No folks I’m not talking about the gum, I’m talking about the label. You see, when a child at Ft Stewart has a “special need” you have to seemingly jump through hoops to make sure he is properly registered with Child Youth Services. It is a frustrating, bureaucratic process with a ton of running around between various offices! The SNAP (not the food stamps folks, Army has a ton of other acronyms) [special needs accommodation program] meeting was the worst “meeting” I had ever attended. I left the room and bawled my eyes out! In theory it’s a good idea to have a group of people together from all of the offices on post that deal with child services. In reality it was extremely intimidating to sit at the head of a conference room all alone as you’re berated with questions about your child when you still have so many questions yourself! Ok so after all is set and the paperwork is in things pretty much go back to “normal” though truly I feel like a piece is missing and maybe if he was in a full time program it’d be a different story. Sorry for all of the rambling, it’s probably confusing but hey now maybe you can see how confused I am. To get back to my big red point…after all of that, when I bring Tedy to hourly care I have to write out a label to put on his chest. The instructions say to list any special needs and/or allergies on the red label. I didn’t list everything, if I did then he’d have a whole red shirt of tape (red tape, isn’t that an interesting metaphor for the process I went through). The food allergies part didn’t bother me so much but writing the word “autistic” did. Today was the first time I had to do that. I had such mixed feelings. I agreed with Troy that it’s a good thing they have those labels because I tell you what, the older he gets, the harder it is to explain to people that he’s Autistic. Why is that?! I think it’s because Autism doesn’t have a “look”. Many people that see Tedy may never realize that he’s not “normal” (for lack of a better word). This can be frustrating because we often get nasty looks and comments from complete strangers. Lately we’ve taken note of certain places that we can’t go out to eat at anymore because it’s simply too overwhelming for him. So when I saw this picture (below) on Facebook this evening I wanted to share it with you all.
I hope this post helps at least one person in some way, whatever that may be, with their Autism experience. Chances are most of you know someone with Autism or will cross paths with an Autistic child one day. When you do, use caution. Don’t smack a big red label on the child. Don’t be judgmental of the parents. Each experience is unique and some days are better than others. It’s challenging but challenges have their rewards as well. So here’s a piece of advice (I need to follow my own advice a bit more as well) don’t get too frustrated by the challenges, enjoy the rewards no matter how big or small they may be!