You’ve probably heard about this heart-warming story already since it has been all over the media recently; unsuspecting businessman sits next to little girl with autism on 3 hour flight and rather than be annoyed or irritated by her behavior, he embraces it, engages her and even helps to calm her when it all becomes too much for her. I just wanted to mention how much this story touched me personally.
It’s been a little over a year since we received the diagnosis for our middle son, and since then, I haven’t had to deal his behavior out in public much and when I have, it hasn’t been over-the-top. So I haven’t had to deal with the looks that some people give. However, I have had to deal with his behavior at home, and I know that it doesn’t matter how good things seem to be going, or how great his attitude or mood seems to be.
Sometimes the most minor change, interaction, mistake, spill, anything could make our whole house seem like it is being picked up, turned over and shaken violently. And while some things we have learned to avoid because we know it can lead to meltdowns, most of the things that set him off now seem to be pretty random or unavoidable. And so our lives are spent juggling three kids, appointments, therapy, jobs, to-dos, etc all while balancing on the edge of an abyss. The anticipation, dread, fear of the next meltdown adds an unnecessary tension to every day. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
And there are those times when you just have to pray that the impending meltdown doesn’t happen now, when you are trying to dress one kid, change another’s messy diaper, and put food together for your trip out because you have to be pulling out of the driveway in 7 minutes in order to make the appointment with the specialist you have been waiting 1/4th of your baby’s life to see.
So, no, I haven’t shared the experience of a long flight with my son, but I have had those same fears of “what is coming? how is my son going to react to this person, or that event? or how is he going to handle being in this room for so long?” And I can tell you that as I was reading about “Daddy in 16C” I could feel my tension subsiding a bit because it gave me hope that maybe there would be someone around that understands and is willing to lend a helping hand. Maybe not in my car, or in my house, but one day, during a trip out, when I finally do have to deal with my life being turned upside down and all of it’s contents dumped in the middle of aisle 7, a friendly stranger will understand and without judgment, kneel down to help pick up the pieces.
And if that happens to be you, I say “Thank you” in advance.