Tuesday, December 07, 2010

what are you looking at?

Over the past month, Max has developed a new auditory stim where he yells “MAX IN” over and over. He typically does this when he is excited. “Stimming” is a repetitive body movement that self-stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner. For now all we can do is ignore it or try to redirect him into another activity. Eventually he’ll stop this particular stim and find something else to help him self-regulate. We just have to be patient and trust our experience with Max that “this too shall pass”.

On Sunday, I took Max out to do some shopping with me at Ikea. We go there at least once a month. For whatever reason, Max likes Ikea (and I like that he is patient and doesn’t seem to mind me taking my sweet time). We usually explore the kitchen, bedding, lights and frame sections, me having him label the colours of the items I am looking at, feel the textures of the different rugs, or count the number of boxes in our cart. We also sing songs – it is really a quite pleasant experience.

Max was very excited about being at Ikea, he was yelling "MAX IN" quite loudly and many customers were looking at us curiously. If this had been a year ago, I probably would have felt the need to stop and explain “hey, my son has Autism, so that’s why he’s doing that”. But this time, I didn’t have it in me to dole out the Autism shpeel. I merely met their eyes, smiled, gave Max a kiss on the top of his head and continued browsing. Perhaps I should have taken the time to provide some education to these strangers. I used to care what other people thought of Max’s odd behaviours. As I start to accept them, and embrace Max for who he is, I feel less and less like catering to other people’s judgemental gazes. After all, Max may be yelling out, but usually it’s the good old “normal” kids who are having tantrums and meltdowns.

Next time you see an adult with a child who clearly has special needs, do your best to smile sincerely at them and look them in the eyes. Actually SEE them instead of skimming over them and looking away uncomfortably. I know it’s hard to see sometimes. But looking away doesn’t actually make us go away. All it does is mean you missed out on the opportunity to receive an incredible smile.


  1. One time when we were out shopping Charlotte kept asking me questions about a man she saw in a wheelchair. I finally said to her, "Why don't you ask him yourself?" So, she went up and asked him why he was in the chair and did he like it. Just as I was about to die of mortification, the man said to me, "Thank you for having her ask me. Most people find it easier to pretend that I don't exist." That experience totally made me realize how easy it is for people to treat anyone "different" as if they are invisible.

  2. You don't owe anyone an education; that's icing on the cake for them on any days you have the energy to do it.

    As for wheelchairs, I'm still blessing the editor who very sternly told everyone on staff that no one is "confined" to a wheelchair any more than anyone is "confined" to their shoes. We use whichever is more appropriate to get around.

  3. good for you. We like stimming in ikea as well.
    The Smaland people give me a hard time (I never leave khaled there but hang around with a coffee outside). This is mostly because they are uneducated women who cant really stand the kids who are playing there (autistic or typical), they are just making an hourly wage.