We never know when a meltdown will happen.
We know that certain environments don’t sit well with my five-year-old. Open spaces cause him extreme anxiety. New places make him want to flee. But, we can’t stay cooped up in our home forever—especially for a trip to speech therapy.
Yes, we have become quite familiar with the waiting room of our son’s speech therapist. I must say that she has a well-equipped one. There is every type of busy toy you could think of. Coloring books, train sets, magnets and a framed metal board, and all kinds of sensory playthings. Even so, my son has bad days.
To look at him, you would never assume he has extra special needs. There is a meme floating around in the autism parenting world that snarkily reminds others that saying a child with autism “looks normal” is not a compliment. I must say that I have never cared for the meme. We will never really spread autism awareness if we spend our time judging others judging our kids.
Let me say, I have discovered that special needs families can accomplish a tremendous amount of spreading awareness by simply bringing their child out into the world.
That day at the therapist’s office was no exception.
My son had woken up in a state of irregularities. He was seeking sensory input to help balance out his little mind and body but just couldn’t seem to regulate.
The time was coming to head out the door, and I wondered about the discussion I would have with his therapist that day. I was quite sure it would include concerned remarks that he wasn’t cooperating. I was already dreading getting there and having to walk the few feet from the parking lot to the door. When my son is having a bad day, he can’t just get over it. His bad days consist of something on a much deeper level than a child being upset over not stopping at their favorite restaurant. Trust me, if I knew how to help him, I would. I knew I had to ride the wave.
We successfully made it inside. I quickly scanned the room for an open seat near his favorite set of toys. He found his spot on the floor and engaged in the activity that brought him the most pleasure that day—dumping out matchbox cars all over the floor to hear the crashing sound. I didn’t dare lift my head because I knew there would be stares. I also knew that on that day, there would be no stopping him.
The SLP called him back, and I had a few minutes of quiet time. Even though I should have been indulging in my own little world, I couldn’t help but wonder how the appointment was going. I was hoping that it wouldn’t have to be cut short because my son was so dysregulated.
I was still sitting in the same seat when the session ended. He came running over and got right back on the floor with the cars. I spoke briefly to his therapist, and then it was time to go. I attempted to coax my boy away from his sensory play, but he wouldn’t budge. I tried giving him some time to get it out of his system. I determined that I was going to have to carry him out. I knew what was coming and I could feel the quiver in my mama’s heart. There was a lady waiting to be seen by another counselor in the office. She was a bit older, so I had already summed up that she had no idea what autism was or what a child with autism struggles with. No, to her I had a terribly-behaved child. But I had not spoken a word to her.
I bent down to pick him up. He fought me and the meltdown ensued.
There was no cleaning up the cars that were strewn across the floor. It was now or never.
In the chaos of me corralling him outside, my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of the woman. She had a smile on her face as she went over to where we had been. She began picking up little metal cars and putting them where they belonged.
In an instant, the weight that I had put on myself dissolved.
Because I had conjured up an idea of this woman and what she was thinking about my son, I had put myself in a pointless position of defense.
Either way, I will never forget her.
The smile on her face told me that she either completely understood my son was special needs or that she really didn’t care. Maybe she saw it as helping out another member of the mom tribe.
Either way, I will never forget her. Her simple act of kindness and gentleness spoke volumes above the negative thoughts screaming in my mind. I determined that day that I would begin seeing our world within autism from a different angle. I would let my guard down and let go of insecurities that come along with so many unknowns.
We are all doing the best we can with what we have. It’s time to reach our hands out in love instead of turning our heads with a notion of pretentious misunderstanding.
It’s time to become the lady that cleaned up after my autistic son.
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