Special Needs You Can't See
All of my kids have some sort of special needs. Some you can see like the kid in the wheelchair or the kid with prosthetic legs. Some you can't see, like Aspergers, or dyslexia or dysgraphia, or RAD, or an eating disorder. With some of those you can see the results, but you really can't see the whole picture. Some of them as a stranger, you won't see any signs of them at all.
It's kind of interesting that people seem to have a set of rules for how disability should look or act. People assume that a kid who is cute can't have a mental illness. People will assume a child who is clean and well behaved in public, must not have a mental illness. People assume a kid in a wheelchair can't understand what they say or that they must also be delayed in some way. They also assume a child in a wheelchair can't possibly also have behavioral issues. You should see the dirty looks you get if you tell a child in a wheelchair "no" in public!
The truth is some kids who have major issues going on inside, are very cute on the outside. They may have cute smiles, and be well dressed. They might come up and hug you and be very charming. It might seem like the mom is nuts to think something is wrong with this kid. You just have to remember that just like you can't see dyslexia, you can't see emotional issues. Of course sometimes you can see it, some kids will act out in public. Some kids can hold it together in public but act out at home. Sometimes what looks like a well behaved kid is hiding what you can't see.
You may not have noticed that while the kid was hugging you they picked your pocket, you may not notice that the cute teen who picked up your toddler and is carrying her around was touching your child inappropriately. You may not realize that the kid who is snuggling up to you, is is trying to manipulate you. You may not realize that the kid who is confiding their deep feelings to you, is manipulating to you to try to get you to hurt their parents.
The truth is that sometimes really cute kids can have issues which mean they lie, and do inappropriate things. It may seem to you like the parents are way too strict, or have crazy rules. Never assume you know the story. Here are a couple of stories for you, see what you think.
Story one: A mother and child at a fast food place. The child appears quite overweight. His clothes are a little tight. He is about 8 years old. The mom buys him a kids meal, but he takes only a few bits and says he wants ice cream. The mother buys it for him. What would you think?I knew this lady and her son. She called me after she left the restaurant because people made loud rude comments about her and her child. Here is what they didn't know. Her son had a heart transplant. The medications which he takes to keep his body from rejecting the heart make him gain weight. He just got out of the hospital. He is not 8 but 11. He has very little appetite. This fast food place was where he wanted to go when he got out of the hospital after his transplant. His mom was so happy to have him alive, she would have bought him everything on the menu. Those people who made assumptions based on what they thought they were seeing, hurt this mother and child who had already been through a lot.
Story two: A family is at a church picnic. They have an adorable four year old girl. She keeps coming up to your family and asking your husband to pick her up so she can see the games the big kids are playing. Her mother tells her no, and keeps bring her back to stay by her side. The child asks to go and play with the other children and the mother says no. When the mother needs to take her other child to the restroom, you offer to watch the little girl, but the mother says no. You notice that the mother seems to not let the child out of her sight even though she has a little boy close to the same age who is allowed to run around with the other children. Someone else mentions to you that the child is not allowed to go to Sunday School either. The child is adorable and charming. She seems so sad to be stuck so close to her mom. What do you think? Here is what you don't know, this child is a foster child. Her biological parents molested her. They actually did far more than that simple word implies, it would turn your stomach to know what kind of a life this child had. This child knew no other life before she was removed from her home. She learned that you can get attention from men by doing things to them. She thinks touching other people's privates is normal. She has been taught to "accidentally" touch people in ways she should not. This is her third foster home. She was removed from the first because it was discovered that she was molesting a two year old. She was removed from the second after telling her therapist she had sex with her foster father. She described it in great detail. Later she said she was describing an incident with her biological father, who said he enjoyed it when she did those things with him, so she wanted the therapist to think her foster father loved her the same way. (in her poor little mind love=sex) The foster father was proven innocent because it turned out he was on a business trip during the time when the accusation was supposed to have happened. Because of these two incidents (which the foster mother is not allowed to tell you about because the law requires she keep her child's information confidential, even the fact that she is a foster child) the mother cannot let the child out of her sight. The child is in regular therapy, but the child is not healed of her issues yet. You didn't know it, but the mother you had those mean thoughts about was trying to protect you and your husband and your children. Yet, she felt your judgement. She likely won't attempt to come to any more church events.
Story three: A woman in a store is texting on her cell phone while her child lays on the ground screaming and cussing. The child is way too old to be acting like that. Do you assume that the child is a brat and the mom a bad parent? Or do you like me now, wonder if the child is autistic, or perhaps suffered from early trauma or has sensory issues. I don't know if the mother is texting her husband to come help her remove the child or the child's therapist for advice or a friend because she needs someone to talk her down so she won't be too angry. The next time a parent tells you that their child can't come to your house or says please don't give them something (candy, a gift, attention, food, etc) or tells you that the child may not do something or seems overly strict. Remember, it's possible that the child has a disability you cannot see. Sometimes you can ask if you know the parents well enough, why they do or say certain things. Most parents of special needs children would be glad to answer questions (if asked privately and appropriately) But sometimes for the sake of the child's privacy they cannot give you details.
Before you jump to conclusions, think, ask. Giving the mom of a tantrumming child a smile instead of a dirty look, might mean the world to her and it won't cost you a dime.
- Lorraine F
Have you read Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? In it, the author tells a story about wild and rambunctious kids on a subway train. He talks about a paradigm shift, and needing to change our perspective. Finally when someone asks the seemingly disengaged dad to control his unruly kids, the dad says he is sorry, and explains they are returning from the hospital where their mother died an hour ago. It is a paradigm shift that allows the fellow passengers to see those children and their father with compassion, instead of judgement and annoyance. I think about that story when I am with my own sometimes unruly kids. When I want to explain to everyone staring at me that they were all born addicted to crack, and I think they are doing pretty damn good considering. Sometimes just saying it in my head is enough to quiet the harshest critic - myself. Sometimes it is not.
A beautiful post, thanks again.
im a mun to 3 kids and they have ptsd,anxiety,rad,life can be hard enough withoutjudgment.