Day 33: Stop Staring

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The lady kept staring at the kid.

It was obvious to me that the boy was one of the multitude of children today who is otherwise-abled, communicating with his mother without ‘using his words’ but rather through his iPad.

The woman kept staring, almost afraid she was going to get caught by the mom. Instead, she caught my gaze which looked at her and said, ‘Yes, he is different, so the $@€% what? (a line I borrowed from a passionate Sally Field speaking about her son).

There are too many ‘different’ children today, each displaying a plethora of alternate skills that challenge our status quo. We have labels and we need them for these children to be able to obtain services. These services are not always geared at forcing mainstream behavior, but rather at learning alternative methods of communication which allow interaction at the most commonplace of levels.

The days of articulate conversation were lost on us the day we introduced electronic media into our lives. Our children’s evolution, irreversibly altered by the embrace of all these new mediums, is inevitably destined to evolve into more ‘special’ children joining our population.

So we need to get ready and we need to understand that our traditional behaviors will change along with these kids. And while little Johnny may never pick up a baseball bat to hit a home run, he might pick it up to emulate a caveman holding a club or he might imagine it to be a big pencil. While the art of communication is definitely mutating, the art of imagination is growing exponentially with each new child diagnosed as ‘special needs’. And those words are another story…

I don’t like ‘special needs’. The term bothers me more because we focus so much on the rote behaviors challenged in these children, that we forget the more important joys they often bring in their innate ability to look at things just a little off center, to find the less common route and to lead us down a path that while not efficient, may ultimately provide much better scenery.

I’m not romanticizing the notion that having a non-traditionally-challenged child is a wish every parent should have, because any parenting is extremely hard work. I am saying that this is becoming more the norm and less the exception. We need to change to accommodate this ‘change.’

In essence, we need to stop staring.

You, the lady at the other table, you, the one who caught my gaze, you need to move your gaze elsewhere. Yes, the kid is oddly different from that child next to you whom you consider perfect. But If we were rating parents instead of talking about children, the child with the iPad might say his mother is great, while if you were my mother I would simply say that you are ill informed (polite way to say ignorant) and evidently just plain rude.

Stop staring.

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