I don’t know bout you but the idea of explaining to my now teenage son what he was born with has haunted me for years! I have literally placed it in the “do not open” box in the back of my head. I’m not sure if it’s been more based on guilt, worry over hurting him to know how different he is or more so that he might not try as hard to reach his full potential in life …not sure, just sure I have agonized over it for years! Like the kind of agony that hits you deep in the pit of your stomach, that chokes you up whenever you let your mind wander on the topic. Needless to say, two weeks ago when we walked in to his beloved special needs music group, I was not prepared to have to have to open that box and unveil the world that he does not fully know: disability!
It was the start of newness, just like every special needs music camp is. We have been involved in several and are so thankful that a local special needs charity in our area provides this service and just right down the road from where our family lives! The first night is about the kids of different abilities coming together , with their siblings, and harmonizing together by the wonderful talents and calibration of The Music Room and Mr. Mark Lucas, who has worked side by side with our son in private music therapy sessions for years. But, these music lessons are different in that they allow kids to come together and make all sorts of joyful noise in one setting over the course of several weeks.
We walked in that night to find a family already waiting for class to start. This family looked excited to be there and as soon as we come into the room my youngest made a bee line to go straight up to the kid sitting off to himself, not as excited as his mom or sister. While my youngest wants to befriend everyone, my oldest is quick to access new people and decide if he is good with them or not. As soon as he noticed the kid sitting there being overwhelmed by my 5 year olds chatter, he knew he had a problem with this child! I also picked up on it instantly and before he could make a full statement in protest of this child’s facial features being different, I snagged him by the arm and walked straight outside to have a talk. I hand no choice but to go into fight or flight momma survival mode ….laying out that if he dare say another word about this child he would be sent to the car and not to return! He gave me a quick protest but knew I meant business and walked back inside where my blonde chatter box was still all over his new found friend. Luckily, the program started and I played referee a few times to make sure things stayed on track and when we finally had a few quite moments together I took the time to introduce myself to the momma of that sweet child, and to apologize for the behavior of my kid! She was extremely fine with everything but I told her that I was not fine with it and that I would not stand for my child not accepting others for who they are. I believe in community efforts and acceptance of all disabilities. She was quick to point out that her kiddo had also struggled in the area of acceptance before so she knew what it was like. We chatted and then the session was over. The car ride home was one of silence and yet I had a million thoughts going on in my mind! I had to find a way for him to accept those that are different …all I could think about was how on earth I could have a child with whom I fight for being accepted daily, yet he himself does not accept everyone? I knew by the time we arrived home what I had to do. I had to explain his diagnosis and how it connects him and that child together.
I didn’t want to seem so hard on him, I had done just that back at the music session but it was out of protection for an innocent child and now we were home and in a place we could talk through it calmly. I started the conversation about what had happened and told him how that boy was born different much like he was. He got quite and I could tell he wanted to know more. I then went on to explain that there was nothing wrong with it , it just makes him think differently than other people , and for that boy, he just looks a little different. Nothing more! I went on to tell him his diagnosis’s name and that it sometimes gives him very different thoughts that can be unrealistic and sometimes wonderfully amazing! He gave me a hug and told me he was glad I had explained this to him and that he was glad to know he was more like that boy. I walked out of his room hoping I had used the right words but thankful he had not been as fearful about it has my mind said he would!
about two days passed when the topic came back up, my big guy was rambling on about leprechauns and with St. Patrick’s day around the corner, this is a yearly topic mind you, and his giddiness to find one. After I told him that they don’t exist as I always do, he then said in a quirky voice, “Does my autism cause me to think like this?” To which I replied “Nope, that is your silly teenager self thinking like that!” to which we both laughed at! I did later explain to him again some of the things that do come up because of his Autism, such as his worry and fixation with certain topics.
The following week when it was music time again, I began to worry over how he would treat his new classmate and it was all I could focus on as we drove there that evening. I stopped the car and asked him if he could tell me the ways he was like this kid in music class? His reply was “We are both boys, we both like music, we both wear glasses and we were both born different!” And just like that we walked in and my kiddo walked right up to the awaiting kiddo as asked if he could give him a nickname and off they went to make beautiful music together!
I know that every situation is different and every child’s understanding about who they are is different but for us we knew at the point of our child’s inability to accept another was the right time to point out how much he had in common with this child. This therefore gave him a point of reference and acceptance that nothing else would have done for him in this matter.
Mommas breathe easy, hopefully they will take the news more than likely much easier than you have! And chances are, they will welcome the explanation as well!