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Raising Awareness in Wisconsin

Just got home from a great little getaway to Wisconsin with the kids. My good friend brought us up to his family’s cabin. We had such a good time. My boy made it known we were in town, with every yell or outburst echoing off of the beautiful lake 🙂

It was interesting going to dinner at the local supper club where the crowd was older and had apparently, never seen a special needs child. It was like going back in time with the looks. While no one said anything to us, it was clear that we were being stared at and whispered about. I don’t know if I’ve just developed such a thick skin and don’t notice when this is happening anymore or if people are really more aware these days. I can remember years ago, sitting in the car at the grocery store crying my eyes out because of the way we were treated.  Ever since, I’ve worked really hard to ignore it and let people know that Alex has autism and tell them a little more about it so they understand rather than judge.

We got through dinner, and I did my best to ignore the stares and pretend I didn’t hear the whispers, but it still hurts. Hurts for my son and his sister and my dear friend who was nice enough to bring us on this nice vacation. I certainly didn’t want them to feel those looks that scream, “Why can’t you control your child?”

Today, on our way home, we stopped at Culver’s and had the exact opposite reaction. I brought Alex into the women’s bathroom where he proceeded to dance back and forth and hum and slap my arms. A woman waiting in front of us told us to go ahead of her and gave us a big smile. I smiled back, gratefully, and took her up on it. We came out and washed up and I told Alex to wave bye bye. He gave her a big smile and a high five and everyone in the bathroom laughed. She said what a good job he did and what great eye contact he had. She was obviously a special needs teacher and gave us that small gesture that told us she gets it. It meant the world. We came out and told our little group how much we appreciated it and she told hers and we all kind of laughed and had a really nice, relaxing lunch. Such a difference a little awareness and tolerance makes!

Either way – whether I was just being extra sensitive at dinner that night or people really were judging us, I am proud and very thankful to my friend Rick who never even skipped a beat and went on with dinner through Alex’s noises and eventual meltdown. Talk about tolerance!

So appreciative to have good friends like this in my life and total strangers like that woman at Culver’s willing to lend a helping hand when it’s needed!

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