A Korean proverb says that, "The woman is weak, but the mother is strong." Since becoming a mother, I have found this statement to be very true. Being a very non-confrontational person, I tend to not stick up for myself (and allow people to walk all over me unfortunately), but when it comes to Shaun, I will fight for him with everything in me. I am sure this is true for most mothers, and especially those with special needs children because it sometimes seems as though we have to fight for our little ones more.
While I will say, if brought up, that I have a child with special needs, for the most part, I don't tend to think of Shaun that way. Really, don't all children have 'special' needs? No two children are 100% alike after all. I prefer to think as Shaun as my adorably sweet, handsome and oh so intelligent little boy. His autism is part of who he is but does not define him, and it's those little quirks that make him who he is. He is often cracking us up with his crazy antics that we love him for.
For the most part, we do not come out until people we randomly meet about Shaun's autism. We don't hide it, but it doesn't come up in casual conversation at a supermarket either, so why bring it up? When people do find out, we are constantly hearing that people never would have guessed that there was something 'wrong' with him. (Which I will point out, there is nothing WRONG with him, his mind just works a little differently). I think as he's gotten a bit older, his differences have become a bit more noticeable, or at least when people find out that he is 3 and not 18 months, the age most people put him at. While most say nothing, I've seen a few more looks being sent our way, etc. I, for the most part, just blow these off.
However, a few weeks back during our Saturday morning yard saling, Shaun-being his normal self- found a vehicle, laid down on the concrete and started rolling it over his face, back and forth. This is something he does quite often and I don't even notice it anymore. But a group of kids nearby did. They were between the ages of 8-10, so old enough I'd think to know better than to make fun of little kids, but still kids nonetheless so you really can't blame them. But anyway I heard their giggles and comments about it, and not in the way that we so often do ourselves- the 'that's so cute, my silly little Shauny' moments, but more of a teasing, 'that's so weird' way. As I said, these were just kids and they of course knew no better, but it didn't stop it from hurting me anyway.
I was teased as a child/teen. I have always been very quiet and shy due to my social anxiety. This is something that I had always hoped Shaun would not have to experience but knew from day one of diagnosis that it was inevitable that at least once in his life, it would happen. After all, people are ignorant and kids can be cruel. And while this first experience was primarily innocent to say the least, it still affected me. Perhaps it's a result of the emotional stress that I've been through lately. I would do anything for my little man and I hate the idea that others will view him as being less. As Temple Grandin says, "different, not less".
I write this for no other reason than it has been bothering me lately and I hope that in writing it maybe people will think a bit more carefully about how the things they say and do can affect others, much like the last post on the r-word. When you see that kid having a freak out in the store, who seems disobedient and out of control- instead of judging his mother and assume she's doing something wrong, throw her an understanding smile, she needs it. Teach your kids to embrace differences in others and to be nice to the odd kid, even if its not the cool thing to do. Don't be quick to laugh.
Though things may sometimes get me down, I will never stop fighting for my son. If I do one thing right, it will be letting him know that he is loved unconditionally, and though he might not understand a lot right now, and while he can't communicate properly or does things that are not considered by the general population to be normal, he is my PERFECT son.