Friday, July 13, 2012
So, what do you do when people stare at your child?
Catching people staring at your child with special needs comes with the territory of special needs parenting. I do it all the time, watch people watching Max. It still gets to me.
There's the curious stare, often from children and sometimes from adults, of "What's up with him?"
There's the perturbed stare, typically from adults, of "Oh, something's up with him." I can pretty much tell what they're thinking, because I have DSP (Disability Sensory Perception).
And sometimes, it's just a stare. A blatant stare.
I can't ignore it.
If we're in a park, at a party or in some other casual setting with other parents around, I'll usually just say, "Hi! I'm Ellen and this is Max." And that can break the trance and start a conversation.
If it's obnoxious gawking by a total stranger, I've been known to say "You're staring at my child. Is there something wrong?" Usually, that leaves the person flustered. If I'm in a certain mood I'll ask, "I see you staring, would you like his autograph?" Which flusters people even more.
I got an email about staring the other day from a woman whose nephew, 15, has autism. As she writes, "He would rather sit in the kiddie section of the pool with the waterfalls and other kid splash stuff than go on the big-boy slides. Most people find it unsettling.... If they aren't staring, they're frowning."
While the boy's mother tends to ignore the stares, this woman sometimes felt compelled to say something. She shared these replies:
"Oh, do you know him? You're looking at him so I thought perhaps you know him?"
"Hi, would you like to be introduced to my nephew?"
"My nephew is autistic, but he's not rude"
"Do you realize that people who have special needs also have feelings? Do you like being stared at?"
One of my favorite ways I've ever heard of dealing comes from blog friend Lana, over at Along Came The Bird. As she once wrote in a guest post she did, "My husband stares right back at them, with this almost maniacal smile on his face. Think the movie "The Shining." Most people get very uncomfortable and look away. And, really, if anyone complains about it, what are they going to say, "That man just keeps smiling at me!"
So, what do you do?