Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Special Needs Interpreter

Just when I think I've figured out all my roles as a mom of someone with special needs...

Today, we went to a branch of the Children's Museum with some friends and their kids. At one point, I was watching Dean and Emmett play on a playground-type structure there. Suddenly, a boy, maybe 5 years old, came over to two sisters on the structure and began to punch them repeatedly in the torso and feet. Needless to say, I was shocked. I looked for the mom, who I saw come in with him and a younger sibling, and she was on the other side of the museum chatting with some other moms. The mom of the sisters was quite upset and not sure how to intervene. She asked the boy to stop and he ran away, quite frantic. Then he ran back toward the sisters and they began to scream in fear. He started punching them repeatedly again and their mom was begging him to stop. Feeling scared myself for the sisters and sympathizing with their mom (while she was still nowhere in sight), I asked the boy to stop. That's when I came looking for his mom. I explained that her son was beating up the two girls on the structure.

She explained to me that her son has Sensory Processing Disorder and us yelling at him (for the record, what I said was, "Please stop!" and while I raised my voice, I did not yell) was not helping. I told her that my son has special needs and that I completely understood, and yet he can't go around punching people. She said that she was attending to her other son, and I told her that I understood that too because I have two other children myself. I assured her that I knew that it was hard to manage your child with special needs' behavior, and so maybe she could be with her older son (who by now was having a complete sensory meltdown :( ) if she knows that places like this are hard for him. I explained that her son started screaming once the sisters initially yelled in fear during the first round of punching. The mom started to cry and I reassured her that I *do* get it and I hate that feeling of knowing that your kid can't handle something that should just be much easier. She picked up her screaming son and his younger brother and left.

At that point, I debriefed with the mom of the sisters and explained that the boy had special needs and a bit about what a place like a children's museum is like for him. I also validated her fear for her daughters. The mom said that she understood. She went on playing with her daughters, seemingly relieved to have an explanation for what happened and that it was all over.

It was then that I realized that I had just played the role of a special needs interpreter. I was able to meet the mom of the boy on a level of understanding that simple things are not so simple and I was able to explain what happened to the mom of two typical sisters.

This sudden role acquisition was not one I even knew existed, let alone had really experienced. I've explained to plenty of others about Dean's needs, but have not really gone family to family as a bridge. The next time, I will know a little bit more about what to do. When the mom of the boy left crying, I felt a pit in my stomach because I *know that feeling.* And yet I felt protective of the girls as they were punched over and over by the older boy. As always, a learning experience...

Bob and I discussed it on the phone (he's at a conference) afterwards and it was another perspective on the fact that people with special needs are an integrated part of our society. We don't always acknowledge this, and I know that I often thought of the two worlds as more separate since having Dean. Figuring out how to embrace this for our child, as well as for other children out there with special needs, is a difficult, yet worthwhile, task.

On another, somewhat related, note, if you are the praying type, please lift up Quinn's family tonight. He was a student in Dean's class this year, and had multiple special needs. We don't know the reason, but Quinn passed away two weeks ago. He was such a sweet boy and deeply, deeply loved by his family. It's not right. Dean loved Quinn so much. I know he would be heartbroken if he could understand that Quinn was not around anymore. I am so sad for their family.

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