Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Open Letter to the Respectable Public

Lately I’ve noticed a few more of your longer-than-necessary glances in our direction when I’m out with my son, Henry. I’d like to say that it’s his magnetic smile and attractive wardrobe, but I’m afraid that’s not always the reason. It seems that my son’s sensory behavior has been capturing a bit more of your attention than it used to. For instance, you look slightly puzzled when he lays down on the booth in restaurants, concerned when he clings to me with his head buried in my neck during fireworks, uncomfortable when he can’t respond to, “What’s your name?” Unfortunately, I don’t often have the time, energy, or relationship to explain to you that he doesn’t like the way his back feels when he sits, that the noise of Independence Day probably makes his head feel like it’s going to explode, and that his tongue and lips don’t often cooperate with his brain.
Perhaps it’s becoming more obvious that something in particular is going on with Henry since he’s looking older these days. No longer a mischievous and understandably crabby toddler, but a tall, almost 3 year old boy headed to…preschool?
Frankly, I myself am a woman who deep down prefers to be admired and understood, heck, ignored rather than critiqued, so this is understandably unpleasant. You see, good people of the public who perhaps wisely raise an eyebrow at me, the mother who can’t or hasn’t or doesn’t care to teach her child proper manners, I’ve got a great narrative to share if you let me explain. I could tell you about the swell of my heart to the point of stretching and breaking that happens darn near every mealtime, bath time, car ride, and bedtime. I could tell you about how many referrals, doctors, tests, and insurance journeys I’ve traveled barefoot and thirsty. I could tell you about fears and worries and missed appointments and missed milestones. I’ve got a really good story.
So while part of me wants to explain all this so you won’t judge or hide out at home so you won’t notice, instead I’ll try to focus on us. And the way his father and sister cheer and jump up and down when he eats one bite of hot dog or gets a word just right. And the way he responds to praise, parading like a peacock when he successfully completes a puzzle. And the way that the struggles have brought us all nearer in spirit to each other and to those who love us.
So, upright citizens, it actually isn’t that significant or important to me that you understand this, but my kid’s not misbehaving. He’s doing his best to figure out this world and sometimes it seems like I’m right there with him. I’ve got a really good story because it’s both an adventure and a love story. And, as I’m sure you know, all that matters for a good ending is that the main characters never give up on each other.
Yours truly, Mom


  1. You are absolutely right that with age, comes the expectation from the masses that your child will act a certain way. If it makes you feel any better, my 4 year old is tall and looks over 5 -- in the grocery store two weeks ago, he was so excited to go to the bakery with the 'sprinkle cookies' that when there weren't sprinkle cookies, he lost it. Talk about looks of disgust from all around!

    It gets better -- hang in there!


  2. What a great post. Don't you wish you could just hand this out to onlookers everywhere? My son is four now, and we've been working with him for three years on his sensory stuff. Hartley's right - it does get better. Or maybe I'm just better at ignoring the world around us?

  3. I couldn't have put it any better myself!


  4. I just want to say thank you for sharing your stories we just found out that our son 4yrs. 6mos. old is gifted and also has SPD. His behavior at home and in public has left our family paralyzed to his outbursts and impulsive behavior. I can relate to the stares of people and misunderstanding! Rachel H.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story! We just found out our son Sebastian 4yrs. 6mos. is Gifted w/ SPD. I'm so glad we have a direction to go in!!! I completely understand strange looks in a store or in public in general! Because my son is constantly having break downs no one wants to watch him. No one! If they do I get a phone call saying I need to come get my son because he is to much to handle. Just this Sunday we were at church he was playing with lego's and a little boy younger than him came over and took some of his lego's he was playing w/. So Sebastian hit him in the arm and the teacher told him to say sorry witch he did. Then she went to put him in time out and he lost it he started screaming and running around the room so we could not catch him. Then I was asked to take him out of the room because he was scaring the other children. At that point I felt so helpless because I can guarantee every time Sebastian is focused on something and someone goes to take it away his impulse behavior will be to hit them because it happens so fast for him it's almost like a reflex. My NEW LIFE GOAL IS TO BRING AWARENESS TO SPD and be my sons advocate BE HIS VOICE! Rachel H.

  6. I want to thank you for this blog - for making these posts so accessible. Your stories and the words - they're BEAUTIFUL. And, they put me in tears. I'm excited to share them with my husband as we embark on a similar journey with our littlest boy.