The other day I was chatting with a family friend who has known Zachary, my 7 1/2 year old son, for a good portion of Zac’s life. Zac has attended parties at this person’s home, with their family and friends who he is only familiar with a small portion of, they have attended Zac’s Birthday Parties, been in our home for cook outs, game nights etc… they have seen Zac’s progress and triumphs and yes they have seen the areas he still needs to work on but what they said to me earlier this week has stuck with me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since. As we were chatting about Harper and her arrival in 2016 the following question was asked,
“So, when will you know if she is like him?”
I was caught completely off guard because my response was, “when will I know if Harper is like who?” and the next words made my heart stop “you know when will you know if she’s like Zac, you know have problems”.
In that moment it is still amazing to me that I was able to speak, remain calm, and not run over and throat punch them. How could you say “have problems”? How could you think that my wonderfully smart, funny, courageous, compassionate, SINCERE little boy has problems? Why? Because he doesn’t speak loudly or doesn’t call out to you every single time he sees you or because he doesn’t eat chicken nuggets and pizza and drink copious amounts of juice like “other kids” or because when there are large groups of people in a house that he doesn’t live in and only frequents for special occasions he may be using an iPhone to help him be social…… I could go on.
I understand that not every one is “educated” or “aware” of what children who are on the Spectrum are like and what life for the parents is like but what strikes me as even more shocking is the lack of filter people have, the lack of ability to put themselves (or try to) in someone elses shoes. We are so LUCKY that Zac has the qualities he does because so many of the children on the Spectrum don’t.
Children on the Spectrum Don’t Typically:
-Make eye contact…. Zac does
-Like to give hugs, kisses, show affection or emotion…. these are some of Zac’s FAVORITE things to do
-Thrive in loud environments, do well with new people, they typically run and seek “shelter”…. Zac just smiles, laughs, claps and makes the best of it – to him he’s just like everyone else.
-They don’t “joke” or “get things/jokes” and take things extremely literally…. Zac is one of the biggest, but slyest, ball busters I know
-Ride Roller Coasters or Set off the scariest and loudest items at the Halloween Store
And these are just a FEW of the things that come to mind.
When I look at Zac my heart swells with emotion, pride, and love – I WOULD NOT CHANGE HIM FOR THE WORLD. If Harper even has a fraction of Zachary’s compassion, sensitivity, polite and respectful nature – which he has for both adults and other children, and willingness to persevere then that my friends is perfection.
Each child on the Spectrum is different, that’s why it is a Spectrum it’s BROAD. Zac’s diagnosis, to be exact, is Developmental Delay with emphasis on Speech (though now I have to ask him to be quiet – a blessing I never thought we would have.) So not every kid on this Spectrum is Autistic, has Aspergers, or is like your neighbor’s cousin’s kid who just screams all day long.
As I close this post out I want you to come away from it, those who don’t know a child on the Spectrum, with a new perspective when it comes to seeing other children in public. The child who may be focused intently on their iPad or parent’s phone could finally be understanding a life skill because they are watching another child on YouTube tie their shoes, eat popcorn, run, jump, skip or play. They might finally be able to call out “MAMA” for the first time because of an app that helped them with basic vocabulary skills. They might finally be able to allow their parents to grocery shop peacefully and quickly and sans melt down. Just try to take a step back before you judge, comment, or write them off in your mind – please.
Healthy Wishes, T