And so ends yet another April Autism Awareness month. Did it really make a difference? Is anyone more aware? Yesterday I received an encouraging message from an old friend from my college days, and I share it with her permission:
I know we haven’t talked in a very long time, but I felt strangely connected to you yesterday. I’ve read some of the things you have posted (or maybe blogged) about your son. Yesterday, we were at the mall, and this boy who appeared to be about 8 or 9 had a major meltdown. His mother was so distraught, and everyone was just looking at her and she just kept crying. I felt so sorry for her because everyone was just judging her, so I followed her. As soon as I asked her if she was ok, she just broke down and cried. She said her son was special needs and that he was having an off day. She was so sad because all she could see was families around her with “normal” kids and she just wanted that for him. I just ached for her. Anyway, I didn’t do much other than listen and give her a hug and tell her she was doing a good job. It made me think of you and all the good you are doing for families just like hers.
THIS is why I do what I do… volunteering with our local Autism Society chapter, facilitating a support group for families affected by special needs, and even just writing blog posts. They are my own tiny attempts to help make the world a safer place for children like mine. I risk sharing personal information about my family here and on Facebook because I HOPE that it will make a difference. That just ONE person will read it and be more aware. I hope that people will remember to be more compassionate if they see a child throwing what looks like a tantrum in a public place, or a parent struggling to manage their child’s behaviors. I, and so many of my friends, have been that crying mother. I ache for the helplessness she must have felt. You weep because your child is struggling and there is NOTHING you can do to calm them, because you are exhausted, and because it feels like everyone is staring at you. But sometimes all a parent needs in that moment is a reassuring smile, or even a door held open. Messages like the one above are what encourage me to continue in my own personal quest for Autism, and special needs, awareness. I am so glad that my friend was there that day to help another human being who was hurting. She went OUT OF HER WAY to find that distraught mother and check on her welfare and offer reassurance. From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of any mother who has “been there”, I thank her.
When asked if she minded my sharing her message, she replied: “No I don’t mind at all. I think I’ve become more sensitive to other mothers now that I am one, and I’ve experienced the stares myself with my own children. You just never know someone’s story, and it’s better to be sympathetic than judgmental because that could easily be you!”