Submitted by: Amanda Coad, M.Ed., BCBA
We have all seen this scenario before: parents are out to dinner and their child starts crying. It’s so common for children to cry that many don’t even blink an eye when they hear a child start crying in certain environments. But what about when a child starts to flap their hands in excitement that their dinner has arrived; that they begin rocking and humming due to the loud atmosphere, or throwing items off of a grocery store shelf because they were told they can’t have a certain type of cereal (way to go parents for following through!!).
People begin to stare, and sometimes blatantly. Often questions follow – “What is wrong with him/her?” “Are they special?” “Why don’t they discipline their children more?” How does our community answer such invasive and sometimes rude questions?
First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your child. Nothing, zero, zip, nada. Secondly, as a society, we can look at these questions several ways. You can educate them on what your child’s exceptionality is in addition to explaining why those types of questions may be hurtful to others in this specific population. Or, when met with those invasive and sometimes rude questions, we can politely say, “Thank you for your concern, however there is nothing wrong, I hope you have a nice day” and then continue with your day. Often the stares are harder than the questions, and in those situations you can choose to politely state that it is inappropriate to stare, and then continue on with your daily activities. You can also choose not to respond at all. It is your right as a parent, regardless of your child’s exceptionalities, to divulge as much or as little as you want. Just because something that may look different to others, does not mean that your child is less than others.
Unfortunately, we cannot control the actions of others. However, we do have control over our reactions. It is whatever you – as parent – feel most comfortable with. Whichever response you choose to give should be in the best interest of your family and you should know that you are giving your child something they will have for the rest of their life: love.