We would like to think that the days of whispering, pointing and staring when encountering a child or an adult with a neurological impairment are gone. According to one parent of an autistic child there’s still some work to be done. She shared with us some of her dos and don’ts when dealing with special needs children.
Are there questions people ask that you wish they wouldn’t about your daughter?
Only after spending some time with her do people realize that she’s not a typical child. They’ll ask me what’s wrong with her not maliciously but it’s not the way I would pose the question. I will usually tell them that she has special needs. My feeling is that nothing is wrong with her. Thankfully, with all of the awareness and attention given to autism, inappropriate questions are rare.
Is there anything that one should do or not do when they meet your daughter?
Don’t treat her differently. I want people to communicate with her as they would with any child her age. If she interrupts your conversation, don’t let her get away with it and don’t go out of the way to meet an unreasonable request she may have. If she begins to focus on something you’re wearing and wants to hold it, don’t give in. A typical child would be told to ‘knock it off’. Real responses like that are better and more helpful to her.
How do your daughter’s peers treat her and what can their parents teach their kids about having a friend or schoolmate with special needs?
Most kids stare and very few treat her warmly. Their parents have passed their fears on to them and steer them away from her because they feel there’s nothing their children can get from the relationship. I think there’s a lot they can learn from a friendship with my daughter. She has the same wishes and desires as any child. I would like parents to instruct their kids to be as real as possible with my daughter. They should teach their kids to feel more at ease with special needs children.
Have you ever had to straighten someone out with respect to how they treated your daughter?
Once, a librarian wanted to ban my daughter from the local library because she had an outburst. Instead of explaining to her that she may have to wait a short period before using the library again, she berated her as if she'd lost control on purpose and told her she could never return. People should understand that behavioral issues often go hand in hand with neurological impairment.
What is the most thoughtful thing someone has said or done for you and your family?
I’m always touched by the way close friends and family rally around my daughter. My girlfriends are my comfort. If they’re close to me they’re going to have be close to her. When people are kind that kindness not only comes through in their actions but also in the actions of their children. Between friends and extended family there is a lot of love around my daughter.