Parenting a child with special needs can engender a good deal of anxiety in even the most self-assured person. You’re constantly questioning “am I doing enough to help him develop? Am I going to be able to get him all the therapy and equipment he needs? If something happens to me, who’s going to be able to take care of him?”. To say you feel completely overwhelmed on an almost daily basis doesn’t quite cover it.
That said, you do get to a point where you get into a certain rhythm, a point where you’re actually able to develop a routine that helps you and your child make it through the day without too much added stress. Unless, or course, you add in the one thing that adds more stress and anxiety than any other:
You can’t keep your child locked away. It isn’t practical, and it’s also not good for the child. I stress more about taking Footloose out into public than just about anything else. It’s got nothing to do with being ashamed or embarrassed of my son. It’s got to do with how people might react to him, and how he might react to them. I’m not someone who believes that the world revolves around me or even my boy, autistic or not. You adapt to the world, not the other way around. I have zero sense of entitlement. Patience from others is always appreciated, but never assumed. The world just doesn’t work like that, and it doesn’t do me or him any good to pretend otherwise.
So if we’re out at a restaurant, I will apologize if he disturbs others by slipping out of his seat and running around. If we’re in a store, I’ll apologize if he pitches a fit because I have to take back something he grabbed off a shelf. If we’re at a playground and he pushes a child, or if he goes up to someone minding their own business and latches onto their leg (which happens ALOT), I will apologize. If we take him to a birthday party and he goes into sensory overload, causing him to have a meltdown, I will apologize. While I do everything I can to try to keep him calm when we’re out, there are times where things are out of my hands. When those times hit, I will apologize for any disruption he may have caused for others who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are many things I will apologize for.
There’s also plenty for which I will not.
I will not apologize for taking him out to public places. He has just as much right as anyone else to experience everything the world has to offer. I won’t apologize for exposing him to new people and places in an effort to teach him how he is supposed to behave when he’s out. I won’t apologize for taking the chance to introduce him to other children his age, so that he might learn what it means to make friends. I won’t apologize for holding onto the hope that this trip to the mall might go better than the last. I won’t apologize for the mere sight of him stimming while keeping to himself making someone uncomfortable. I won’t apologize for him coming out of his shell and actually reaching out to someone. Anyone he does reach out to should consider themselves lucky. I won’t apologize for what I do if someone decides not to accept an apology when something goes wrong, pushing the issue by frightening or mocking my son.
To digress, I will apologize to whomever is kind enough to post my bail afterwards.
Most of all I won’t apologize for my son being autisitic. We all have challenges that we face. He and so many other children and adults like him just face challenges far tougher than most can understand. So while I might apologize to the stranger who’s caught off-guard and doesn’t know his situation, I will never apologize for taking the opportunity to show the world how beautiful, loving, funny, and wonderful my boy is. That doesn’t call for an apology. That call for thanks.