Strangers in a Foreign Land

Strangers in a Foreign Land

Here we are again. It is a situation, that to us is a common occurrence. We are in the grocery store, and Avery starts having a meltdown. It could be due to the noise, temperature, smell, or any other sensory combination you could imagine. He is crying, screaming, and throwing himself around. Then I notice it. The disapproving looks of strangers. The look that says "your child is such a brat" or "you are a terrible mother, who can’t control her own child". It breaks my heart. Sure, I would be lying to say I’m not embarrassed, and that I wish there was some magical solution, to ensure Avery would feel comfortable and meltdown free. But what bothers me the most, is how these people are so wrong about him.

Avery is one of the sweetest, most caring, entertaining children you will ever meet. He is very smart, imaginative, and full of energy, AND he has Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. Now I can’t expect strangers to know this, nor should I care what other people think, but it bugs me that they write him off without a second glance. At first I want to cry, then yell at them about their unfair assessment, and cruel judging ways. Though crying can be very therapeutic, in the end neither crying nor yelling changes anything.

ALSO SEE: Through The Storm, Part 1: Surviving & Accepting The Diagnosis

Whenever I am faced with a less than ideal meltdown situation I try to remember three things.

  1. Stay calm – it sounds so easy, but is anything but, especially mid-meltdown. It is frustrating and overwhelming for Avery and for me as well. Though I often feel like having a meltdown, and sometimes almost have, a level head will get the best results. Deep breaths, and a low, comforting, and calm voice does wonders.
  2. Focus 100% on Avery – it is very easy to get caught up in everyone else’s reaction and response, that I forget to focus solely on him. I may not understand everything about why he is having a meltdown every time he has one, but I do know a lot of his stressors. I know some calming techniques that can help him. Will it work every time? No, but I know him best, and he deserves all of me to be comforting and supportive.
  3. Spread awareness – I have read articles and multiple testimonies by parents of children with special needs. Many have suggested small info cards, that you can pass out that help spread awareness. I, personally, have never tried this approach, but it is a very interesting concept to me. Most negative responses are based on ignorance of facts. To an outsider it looks like Avery is spoiled and throwing a fit, because he didn’t get his way. Spreading awareness increases acceptance, understanding, and outside support.

Through the Storm: Part 5: Strangers in a Foreign Land
A Very Splunky Mom – “Anonymous Mother”

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