Thursday, March 15, 2012
Special treatment for kids with special needs (and the fine line we walk as their parents)
I want my child to be treated like every other child.
I want my child to get special accommodations for his disabilities.
These two things may seem contradictory. Actually, they're not. Like many things in life, they don't fit into neat, defined approaches. I'll try to explain.
One of the things I most desire for Max is for other kids and adults to look past his disabilities and see the amazing child that he is. I'd like them to treat Max as a kid—someone to play with, joke around with, enjoy activities with. More often than not, kids are wary and adults treat him with kid gloves. And so, when I can, I bridge the gap and forge connections and get people interacting with Max.
Meanwhile, yes, at times I give Max special treatment and accommodations or expect them because they enable and empower him, or just make him happy. My M.O. goes roughly like this:
• When Max is around other kids with disabilities I'll sometimes give in to his wants and needs, because these are children who accept Max for who he is. So, for example, I let Max be the only kid to make a purple project at his birthday party, which was mostly frequented by kids in his class. Plus, it was his special day.
• When Max is around so-called "typical" kids, I try not give in to his quirks so he'll fit in, like that day last spring when I didn't buy the purple crocs at Target because I thought they'd make him stand out. Mostly, I just try to get kids to see Max as the fun-loving kid he is, like with those boys in our 'hood and the trampoline.
• When we are in a public situation and family peace is at stake, I will ask for special accommodations, like seating us in a closed area at a restaurant because it's quiet and Max won't get upset by the hustle and bustle. We often go to places where everyn
• When we are in a public situation and Max's comfort is a concern, I'll ask for special accommodations. Go through the employee line at airport security when there's a throng of people waiting and Max is screeching because he's afraid? You betcha. Get a special needs pass at Disney World so we can move to the front of the line and Max won't get wigged out by the crowd? Of course. Membership has its privileges.
• When Max's quirks disturb other people, like his habit of kicking the seat in front of him on airplanes, we emphatically tell him that it is not OK, apologize profusely to those in front of us and do everything short of sitting on him to get him stop. (We also vow to book the seats in front of us and let Dave and Max sit there as Sabrina and I sit behind, but somehow that never pans out.)
This is basically how I roll, but there's always some new situation to address. Sometimes I just throw my hands up and let things play out as they will, because I am human (shocker!) and I need a break from being so on top of it all.
And so there you have it, my Special Needs State of the Union.
How do you handle this, friends?