of the day it’s about how you made that person feel.
Recently I took my son on vacation to Walt Disney World Resort, his favourite place on Earth, and ours too, because that is the place where we have seen the greatest developmental gains, both spontaneous, and gradual. We’ve seen his independence thrive, his sensory limitations expanded, his adaptive skills increased, and everything in between, so yes, we try our best to get him there as often as possible because the joy that radiates from him when there, is magnanimous. Just take a closer look at the photo of him on his way to Walt Disney World Resort.
It was there that he learned proper dining etiquette, and how to wait in lines (we’re up to 30 minutes now), and it was there that we are always made to feel at home by the caring, helpful Cast Members (that’s what Disney employees are called). But, it wasn’t always so easy, or straightforward.
I clearly remember the days when we had a card for a special accommodation to attractions, and we were judged by others in line because my son’s disability is not clearly visible until you begin to really observe him. I was the mom who had little cards printed up explaining his disability because I was truly interested in educating others, and this helped me save my voice from repetition, but most importantly, it saved my son’s dignity. He may not be verbal, but his comprehension is close to his age level.
So, yes, I was and still am his greatest advocate, and my antennae are on high alert for any unfair stares, and/or comments, but I always try to handle uninformed people with care, because it’s not their fault that they do not know about autism. So I can’t judge them, and I won’t. Life is not always about us after all, and not everyone is affected by disabilities.
But, last week, I learned something new about my son. He does have a voice other than through his art, and his music.
He spoke up.
We were lined up at a kiosk at Epcot to pay for something, and while he stays close to me, while I am paying, he tends to swagger from leg to leg, and do odd things with his hands, and he may babble a few words.
Until I heard a voice behind me from a woman who quite harshly asked him, “what are you doing?”
His response, “leave me alone!”
So, while this may not have been the best response to the woman, it gave me great hope, because he actually advocated for himself.
At that point, I turned, smiled, and briefly explained about my son, to which her reply was mockery through sneers at us.
We just walked away.
It was the best thing to do.
My job now? I have to teach my son the proper language in dealing with comments that ruffle him, because “leave me alone” is harsh, and inappropriate.
So please, while it’s easy to judge, try to derail from it, by thinking that we all have feelings, and that we may all do things differently from each other.
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” – Thumper