Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Embracing the odd

Any parent of a child with Autism/Asperger’s syndrome knows what I mean by odd. Our kids do things that boggle the mind at times. Refusing to sleep in their bed, wearing clothes backwards as much as possible, only eating certain types of foods, this list could go on and on. The point here is that we naturally seem to be able to embrace the odd things our kids do maybe a little better than other kids their age who have no underlying issues.

Let me tell you something though. I can embrace the odd things at home all day, but I have a really hard time with it when we are out in public. You know when the sudden yelling occurs. The hand flapping, jumping or otherwise out of place behaviors in the grocery store and people start to stare. Some nights in the gym I am just shocked at the odd things he does or says.

Then I read this blog posted by Angel who owns The Little Gym we first started going to before the move and it suddenly hit me. Here are a couple of  excerpts from it:
“Wonderful, hard-working parents will frequently come in to the gym and feel they need to describe some behavior their child exhibits and almost apologize for them. And what I would like ALL parents to understand is that many, many parents feel this. Even ones with “typical” children. You are not alone. And we can all laugh together at the odd behavior that our beautiful, creative children sometimes exhibit. I would like to describe now some of the wonderfully unique behaviors I’ve seen over the years. These examples come from all kinds of children. One of my favorites was a 4 or 5 year old (typical) little girl who insisted on walking, or rather traveling, everywhere in a bear –crawl for months. Still makes me laugh. (because I wasn’t her mom!) Another 4-year-old boy brought a mermaid with him to every class and insisted she sit on the ledge and watch. Some kids talk non-stop. Some insist on having a blue ball. Some make you call them a different name each week. Some will only respond if you treat them like an animal. One 5-year-old boy come to class dressed as Spiderman. His Dad shook his head and apologized. Said he couldn’t convince him not to wear the costume.”
“One 2-year-old in my class last week was as happy as I’ve ever seen a kid, smiling and laughing, until I pulled out the parachute. And then he started screaming like he was in a horror film and did not stop until I put the parachute away. At which point he began smiling and laughing like a switch had been flipped.”
The last part though hit home!
“I say embrace the odd. It really is the norm. Laugh and see the beauty in the uniqueness of these behaviors. Don’t feel embarrassed by them. Be proud. Shake your head and think, “only MY child would...” -Angel Hundley Gym Owner”

In all seriousness how many times have you looked at your child and think only my child would do that! I can’t tell you the number of times I have thought that or said it out loud to other parents. Seriously most of the time he does the group warm up run with his head cocked sideways. Why I’m not too sure but it looks really odd!

I sent Angel a message last week and told her how much I liked the post. Part of the email said:
“I’ve been so concerned with what other instructors, parents and kids at the gym perceive of him I lost track of what is important at the gym, to try your best and have fun. Granted we know that Alvin’s skills will most likely not be up to par with other kids his age and the social awkwardness will linger but this week I was reminded it doesn’t matter at all. Every week when he walks in he is smiling and giggling with excitement. He says hi and bye to all his teachers and now even his classmates. He runs in grabs his shakers and tries his best, and along the way makes everyone laugh at some of his skill “modifications”!
So I guess your post just hit me. I need to embrace the odd with him every week. He can stay in gymnastics as long as its fun for him. We won’t worry about how odd he looks or where his skills are in comparison to the other kids. Alvin can be himself and as long as he is still having fun then there is no real reason to pull him. Who knows he may even teach the other instructors, kids or parents something along the way!”

So with the holiday’s quickly approaching I am going to do my best to embrace the odd. I’ll laugh at all the crazy things he and his “I refuse to talk” little sister come up with at home and in the gym. I’ll do my best to ignore the stares in stores when he melts down due to sensory overload and just laugh when he suddenly says something completely off the wall and probably completely inappropriate but funny never the less!

So why it’s not always to keep your cool during times like this I think I’m going to try a little harder. Alvin is his own person. Asperger’s and all his unique/odd characteristics are just a part of who he is and I am just going to try and embrace it a little more.

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