The Engineer is twice exceptional. He has multiple diagnosis and various disabilities. Even though I know that he can’t always control his behavior, I’m often struck by how easily I feel ashamed and apologetic when our existence impinges on other people.
Given the time, I try to explain, to apologize. I smile deprecatingly, mention the whole special needs thing, and try to get my kids out of there. Generally I don’t have time because I’m managing said special needs and trying to escape the triggers.
This week was a prime example.
We went to the National Zoo – a wonderful, fun outing, right? It’s outside, so less overwhelming amounts of people to trigger the Engineer and Destroyer. Because it’s built on a huge hill, it wears them out physically (and requires an inhaler for me!) A good place to visit. We even have a membership because the kids love it so much.
Enter: school and day care groups. Not fun. Not quiet. Not calm at all.
The kids wanted to go see the Meerkats in the small mammal house: an indoor structure, housing loads of tiny cute and not-so-cute animals. We parked the wagon at the door and headed in. The minute I opened the door I knew we were going to have issues.
A large group of young children were right inside the door, squealing at the golden macaques. Their chaperones milled around them, and two of them stood in the back of the group chatting oblivious to all the chaos around them.
They blocked the way in. I clutched my children’s hands and pushed our way through the throng. I said “excuse me!” and the ladies moved – but not enough. I said “excuse me, can we get through?” again, but this time I had to yell because they couldn’t hear me.
They instantly got offended. One tried to confront me. I tried to tell her special needs kids, but we had to go because my kids were losing it. So we ran away.
We spent the entire time in the small mammal house racing to keep ahead of this group. I spent the entire time annoyed because I hate looking like a rude person when I was actually advocating for my children.
So here’s my solution: special needs explanation cards. Yes, it’s rather passive aggressive. Yes, I very pointedly wrote “acceptance” and “tolerance” because I’m tired of the judgement.
I’m going to take these things everywhere, and whip them out of my pocket at the first judgy looks we get. I’m hopeful that this will help.
It might not. But at least I’ll have tried not to be rude. I’ll try to educate and advocate. And I’ll try not to be ashamed – it’s a disability. Show some empathy, people!
Want some for your family? Here’s the free PDF link – enjoy 🙂 Special Needs Cards