Thursday, November 18, 2010

Part II What's Bugging You? Questions Are Better than Pretending You Don't See Us

Now that Nicky and I are the "Elephant in the Room" I've come to learn that I was actively ignoring people and I was doing it for me, because their condition made me feel uncomfortable and I didn't know what to do.

I was in an airport restaurant when I saw a very young man with a prosthetic foot and two prosthetic hands drop a bottle of juice. Visible shaken, he told the cashier "Sorry, Sorry. I'll pay for it" while he fumbled to clean up the mess.  As I got up to help, I said to my friend "Wow, I wonder what happened. I'm going to ask him". My friend looked at me in horror, shaking his head "No don't!". I got up, helped and asked.  At first he seemed startled by the assistance, then he looked at me and calmed him. He began to talk, he followed me and sat at our table. He shared that on 911 he and his other underage buddies were so upset, they got drunk and he ended up walking on train tracks where he was hit by a train and lost his limbs. He thanked me for asking as we all went off to catch our planes.

Before Autism entered my world, when I would see or meet a person with an unusual illness, or a bad scar, prostetic limbs, a disability my first reaction was "I can't talk to them". I may make them feel bad, by bringing attention to them. If the person was a stranger in a public place I acted as if I didn't see them. If I couldn't walk away, I'd pretend not to look, all the while I talked about everything except what I was wondering about. if  the situation I had focused my attention on, was missed by the person living with it, because I didn't say anything!!!  I thought that I knew how the person would feel talking about it. I never considered that by not asking, I wasn't giving them a choice, the same choice to talk that I would give any other human being. The young man with prosthetic limbs knew people were staring and wondering what happened and he knew they choose to ignore him, make him invisible, and I could see him become more self conscious as he fumbled to pick up broken glass with his claws.

We get ignored routinely, and it's not just because people are  mean, or judgmental, they are curious, they don't know what to say. So instead they stare, and when I catch them, they quickly turn away. I can't speak for everyone only me. I'm a person, just like everyone else and pretending we are invisible, only makes me feel worst, isolated, less accepted and more self conscious.  I can see the questions in your eyes and I want to say  "YES!!! I SEE IT TOO....WHO CAN'T SEE IT. MY KIDS DIFFERENT".  IF IT LOOKS LIKE WE NEED HELP, OFFER. IF I DON'T WANT YOUR HELP OR CAN'T USE IT, I WILL LET YOU KNOW AND I WILL APPRECIATE YOU FOR ASKING. WHEN YOU CATCH MY EYE'S SMILE, OR JUST DON'T PRETEND YOU DIDN'T SEE ME. TALK TO ME, ASK YOUR QUESTIONS, ACKNOWLEDGE US LIKE YOU WOULD ANYONE ELSE... it's really okay.


  1. What a sad world we live in.

  2. I completely agree. And kudos to you for taking your life lessons and applying them to help others.

    Also reminds me of the greeting from Avatar "I see you" – something I wanted to adopt immediately because it really does speak volumes.

  3. Thank you for leaving this. I have always felt so strange not knowing what to do or what to say to those who have special needs out in the public yet I want to help so badly. Some that I have seen in the past and have tried to help have been so upset and just so plain mean that I haven't attempted anymore but I now have a tougher skin and it doesn't mean I can't try anymore. I am a teacher of students who have Autism and always know "my" kids and are quick to help those parents in public but I now need to broaden my help to everyone. I do have that tough skin now that I am older and can take it. :) Thanks for making me aware.