I thought I'd start a new weekly spotlight called Thoughtful Thursday. My mind is often full of stories, anecdotes, and blog topics, so each week I'll pick one about which to write. It will often be about being a mother to a child with special needs since the majority of my life is consumed and enriched by that role.
This week I want to share an experience we had a couple of days ago in PetSmart. I had taken Charlie, Dominic, Anna, Jenny, and Jenny's boyfriend, Chris, to PetSmart to get some puppy items. We were there quite a while and I was having trouble finding everything on my list. Anna started losing her ability to follow directions and cope (large stores, especially ones with florescent lights are difficult for her). Jenny and Chris did a great job walking around with her but Anna had reached her limit.
There were two employees talking in one of the aisles and we approached them to ask for assistance. Anna went up to the man and grabbed at some tape he was holding. She tried to take it from him and he said, "Oh no, honey, this is trash." She kept tugging so I said, "Anna, no. You can't have that. It's trash." She did her little smile that she does when she's chastised (it's common for kids with PDD-NOS to have an inappropiate reaction, especially with facial expressions) and ran off down the aisle. I called after her to stop, which she did... then she started pulling something off the shelf. I apologized to the man explaining that Anna doesn't always understand what is appropriate. He nodded, then we watched Anna run down the aisle, flapping her hands. The man looked at me sideways and asked, "Autistic?" I replied, yes, and he remarked, "One of God's special children." I said, "She is special indeed."
It's not often that someone will label her quickly and accurately because most of the time, she blends in pretty well. She is verbal and engaged, especially with adults. She wasn't even diagnosed with autism until she was five. The whole interaction with the PetSmart employee lasted maybe two minutes but is has stuck with me all week. I'm not sure why. I guess it's that I don't often see her through other's eyes though I wonder how people view her. People make judgments, that doesn't bother me. Maybe it was the matter of fact way he said it or maybe it was the hint of pity in his voice. Whatever it was, it made my heart heavy... for Anna and her struggles, for people that will see the label and not the little girl, for all the children who are diagnosed with this spectrum of disorders, for how hard it all is sometimes.
My thought for today is simply love. Love for my daughter, being her tireless advocate, educating people about autism spectrum disorders, helping her find her place in our society, searching for ways to help her while also accepting her exactly the way she is. Love for my family who is so incredibly supportive. Love for our neighbors who always include Anna in birthday celebrations and parties. Love for the people who meet us in public, who make judgments perhaps in ignorance, who offer a kind word. Love for my friends, online and in real life, who listen and offer a support, and especially for my special moms, my sisters in this special need journey who "get" it even when I don't.
I love you all.