Yesterday I had a parenting conundrum. No, it wasn’t whether or not to let Huff the Tot eat Goldfish crackers she found in her car seat, it was something much more serious. Here’s the story:
Yesterday when I went to pick her up from her Sunday school class, her face was red and I could tell she had been crying while she was sitting in the teacher’s lap. “What happened?” I asked as she ran toward me. The teacher then filled me in.
She told me that there was a young boy new to the class that Sunday. He was autistic and was shouting. Huff the Tot and some of the other kids got scared and a chain of crying took place before the boys’ father came to pick him up.
(Before I go on, please know that I am not saying, “Oh my gosh; why didn’t they do something to shut that kid up? He was obviously distressing the kids!” That’s not what this post is about. So calm down and read the whole post. Anyway, moving on…)
Huff the Tot is not one for loud noises (though, ironically, the kid basically has no “inside voice”) and gets freaked out pretty fast when someone’s volume goes up. I nodded encouragingly to the teacher, told her thank you, and Hermione and I left. As we were walking to find the rest of the family she said, “He was being loud, Mommy. I didn’t like it.”
I found myself at a loss. How was I supposed to respond to that? How do I describe to my three year old about autism and children with special needs? Luckily my sister, who teaches fourth grade, was there and said, “He wasn’t trying to hurt your ears. Sometimes kids can’t control their voices and they get loud.” Huff the Tot seemed to accept that answer and moved on. I, however, couldn’t.
I knew this wouldn’t be the last time that I had to explain difficult things to my daughter (or son, when Huff the Babe gets older). I feel like I could handle a conversation about physical handicaps with the kids. After all, the episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood this morning was about Prince Wednesday’s cousin, Chrissie, who wears braces on her legs.
They ask Chrissie questions about her legs and she answers them in simple, easy-to-grasp kid language. They even sing a little song: “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways we are the same!” I feel like its much easier to explain physical differences; differences kid’s can see. Its much more difficult to explain abstract concepts to toddlers.
And this is where I get to my point: How do I explain autism and the like to a toddler? When we’re around children with special needs, I don’t want to pretend like they are not there. They are created in the image of God just like my kids and I want my children to know this. I don’t want them to look over people. I want them to understand people, be kind to people.
So I’m calling on you, Mommas–especially Momma’s of children with special needs: how would handle this (or like the situation to be handled)?
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