A Cashier Showed Us Extra Kindness, but Then She Thanked US!

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The warmth and graciousness experienced by my family at a Target checkout counter this past weekend still has me smiling. A cashier showed us what may seem to some as a simple kindness, but to us it was significant. Kindness is no longer something that I take for granted in today’s society.

My two sons had finally decided to spend some of their Christmas money, so we headed to Target and each of them picked out a video game. A Manager came over to assist our cashier as we checked out, and my youngest decided he wanted to talk to them. He is 9 years old, *Autistic (*not a bad word, see below), and very outgoing. He happily chatted away with the two ladies, excited about his new video game.

“You see that? That’s MY Super Mario Bros. 2 video game. I am buying it with MY own money! You wanna know how to play it? First you get some coins. And then you get some other coins. Basically it’s coins, coins, and more coins! And did I forget to mention COINS?” He really got on a roll and was having some fun joking with them.

The Manager grinned, obviously picking up on his joking. She responded, playing along, “Soooo, maybe the best thing about the game is the COINS, then?”

After we checked out she looked at me and said with a sincere smile, “Thank you for letting him talk to me! He’s a cutie!”

And just like that the scene went from heartwarming to tear-inducing, and I turned into a weepy Mom mess.

SHE said thank you. She treated my son with kindness that many would not, and then SHE thanked US for the privilege. She saw my son for the energetic, engaging, and extraordinary young man that he is.  Continue reading

Why Accessibility Matters (and why this picture of snow piled in accessible parking spaces makes me so angry)

 

 

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This image of an accessible parking space mostly covered with piles of snow is what greeted me when I recently went shopping with my children. I drove around and discovered that FOUR out of the six accessible spaces along the front of the parking lot were blocked. Winter Storm Jonas had recently finished slamming a large portion of the East Coast with huge amounts of snow. Many of the areas affected were overwhelmed by the cleanup, and had trouble keeping up with the plowing and treating of surfaces. That does not change the fact that a scene like this, especially when it occurs multiple times in the same parking lot, is completely unacceptable. It is also potentially illegal (more on that later). And it made me incredibly angry.

My anger stems from several issues. One: I have seen this happen year after year, although this is the most egregious example I have ever seen. Two: I have experienced firsthand what sort of problems this can cause. I have driven endless circles around a parking lot with a companion in a search for a parking space that would allow them to have space to get their wheelchair out of the car. I have seen the frustration and even pain in their eyes when we have to simply leave. Three: I see far too many instances in life of those with different abilities being marginalized by the general public. They are told time and time again, whether in word or deed, that their needs don’t matter. And this parking lot is currently not meeting the needs of those who have mobility challenges.

Here are pictures from two of the other spaces.

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What if someone couldn’t travel very far? What if a van with a wheelchair lift pulled up? Even if someone parked in the diagonally lined area of the second picture there’s not enough space there to both park the van and deploy the lift. There would hardly be enough space to park and place a wheelchair in between cars.

Now, who is to blame for this? In this case I do not know whether it was the snowplow operator or the property manager who was responsible for the decision to put the snow here. Efforts to contact someone to discuss the problem have failed. The main point is that this should not happen.

I took to Facebook to discuss the problem and hopefully help raise awareness. The fact is, it is a situation that a lot of people don’t think about. People don’t realize all the things that can create accessibility issues. The post and pictures received some interesting and enlightening responses.

Why does something like this happen? Ignorance? Some people may not fully comprehend the problems that a scene like this can cause. They may also be unaware that ADA laws dictate that this NOT happen. Exhaustion? This storm dumped multiple feet of snow on some locations. Snowplow operators worked almost around the clock this weekend and were scrambling to keep up. Or is it money? I have heard from a snowplow operator who says that some property managers struggle with the price of snow removal and that it is more expensive to properly clear the accessible spaces. I have heard from a property manager who said that they have at times been taken advantage of by snowplow operators who pile snow in accessible spaces when they are not supposed to.

Again, in this situation I don’t know who is to blame. Sometimes people make mistakes, or people take shortcuts. But there are also conscientious property managers and snowplow drivers who understand why it is important that this NOT happen.

It would be a shame if someone wasn’t able to enter a store and get what they needed simply because of the lack of accessible parking. No one should be made to feel unaccommodated or unwelcome. Even worse, what if someone was injured because of these unsafe conditions?

And then there is the issue of the law. Continue reading

People I Want to be More Like in 2016

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Instead of making resolutions this year I have decided to try and emulate some people that I admire. This is a reflection on some of their positive qualities that I think make the world a better place, and I know I would be a better person if I was more like these unique individuals.

I want to feel free to be unapologetically, enthusiastically myself just like my youngest son does.

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They say, “Be yourself, ” and “Dance like no one is watching.” That is what is embodied in this picture. My 4th-grade son is awesome. He is also Autistic. (No, that is not an offensive term. Please read this information if you are unfamiliar with Identity-First language.)

This picture was taken during his older brother’s 5th-grade music performance. Younger brother had seen the performance, complete with choreography, earlier in the day during  a school assembly. By the time the PTA meeting rolled around that night he had somehow memorized most of the songs AND the corresponding movements. After seeing it only ONCE. The unique way his brain absorbs information astounds me! So he sat there in the audience and participated in the performance, singing and dancing right along with the 5th graders. It was AWESOME. He didn’t care what the people sitting around him thought. He didn’t care that he wasn’t supposed to. He just did, and loved every moment of it. And he ROCKED it. I need more of that in my life. I briefly thought about the possibility of asking him to stop in case he was disturbing those around him. I decided against it since he was doing the same as the children on stage, AND I felt it was important that he feel free to express himself. I didn’t want to squelch his indomitable, exuberant, creative spirit that bubbles out of him. It brings me, and others, great joy.

I want to have a heart full of compassion and kindness like my oldest son.

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Continue reading

Our Trip to the TV Station/ Review of Top Toys

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My youngest son and I recently had the opportunity to visit a local television studio to record a piece about the Holiday shopping season. A reporter named Morgan Dean (who is also a Morning News anchor) provided some of the items on many of the “Top Toys” lists and we gave our feedback. For the Little Ninja this was a dream come true because, 1. Toys, and 2. He wants to be a media STAR. (He is obsessed with YouTube, and I’m pretty sure Thomas Sanders is his spirit animal).

My oldest son declined the opportunity to be interviewed on camera because he is more a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. I totally respect that, and think it’s cool that my boys have such interesting personalities that are so different from each other.

Here is a link to the article and interview on the WRIC website: http://wric.com/2015/11/24/hottest-toys-of-the-holiday-get-a-jump-on-black-friday/

Taping went pretty well, even though it involved a good bit of needing to wait quietly. That can be hard for any child, but especially one who is Autistic. I had initially been concerned about how my son would handle himself in studio and on-camera, but he did great. I was thankful that Autism didn’t get in the way of something he wanted to do, or make things extra hard that day (Don’t get me wrong, he is proud of his unique brain. He is also aware of the challenges that it can cause). The only hiccup was when he started playing with the electronic lightsaber toy, and the first thing he blurted out was, “IT SOUNDS LIKE A FART!”  In all honesty, it did. You can see him giggling about it near the beginning of the clip. His “fart” comment surpirsed us all and got a good laugh, so he became stuck on the idea of farts for a while. I worried we wouldn’t get back on track. Thankfully the moment passed (see what I did there?), and he went back to being his typical exuberant self. The fart comments didn’t make it into the final edit, by the way.

Another cool thing was that Autism didn’t need to be a part of the dialogue that day, even though we have talked with WRIC before about Autism. In this instance we were simply people (and bloggers) talking about TOYS. Moving on…

Our friend Carissa Garabedian of Macaroni Kid Richmond and the special-needs website Know Different was also interviewed for the piece. She got to talk about the Girl Scout Cookie Oven among other things, and it looked yummy. Well, the cookies did. I always wanted an Easy Bake Oven as a kid and never got one. This looks similar and made my inner child VERY happy. I WANT ONE. Plus I want to be able to make Thin Mints on a whim.

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After we completed taping we were able to take a brief tour of the studio.

Green screens are COOL
Green screens are COOL

The Little Ninja was mesmerized by the Green Screen.

Then they let us venture behind the Anchor Desk.

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Continue reading

Can Our Children Heal This Broken World?

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There have been a lot of frightening things happening in the world the past few weeks. Recent events like those in Beirut, Paris, Mali, and the ongoing situation in Syria all weigh heavy on my heart. They cause me to worry about what the future will bring for my children. It also makes me wonder what, if anything, I should tell them about the harsh stories in the news.

One recent afternoon I was out running errands with my oldest son, and checked my phone after pulling into a parking space. I saw a news alert that the number of dead from a horrifying attack had just been raised. Without thinking about it, an “OH NO!” escaped my lips. Then I sat in stunned silence, overwhelmed with worry about the state of our broken world. The world my children will inherit.

From the backseat I heard a small, concerned voice. “What is it, Mommy?”

I had a choice to make. Part of me wanted him to stay innocent and pure. To keep believing in the goodness of his fellow human beings. The other part of me wanted him to know that there is evil out there and he must be on guard against it. Should I keep protecting him from the harsh realities of this world we live in, or is he old enough to understand? Continue reading