My Son Is Different – And That’s OK!

From the archive: Originally posted 4/29/13

 

apples and oranges A thought that’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately is one that’s not going to be popular.  It seems to go against things that are important to me and many others.   But, if I’m going to be true to myself and to Josh, I have to say it.  Out loud.

 

My son IS different.

 

 

Different is a good thing in lots of ways.  It’s his extra chromosome that allows him to remain oblivious to certain things that make the rest of us miserable – taxes, politics, terrorism, money, peer pressure, prejudice, etc…

His biggest fear is when the next thunderstorm will be.  And let me tell ya, when it comes, it is a BIG deal.  It’s also that extra chromosome that makes it almost impossible to get him to go outside in the rain. Part of it is because the power could go out.  Part of it is the loud noises.  But he will be the first to tell you – “I HATE STORMS!”

So it’s my job, as his mom, to make adaptations and accommodations to his world, whenever I can.  I can’t stop the rain, but I can make sure he has a flashlight beside his bed at all times.  He also has a cell phone that he can use to call me if I’m away from him when it starts raining.  (He doesn’t even like for me to be out in the rain.)

From the beginning, I’ve adapted our world to make it easier for him.  The bottom shelf of the refrigerator has always been his.  It’s where he can find the applesauce, yogurt, and fruit that are ‘his.’  It’s still that way to this day.  Routine is also important to Josh.  Everyday things like the snacks in the frig make him feel safe and in control.

Ok, so that’s different.  Most people don’t care about where their snacks are.  But is it impossible to deal with?  No.  Does it make him less of a person?  No.  It’s just different.

time

I’ve mentioned before that Josh doesn’t have a sense of time – unless of course it has to do with wrestling.  He can tell you what time it comes on every day and what channel.  Now, when the cable company switches the channels around… our world is disrupted!  Otherwise, yesterday, tomorrow, next week, last year, those terms don’t mean the same to him as they do to the rest of us.  When he speaks, I know exactly what he means  and I hear him in complete sentences with correct grammar.  Most people don’t.

He does pretty well staying by himself for short periods of time.  He enjoys the fact that I’ll go to the store without him and he’ll have some “peace and quiet.”  But, any extended amount of time without supervision could be hazardous.  His problem solving skills aren’t what you would call ‘normal’ for a twenty-six year old man.  For example, he likes to be able to heat up his own food in the microwave.  It allows him the freedom to set his own schedule.  He often says “Look Mom, I did it.  By myself.  Nobody helped me.”

One day, I had fixed a pound of bacon for sandwiches for the week.  He decided that he needed to eat the whole pound (by himself) for dinner.  When he put it in the microwave, of course, it burnt.  By the time the smell got to my room, I found him emptying the burning hot bacon into the trash.  This, as you would imagine, began to melt the plastic bag.  It was a lovely mixture of smells and could have been a disaster if I wasn’t in the next room.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love that he’s different.  And I think it’s important that other people know he’s different.  That includes people from the school system, family and friends, and the public at large.

He NEEDS time to transition.  And from what I’ve heard and read, that’s ‘typical’ for someone with an extra chromosome.  We had that written in all of his IEPs.  People in the schools were ‘trained’ to accommodate him with extra time to move from one activity to another.  That didn’t stop a male aide from trying to rush him from the lunch table before he was ready.  The aide was surprised to get an elbow in the leg.  Just because people are aware of what accommodations are needed, doesn’t mean they will always provide them. (But that doesn’t stop me from trying.  How many times have people who use a wheelchair had to fight for curb cuts or ramps in order to get access to a public building?)   Josh was suspended for two days for “violence toward a teacher” after the lunch incident.  His behavior did not conform to the accepted ‘normal’ and he was punished.  At least as far as the school was concerned.

Equality vs equity
Now, do I think kids should be allowed to hit teachers on a regular basis?  No, of course not.  But in this situation, his needs were different and they knew it.  Does this mean I expect him to be above the rules?  I don’t think so.  I just think there has to be some kind of understanding.  He wasn’t hitting the teacher out of hatred or violence.   He was startled when the man put his hands on his shoulder and it jolted him out of a deep concentration on his food.

I’ve thought about this incident a lot in the past few months.  It reminds me of the difference between equality and equity.  I don’t want Josh to have ‘the same’ as everybody else.  I want him to have what he needs in order to compete and to be accepted.  I can’t say that Josh is just like everybody else and expect his needs to be met at the same time.

Josh is different
He is: human.

He is: a thinking, feeling adult.

He is: deserving of respect, love, and understanding.

He is: funny, stubborn, musical, and imaginative.

He is: difficult to understand, unless you know him.

He is: different.

And I love him exactly the way he is.

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Comments
3 Responses to “My Son Is Different – And That’s OK!”
  1. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    I love this and love the ending because our kids (mine is ASD) are different, and we love them exactly as they are which is quite perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Astrid says:

    I don’t have Down Syndrome, but I can totally relate to soem of Jos’h’s quirks. Like, I too don’t have good problem-solving skills and need some amount of predictability to function. It is great how you highlight that it’s okay that he is different and that he is still deserving of love, respect and understanding. It isn’t disastrous to have to adapt the world around him to suit his needs.

    Liked by 1 person

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