“To the parents who intentionally made my family feel uncomfortable that day,
I will never forget you. But that’s what you wanted, wasn’t it? Otherwise you wouldn’t have been staring at us so openly as my son was inconsolably crying. You wouldn’t have been casting judgement, giving disapproving looks, or whispering about us. But you all did those things because you wanted us to know you were looking down on us. I know this because you are not the first to have done this. You are just the ones I am constantly reminded of.
My husband and I brought our two sons to go watch their aunts play high school basketball. The game hadn’t begun, all the girls were just warming up. Our four year old loves watching basketball. He always has. He had been going to watch his aunts play since he was five months old. He fell in love with the game. As soon as he could talk, he was always asking to go watch basketball games. This was before. Before life became so difficult for our son.
Our son has autism and he has had multiple medical issues with his hearing since he was a baby. This has led to his recent sensitivity loud noises, especially the buzzer during the basketball games.
We paid to go watch the game, just like every single one of you did. As we walked in the gym, my son began to whine a bit because he was scared the buzzer was going to go off. As soon as we sat, we tried to comfort him with his favorite blanket and snacks. This is where all of your stares and looks of judgement began. Ignoring you as best we could, we finally calmed our son.
He was watching the practice calmly and quietly and he was so excited. I noticed the timer was approaching the minute mark so I warned my son the buzzer was going to go off so he wouldn’t be surprised. We hoped preparing him would make it less scary. My son began to whine again, saying, ‘No buzzer, I don’t like buzzer.’ Little did I know, the buzzer sounds at the minute mark and again after. So just seconds after I told my son one more minute, it went off.
I had a plan going to this basketball game. I tried to warn my son so he could be prepared but I failed him and the game hadn’t even begun yet.
Since it went off early, he wasn’t ready and he screamed out of fear. He cried so loud, people across the gym had begun to stare at us. We tried again to calm him but it was too late. Another buzzer went off. He was hysterical, in tears, asking to go home.
His love for the game wasn’t enough to help desensitize him to the loud noises he feared. I looked at my husband defeated and said we should go home. Instead, he took our son and tried to calm him. Everyone stood for the national anthem. Our son was still crying.
I’ll never forget the look the woman next to me was giving as she casted judgement on my parenting because she assumed I didn’t care that my son was scared. I’ll never forget the man who stared in disdain while my son cried inconsolably shaking from fear while we stood for the national anthem. I’ll never forget the man who said ‘finally’ under his breath as I said ‘excuse me’ so we could exit the bleachers because we had finally give in to defeat.
I’ll never forget the way you made my family feel. It’s not like we weren’t trying to help our son. We were not intentionally trying to be disrespectful. All you saw were two young parents struggling and assumed we didn’t know how to handle our child.
You didn’t know my four year old son has autism. You don’t know about all of the ear infections that caused his hearing loss. You weren’t there after his first or second ear surgery that helped regain his hearing. You weren’t there the day we discovered his new sensitivity to loud noises. You didn’t know these things, because you don’t know us.
You don’t know our struggles and you don’t understand our journey. You don’t know how much our son loves basketball. You didn’t feel my heart break the day I realized walking into a gym to watch a basketball game may never happen again for my son. He should have his whole life left to enjoy this game and I am doing everything in my power to help him overcome that. It’s not easy going into a situation you know will be uncomfortable but that’s what we do for our son.
Everytime he asks me to go to a basketball game, everytime he plays with his basketball hoop at home, everytime he watches basketball on TV, I am reminded of this day and your faces. I will never forget the way you made me feel that day. I will make sure I never make anyone feel like that.
I want to thank the ONE person who worked at the school. You offered my son noise canceling headphones. Thank you. You didn’t know we had them with us and already tried them, or that wearing them made his head uncomfortable. He doesn’t really understand how helpful the headphones can be. But YOU. You, are the one silver lining the day. You restored my faith in humanity in that moment.
The only way to help my son overcome his fear of loud noises is to constantly expose him to them. That is what we do whether it is popping balloons in our house, blowing an air horn, or taking him to basketball games. That is what we will continue to do in hopes of getting my son back into the gym to watch his favorite sport one day.
Until then, thank you to those who remind me of the person I never want to be. And a special thank you to the ONE person who reminded me of how we all should be.”
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