We just came back from our family vacation. And while we were very excited in taking this vacation, I knew it would be a little difficult with our monkey. As special needs parents know, we have to pick and choose our battles.
For example when we decided to go to a restaurant, we opted to let my monkey use the tablet. The problem in doing this was the stares we received. Other families were not very supportive of our son using this during what is supposed to be “family time”. I understand. I used to be THAT mom. The mom who constantly compared other kids to mine. When I would see someone throw a tantrum, my thoughts would be something like “My daughter would never be allowed to pull a stunt like that!” “I would never let my daughter tell me what to do.”
In one of the restaurants we did have a small dilemma. The waitress tried getting my monkey’s attention. When she realized he wasn’t going to look up from his tablet, she told us we shouldn’t be letting him use the table. After all, she said, this is family time. I explained to her that he is autistic and this is the only way we will be able to have a nice dinner. The tablet will let us all eat in peace. This way, my husband and my daughter and I can have actual conversations. We can talk about what we did that day, where we want to go tomorrow, etc. If it wasn’t for this tablet, our conversations would be apologizing to the family behind us because our monkey wants to sit with them. Or looking for his shoes under the table because he threw them. Or running down the hall after him hoping he won’t bump into someone with a tray stacked with plates.
My son doesn’t have a sign that he carries so everyone will know he is autistic. Because of that, many people assume he is a spoiled toddler who doesn’t get his ways when he’s crying. People don’t see his struggles. People can’t see how frustrated he gets because he can’t communicate with us, and how he struggles with sensory overload.
We were in Sea World watching one of the shows. My monkey was everywhere. He just couldn’t sit still. My husband tried so hard to keep him from disturbing the people around us. We tried so hard to get him to see the animals but it didn’t work. The show was about 20 min but felt like hours. In the end, as we are leaving, an older man comes up to my husband. Pats him on the back, and says “Great job dad!” That encouragement was much needed.
Having my monkey has taught me to be so much more understanding, so much more patient, and yes, not so quick to judge. We need to remember that everyone is probably going thru something, even if we can’t see it. So next time you see a mom or dad struggling with their kids, how about we take a different approach. How about we give them a smile. Or if you are feeling brave, offer to help. Because you never know when something as small as a pat on the back with a “You are doing a great job mom/dad!” is exactly what they need.