Have you ever had a moment when your child did or said something awkward in public? Then, the response from people around you was less than favorable? How did you respond? A situation such as this happened for us recently. As a result, I had an “ah-ha” moment, as an Autism mom, ally, and advocate.
Recently, we were attending a community festival. My daughter “Amazing Grace” initially chose to play in a jumpy house area made for younger children (0-5) instead of the larger and more challenging jumpy obstacle course made for children her age (6 years +). After a while, I encouraged Grace to try the other area which was more age-appropriate. I could feel the eyes of the person monitoring the jumpy. I imagined that she wondered, “Why does this 8-year old want to play in this small jumpy?” and “Why is she having such a hard time leaving upon request?” At this moment, I realized that I had two options: I could become upset or offended or I could use this as a teachable moment. On this day, I chose the latter. I began to inform the jumpy monitor about Grace and her unique challenges related to Autism. The young ride operator was very grateful, as she had no understanding or knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
After giving Grace a 5-minute countdown, she was able to transition to the larger and more challenging jumpy obstacle course. She had a blast! She slowly built her confidence and was able to successfully navigate the play area along with her peers. (The next challenge was getting her to leave this play area 😉)
The incident at this festival is just one example of how we can turn those awkward moments into teachable moments. As parents and allies, we want everyone to embrace Autism…moving from awareness to true acceptance. However, some people are truly ignorant when it comes to the challenges and great strengths of our kids and young adults. How can we expect the world to know more and make better choices if we don’t educate them? This is my epiphany, although the implementation is a work in progress….
Parents let’s continue to advocate strong for our kids with unique needs. If not us, then who?
Crystal Sanford, M.Ed., M.A. CCC-SLP is an Educational Consultant, Autism IEP Advocate and Speech Pathologist. Her passion is advocating STRONG alongside fellow Autism moms, helping them to persistently pursue what's best for their children at school. In her free time, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her husband and two children in San Diego, CA.