As a parent have you ever felt like you needed to apologize for Your Child with Special Needs?
We live in a world today when parents go out of their way to be so polite and kind to each other, that we end up apologizing for things our kids do that are normal behavior and not wrong.
Chalk this up to the anti-bullying culture that’s so prevalent today in parents.
We are so afraid that things may seem to be bullying, mean or hurtful, that we dismiss the very real feelings, behaviors and struggles of our children that are normal.
Let me take a step back for a minute. I always pictured myself as the mom of an outgoing, vibrant and curious child much like I was as a kid. I think it’s only normal to envision our future to contain much of what we know and experienced as kids, right?
My daughter is that child… She’s an extrovert (though she can at times be a bit slow to warm) she makes friends easily, plays with a variety of kids, doesn’t exclude others.
Often, she makes friends with kids from all over the world with limited common language like when we were in Kenya last year. In short, my daughter is a lot like me.
My son, on the other hand, is very different. He’s what I call an extroverted introvert.
Grayson as a baby, he barely played with other kids and would sit on my lap and observe for a long time before tepidly venturing out with others. He is an observer, cautious, and can be overwhelmed by noises, sounds and movements.
As a baby, he could be seemingly paralyzed by these things so much so that I once called my mom and wondered how I would be able to connect with a child who was so reserved.
That’s just not my inherent nature, and I didn’t understand the more shy, reserved personality until I had my son.
They say that parenthood is the great equalizer, and you’re often given challenges to help you learn and grow as a person. My son has proven that to be true in droves!
I later learned that he suffered from sensory processing disorder, and things that I could tune out or not pay attention to like clapping and laughing could be overwhelming and paralyzing for him.
We sought occupational therapy for him and he has since mostly grown out of most of these things like his sensitivity to noise, but he still doesn’t love really crowded loud places or amusement park rides and likely never will.
But what nature takes away, it also gifts in other ways…
Grayson is an incredibly empathetic child, so much so that he can sense when other people in the same room as him are sad or angry. He is like a puppy, in that he seeks them out and want to be there for them to help turn around their mood.
Last week he told me a story about a boy who was in his kinder class who was always extremely energetic (and I often wondered if he had ADD) that is now in his second grade class.
He told me this boy seemed really sad, quiet and down. Gray went up to him, and he noticed that he was feeling left out and that he didn’t have friends. Through his gifts, he was able to sense this. So being the empath that he is, he went up to the boy, comforted him and told him that he is his friends and always there for him.
He comes up to comfort me and give me some love, just like a little puppy (hence his nickname).
Interestingly, one of Harper’s best friends is extremely similar to Grayson. She is very reserved, prefers to play one on one and has similar sensory processing challenges as Grayson (I’m leaving out details to protect her privacy). Also like Grayson, she may be dyslexic and is being tested for this now.
After 2 weeks of winter break, we ran into several of Harper’s kinder friends at the local Farmer’s Market. The girls were SO EXCITED to see each other and play after the long absence. Then we ran into this other friend, the one I mentioned above. She was in a push car and she turned her body when her friends came over to say hello and ask her to play.
Harper and the other girls went to play, yet they returned several times to see if their other friend was ready to play. She was not. She was feeling very shy that day and likely overwhelmed by the noises, sights, smells and sounds of the Farmer’s Market, especially after a few weeks absence.
Later that day, her mom sent us a text message apologizing for her daughter’s behavior.
At that moment, I just wanted to hug her mom and tell her she had NOTHING to apologize for. Her daughter did absolutely NOTHING WRONG. She was not rude or mean to her friends.
She wasn’t able to engage because she was overstimulated and needed to retreat to a quiet, safe place.
Five and six year old kids don’t yet have the tools in their toolbox to be able to explain their needs. Honestly, many adults don’t! It wasn’t until I read “The Out of Sync Child” that I understood why I can only sit in traffic for about 30 minutes before my spidey senses start to be triggered and my anxiety starts roaring.
Everyone has the maximum ability to be able to handle a certain situation, be it people, noises, sounds and other sensory inputs for so long. As adults, we have the freedom and ability to say “enough!” and remove ourselves from the situation. But kids DO NOT!
As adults, It is our job to understand this and to not ever feel the need for apologizing about our children’s needs. Just as I require a certain amount of stimulation and socialization every day, others require the opposite. It can vary based on the day, the time, the mood or moment.
Please do not ever feel like you need to explain why you are making a decision for your child or why your child is not in the mood for something. We all have days when we want to sit on the couch in our pajamas for hours watching bad TV and eating ice cream.
It’s perfectly fine for kids to not be in the mood to play. Instead of judging our kid’s behaviors based on the “perceived normal,” lets instead realize there is a wide range of behaviors and they are ALL ACCEPTABLE.
As a parent, it’s my job to explain to Harper why her friend may not be in the mood, and also give her the freedom to declare when she is in not in the mood as well. Instead of forcing our kid’s to overcome things, let’s give them the freedom to be who they are, in that moment, just as we allow adults to do.
So next time you feel like apologizing for your child’s perceived unfriendly or antisocial behavior, just realize, we all have those days and you have no need to explain anything.
Do you have a child with special needs? How have you dealt with it when you felt like you needed to apologize?
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