Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stranger Danger

Let’s talk about something that scares the heebie-jeebies out of me….someone mistaking something that my son….or any other disabled person…. has done or said as perverted, mentally ill or just plain wrong.

I remember an incident at a pool.  A man was obviously (to me) somehow challenged.  And please, don’t take any of my failed attempts to be politically correct as somehow disrespectful….

So this guy was staring and then later talking about getting his hair cut.

The problem being that there were young girls at the pool and a mom complained.

He was escorted out and asked not to return.

My son stares at times.  He can say things that have nothing to do with current or conventional conversation.

He will talk with anyone….even if he is completely unaware that they are not interested in sharing words with him.

Should he be escorted out? 

Will he be asked to leave one day?

What if we’re on an airplane and suddenly he has pain in his ears and since he can’t handle things like that, he has a meltdown?

Will the plane be diverted?  Will he be somehow secured in his seat?

What about on the bus?

When he has a confrontation or a meltdown…. will the bus driver pull over or change his route to get Sean home sooner?  Or will he call the police and have my son taken away?

Will those police… not knowing who he is or what his diagnosis is… taser him if he doesn’t follow directions?

These scenarios scare the crap out of me.

I’m a helicopter mom not because I’m afraid of what Sean will do.  Rather, I’m afraid of what the public will do if he gets overwhelmed or has an incident.

Isn’t that awful?  Absolutely awful?

I wish this world would understand our kids.  But they don’t… or at least not every single one of the 6 billion on earth does.

And then our kids grow up to be adults…taller than us…stronger than us.

What was a cute little kid talking to a stranger is now the creepy guy at the local pool.

What are we supposed to do?

Do I ban Sean from ever talking to a stranger again?  How does that help his social skills?

He loves talking with – mostly at – strangers.  He loves sharing his ideas…his opinions…his stories.

How do I teach him the art of conversation?

How do I teach him all those grown-up social skills that are so difficult for even typical adults to learn?

There are those adults and kids who “get” Sean and find him fascinating.  Sean is extremely intelligent.  He has views that most adults would find insightful and perhaps even entertaining.

But it’s that stranger…today…tomorrow… 50 years in the future… who scares me. 

We teach our children all about Stranger Danger.  We teach them not to talk to people they don’t know.

And in answer to that instruction, Sean will come back with a dozen reasons why he should talk to strangers.

How else is he to meet people?  How else is he supposed to get to know them?

How else is he to make friends?

And that’s what he wants to do most…make friends.

As his mom it kills me to tell him not to talk to people because amongst all who won’t understand him there might be that gem in the crowd.

There might be that one….that best friend who Sean so desperately wants to find.

Thus tonight we will talk.  We will try to teach.  I’m sure there will be tears.

And my heart will break because I know part of him won’t understand.

Wouldn’t it be easier if the world could simply understand instead?

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