At the beginning of May, I took the Baby up to a local school to do an evaluation for special needs pre-K. The therapists weren’t quite ready yet so we had to wait in the hallway. He got restless so I let him slide out of his stroller and crawl around on the floor. A class of Kindergarteners walked by.
They did what I like to call open mouth staring, the kind of staring that causes collisions between those that stop and gawk and those that gawk while walking slowly into the stopped kid in front of them. The Baby wasn’t doing anything particularly interesting, at least not to me, just sitting and tapping his hand against his mouth, which he does when he’s bored or thirsty. He certainly wasn’t aware that he had the attention of an entire class of 5 year olds.
In May, The Baby also got a medical-grade baby walker called a gait trainer.
On a playground, he literally leaves a wake of stunned children, frozen in open mouth stares by their curiosity at a child using a walker.
The saving grace for situations like that, the thing that keeps me from collapsing into a puddle on the ground, is that I know he isn’t aware and doesn’t care so I brush it off and we move forward.
His daycare lady texted me today. It was just a picture of a Paw Patrol Birthday Party invite for another kid at daycare. I burst into tears.
I know this kid. He genuinely seems to care for The Baby. It’s possible he specifically asked for The Baby to be invited.
It’s so jaw-droppingly normal.
The thing that keeps me up at night about The Baby isn’t worrying about whether he’ll ever talk or walk or potty train. No, the thing that keeps me up at night is 1)whether he’ll ever have friends and 2) if he doesn’t, will he know he doesn’t have friends?
I mean, I know this happens. There’s a show called ‘Born This Way’ that features a group of friends who all have Down Syndrome and they talk about feeling left out. My gosh, I have to leave the room. I cannot handle the heartache.
I don’t even know that I have a point to this except to document and celebrate the fact that, whether he knows it or not, my 4-year-old might have a friend, like an actual friend who wants him to be present for a birthday party.
I’m crying just writing about it.
I’m visiting my sister in Nashville and she advised that I need to tell more people how important this is to me. If you know people with special needs, invite them to stuff. They might not come. They might come and leave early. They might crawl around and splash in the dog bowl and lick the windows, but even inviting them shows that you see them and it feels so good to be seen.
There are a million of articles advising parents of neurotypical kids on how to approach kids with special needs but here are my two cents:
- Show your kids how to talk to people with disabilities, by talking to people with disabilities. If they see you doing it, then they can see that it’s not scary or weird.
- even if the person can’t respond to you, acknowledge them, talk to them.
- Don’t shush your kids or whisper when they have questions.
- They’re just trying to figure out what’s going on and if you respond negatively, that gets attached to my kid. When The Baby is in his walker, I much prefer the kids that come up and ask what it is and why he needs it. It helps me remove some of the mystique.
- Include people with disabilities in your kids’ media diet.
- Thankfully, this is getting a little easier but you still have to search for movies, books, TV shows that feature people in wheelchairs, the deaf or blind, people with autism. Normalize it!