Thursday, May 1, 2014
Questions You Don't Think You Should Ask...Why Did You Take Him Here?
I enjoy tackling questions that I see so often in people's eyes. I honestly wish they would go ahead and ask them and let me respond instead of whisking away in a whir of awkward political correctness. Without honest sharing, no one will grow and people will continue to nurture fear and stereotypes.
"Why is he here?"
We are a regular family. We go to Wal-Mart and Food Lion. We go to church. We sometimes go to restaurants and have been to Disney World. Why? We go out because we enjoy it and we need stuff. It's kind of a boring answer. Sometimes we go out when we would rather not. There have been days when I have been sick and cranky but we need toilet paper. We go get the toilet paper regardless of mood. Our mood would be much worse if we went without necessities. Sometimes when we are out and Isaac is not in a pleasant mood, I catch the question in a whisper I was not intended to hear or in a glance from one person in line to another, "Why do they take him out anyway?"
Isaac's needs have prevented me from responding at that moment.
Sometimes the question is asked in honest concern for my son. Sometimes the question is poorly phrased and is meant to be, "Why are his parents imposing this stress upon him unnecessarily?" That does sound better, doesn't it? Sometimes the question is posed because Isaac's presence is making the questioner uncomfortable. I do understand that. We are afraid of what we don't know. Isaac's behaviors are different and can be frightening. It is not a sin to be afraid. It is not a bad thing to be uncomfortable. The only shameful behavior is a failure to learn from your current situation and stay stymied in prejudice.
Isaac goes into the community because he is part of the community. He and so many more people with autism (the new CDC numbers cite one in 68) are members of communities, neighborhoods, churches and families. Isaac is more like you than not. He has basic needs that must be met. It sounds simplistic but here is a breakdown. Isaac goes to the store because we need groceries and we are all out to get them. Isaac goes to a restaurant because he likes to eat (what teenage boy doesn't?). Isaac goes to church because he and we need strength and love. Isaac goes to school and attends classes, lunch in the cafeteria, assemblies and events because he needs to be educated. Isaac goes to museums and cultural outings because it is important that we expose him to the world around us. Isaac goes to Disney because he likes to have fun. Isaac goes to the state parks because he likes to get outside. You get the picture.
It is good for Isaac to get out. Isaac has a difficult time with social outings but he still needs them. In fact, Isaac suffers much more when he cannot get out. The summers are difficult for us because it can be difficult for me during the day to get all of my kiddos out and offer all of them the support they need. It can be difficult for one grown up to manage Isaac and all of the others. It is possible but it is difficult. Summer days stretch lazily on and on and on and Isaac can develop a nasty case of cabin fever. He wants to get out. He gets bored. He lives for the weekend when Sam and I can together get the children out to do and to explore.
It is good for the community to see Isaac too. The media tries to teach that the community is peopled by skinny models who never get a zit and always dress in the current fashion. Have you been to Wal Mart? The community is comprised of people. People are unique. People are marvelous. People are real and come in all shapes and sizes. They look different, sound different, are different. A community is made amazing by the uniqueness of those that people it. It is imperative that the community be exposed to people with different abilities and uniqueness. You cannot accept what you are unaware of. You cannot be aware if you are denied knowledge and exposure. You cannot purge prejudice unless you become aware of the value of others. That all begins when you see Isaac out at Wal Mart.
I have noticed a change. More people tend to accept Isaac when we are out. More people are approaching me and telling me about their loved one who is affected by autism. That might seem rude but I don't mind it. These folks are reaching out. They are grabbing on and embracing us. They are bringing us in to themselves and into community.