This is an open letter to all that judge me and my five year old for using a stroller.
Being a mum to a child with special needs means you need to grow a thick skin and fast! You think the stares and whispers behind your back will become easier to deal with, but it doesn’t. Autism is also known as the hidden disability because it is not a physical disability. Every special needs Parent knows the judgemental stares or unsolicited remarks they receive from strangers. When people see a child with a physical disability they are immediately understanding. Children with autism very often have no discernible differences in appearance. Their disability is hidden from the eye to a large extent. Strangers are quick to judge you as a Mother and on your parenting skills.
They don’t see the Parent that has been up since 3.30am as their five year old child struggles with sleep patterns or the Parent that spends time with her child in speech, occupational and psychology therapy . They don’t see the Parent that has turned their house into a home school for their child as their isn’t enough Autism schools. They don’t see the the home therapists and tutors coming day in and day out of your home. They don’t see the Parent that spends their evenings going through Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) data sheets to keep track of their child’s progression and regression. They don’t see the Parent that spends her free time doing online courses to gain as much knowledge as possible to understand her child’s diagnosis. They don’t see the Parent that longs to have a conversation with their child or to simply hear them utter the word Mummy. They don’t see the Parent that struggles to find nappies to fit their five year old child. They don’t see the Parent that needs to feed their five year old child all of their meals as they have poor fine motor skills.
You want to say – ” My five year old is in push chair because he is at high flight risk, and may bolt at any given time. The stroller is used for their safety and well being so no harm comes to them.” You want to say my child experiences sensory overload due to crowds, loud noises and bright lights. That these sensory overloads can cause distress and anxiety. When they are in their stroller it makes it that little bit easier to mange their meltdown and to escape the environment quickly if needed. Even possessing a heightened sensitivity to smells can in return cause a meltdown the size of Storm Desmond – that would even shock Teresa Mannion!
They just see a mom pushing a five year old child in a stroller who is too old for these behaviors.
Comments such as ‘ He is too big to be in a stroller’ or ‘ He just needs to be disciplined’ is just some unsolicited and patronising comments we hear on a regular day. Parents to children with special needs shouldn’t feel embarrassed or intimidated. We are parenting the best that we can. Meltdowns and behavioral issues can be so unpredictable. One unpredictable change in their routine or a sudden loud noise could cause my child to behave in an unexpected manner.
All of these examples mentioned are simply out of my control.
For the most part however you understand the majority of individuals are merely uneducated on the spectrum and do not understand how to react.
The next time you see a child in a stroller and you think they look too old to be using one, don’t judge or assume the child or parent is lazy. Don’t stare or cast patronising remarks. Just simply think their might actually be a reason as to why we are choosing to use one.
There is always more than what meets the eye.