My oldest son is in a special needs preschool and right now he is labeled "Developmentally Delayed". But he is currently being evaluated for Autism. Today when I was picking him up from school he was in the multi-purpose room for rhythms class. This class is for all 4 year olds in the school and it led by an extremely energetic man called Motor Ken. He plays music and gets the kids so excited about doing the hokie pokie, along with other dances. It's exciting to get these glimpses into his world, to see how he reacts in the classroom, who he plays with etc. It's also nourishing to my spirit after being a SAHM for 4 years to know what he experiences everyday without me. As I peer in I search for my blond headed child, I spot him and watch.
He's not dancing.
He's not singing.
He's just standing there.
He has a blank look on his face.
He is staring directly across the room from where he is standing but he's not watching anything.
He is blankly staring at something...nothing.
He has withdrawn into himself.
It's a face I know well.
It scares the shit out of me when it happens and I try to avoid it at all costs. Typically what brings this face on is large gatherings. He can't handle it, it's too much stimulation and so he withdraws. So the urge I have is to go in there and take him out of the situation, but I can't. He's not being harmed and these are the lessons we want him to learn how to cope and deal in. To avoid looking at my withdrawn son, I start to notice the other children in the room and I smile and laugh to myself as they dance and move their little bodies in ways that is so freeing. If only as adults we could get rid of our inhibitions and just dance. Who cares what you look like, you are moving and dancing and damn it feels good!
That is the face I see on many of the children.
I'm struck by this one little girl, she has a walker...the tiniest walker I have ever seen. And she is in her groove spot, enjoying the music as she balances, not so gracefully on the handle bars of her walker. And I think to myself how hard it must be to parent a child with that type of physical disability. How do you go to the grocery store? I thought getting 2 kids out of car seats was hard, I can't imagine adding a wheelchair or walker to the mix.
But then the grass is always greener!
How much easier it must be in social situations to have this physical disability to explain why your child is acting the way he/she is. Sometimes I think it may be easier than having a "normal" looking child who acts differently. Where people are quietly, sometimes not so quietly, asking why my son is laying under the table at the restaurant, is reciting an entire episode of Backyardigans word for word, or better yet is repeating the same line from a show or movie over and over again for a half hour straight.
To Infinity and Beyond!
But I am sure these parents who have physically delayed children wish the walker/wheelchair didn't immediately define the capabilities of their child. This little girl that I observed today and later talked to was clearly intellectually on par for her age. The conversation I had with her I dream of with my own son. Don't get me wrong Logan is extremely bright and can talk...but he can't really have a back and forth conversation without a lot prompts. I hope that every parent is at least thankful for that...that their child can tell them what they did at school today, their thoughts and dreams that are so creative and imaginative at this age.
Logan's school has opened my eyes to the disabled people that I encounter in every day. I've never honestly thought one way or the other about disabilities. I've always just tried to look at the person and not the machine they use. But now seeing these little 4 year olds trying to make a go of this world brings me such joy. And they are a reminder to me to try new things...find my groove spot...and not to care who is watching.