For people who care for children with disabilities …
Jack recently competed in his first swim meet with the park district team, The Barracudas. My husband and I snapped pictures and tried to capture Jack’s every move. As we filmed Jack’s performance, a young boy slid in front of us. We asked him politely to move and he said “sure,” but as soon as we tried to start filming again, there he was, standing right in front of us. My husband was pretty frustrated. On our fifth attempt to ask him to please move aside, his coach ran over and scolded us saying the boy has autism. We were really taken aback—one he looked “typical,” and second, I was astonished at the coach’s response.
Jack has Down syndrome and there is no denying it, it shows on all of his features. I am not an expert, but I can tell you that every day Jack is judged before he even introduces himself, or opens his mouth. It’s frustrating to constantly tell people what he can do, and what he has accomplished, what we hope his future holds. I also think about those other parents whose child looks “typical,” is accepted initially, but then that spark of acceptance turns to exclusion once other children or adults notice the child’s differences. Either way it’s tough on a parent to see how others treat their children who seems different. Are there good ways to tell others about a child with disabilities to improve that child’s experience? I would love to hear from therapists, teachers and parents about good ways we can advocate and explain to others about our children’s disabilities or diagnoses…I would love to post some of your responses in my next newsletter.
On a high note, Jack won Gold at regionals for Special Olympics swimming in Illinois and now will be going to state in June. Keep your fingers crossed!!