“I suspect most parents have an inner radar that measures the character of others by the way they treat our children, but this is especially true for those of us who are parents of children with special needs. I have found this watchfulness does not dissipate as our children age, in fact if others are like me, it increases as what might have been an endearing or cute behavior in a young child becomes clearly odd and often outrageous when said child is 25 years old; 6’2”; weighs 200 pounds, and has severe autism. My Micah has taught me much about people, just by watching. Sometimes the lessons have been sharply painful, but at other times beautiful.
Let me just start by saying I am not blind to the fact that many of Micah’s behaviors are out of the ordinary and at times downright bizarre. Fortunately, he is a gentle giant with a sweet disposition, as it generally just takes a few, or sometimes quite a few firm verbal requests for him to decide to comply with requests to knock off some of his stranger behaviors. The reactions of others to Micah and his antics have been varied, but my lens has caught some shining examples of kindness that have blessed this mother’s heart and in turn have made our world a better place.
Each summer my family gathers at a camp in the mountains for a week of outdoor fun; six adult children with their now adult children and their children. No electricity, literally a week of intense family togetherness with up to 40 or 50 children and adults at some points. I suspect the noise and activity pose a virtual hell for someone with Micah’s sensory disorders. His survival tactic is to go out in the grassy field by the camp and make big piles of hay with the cut grass, then move the piles from place to place. Needless to say this behavior has led to some questions from the great nephews and nieces with many explanations of why the big guy is pulling up grass and moving it around the field. The little ones generally ask their questions, learn a bit about autism, then go on with their play, but much to my surprise and delight we arrived one year to find piles of grass waiting to be moved as sweet Katie decided to prepare a sensory area for Micah to enjoy ahead of time. She, of course, did not know she was meeting his sensory needs, but had remembered from the summer before he seemed happiest quietly sifting the grass while the chaos of family fellowship circled around him. A small act to some, but a clear lens into the caring nature of one small child.
Then in the evening when all the ‘littles’ were getting ready for bed, the lens took in the careful parenting of my nephew’s wife as she asked each of her children to say goodnight before they went to bed. With our numbers, this can be a long drawn out process with sometimes cranky kids, or a good delay for those littles who desire to postpone bed as long as possible. How heartening to see this mother gently remind each of her children to also say goodnight to Micah who at that point was silently staring at something unseen. When one child hesitated she gently said it was fine to just wave, but she needed to not forget Micah. A wave was granted, followed by an exuberant Micah hug from her younger brother, both of which brought a whisper of a smile to Micah’s face and a splash of pure love to his mother’s heart. The world would be a far kinder, gentler place, if more parents were as intentional in teaching their children to reach out to those who cannot and may never be able to reach back; but in their own way are reaching to the core of who we are.”
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