Last night I signed my two older sons to work the fundraiser for our Special Olympic group. We’ve been participating for 3 years now and I figured it’s time we give back.
For some reason I thought that Henry would be able to handle sitting in one spot for 2 hours while my other boys greeted the patrons of the restaurant where the fundraiser was at. Well, I have no clue what I was thinking. He never stays in one place anywhere for two hours; that is, unless he is sleeping.
The minute we walked in I knew that we would not last long. Because of the fundraiser, the restaurant (an ice cream type place) was unbelievably packed. For Huey, this means massive sensory overload. Lights, sounds, people, noise. Sensory overload.
I don’t even like large noisy crowds of people. So I don’t know why I expected Huey to be any different.
Anyways, he literally ran around the restaurant; as if someone pressed his fast forward button and let him loose. First he went into the bathroom, then he came out and started sitting with random people; then he started standing on the seats of booths that also happened to occupy people; and then he ran into the kitchen part of the restaurant, where the manager told him that he couldn’t be. Clearly this was not a good setting for him to be in. So I grabbed him and told him in a rather calm voice (really) that it was time to go home.
That prompted a meltdown. He started screaming and threw himself down on the floor. I’m pretty sure everyone was watching us; but I didn’t want to look up to see what looks we were getting. Finally I got down on the floor and hugged Henry really tight. This is what calms him down; pressure. But I’m sure it looked like I was laying on top of him and trying to smother him, which I was not. All of a sudden, two people were standing there asking me if I needed help.
So I stood up, brushed my hands off, and said no. And I managed to grab Huey and get him out of the restaurant. And then we went home.
10 minutes later? He was contentedly sitting on the couch watching a Scooby Doo movie and drinking a glass of chocolate milk. Meltdown? What meltdown?
But nobody in the restaurant saw that.
Over the years we’ve had plenty of meltdowns in public, and plenty of stares from people who can’t seem to help but look at us. I admit that it’s probably hard not to look. We do create a ruckus of sorts. I actually understand it; to an extent. But that doesn’t mean that it makes me feel any better.
Most often in a meltdown, we get one of the following:
- Stares from people we don’t know.
- Looks of judgement from people we know.
- Words of disgust from people we don’t know.
- Looks of confusion from people we don’t know.
- Looks of relief as if they are thinking “So glad it’s not me” from people we don’t know.
- Looks of sympathy from people we don’t know. (Oh, that poor thing)
I added the words “people we don’t know” after every example, but honestly, I’ve gotten these looks from people I know, too. So maybe the better wording would be “people who don’t understand.”
I would offer a suggestion on how I would rather see people react but that likely won’t change anything. Instead, I will use on example of something that happened once when we were in the Dollar Store. Henry kicked one of his shoes off and it barely missed the head of the cashier who was ringing up our stuff. She went over, picked up the shoe, handed it back to Henry and said “Thanks for giving me your shoe but I don’t think this is my size.” Then she smiled at Henry and he looked at her, puzzled. I really wanted to hug her.
So here’s a thought: If you see a parent whose child is acting out in public (special needs or not) cut them some slack. They’re likely stressed out at that moment. Maybe they’re stressed out all the time. If you’re going to look at them, for goodness sakes, say something nice to them. Say hi to them. Say hi to their children. Say something to make them smile.
If you’re one of the examples I mentioned above, I can’t guarantee that my child won’t spit on you, or that I will even stop him from doing so.