I was going through my FaceBook feed today to see an article appear again and again. Finally I had to take a peak at what was happening. I am glad I did. I found a new blog to add to my read list!
When I posted this to the Special Needs Homeschooling FaceBook page it started a nice conversation. Many of us had felt ‘that look’ given to you by other shoppers that were upset our child was melting down. I was struck by the question, “What should I do to help if I see this?” THANK YOU dear person for asking!
I have to say with 4 kids on the spectrum and several of us in wheelchairs we are not the easiest group to shop next to. I teach manners and shopping etiquiette but stores are large, crowded, and have all sorts of intense sensory issues. Oh and the check out is stuffed full of candy and small toys, gee thank you so much grocery stores!
When in a store and you see a child having a tantrum/meltdown/fit what could you do?
1) Realize that you are catching a snap shot in time. You have no way of knowing what got the family to this point. No way of knowing if the child has a problem like autism. Is sick and cranky. Or even is having a good old fashioned fit because they are a child and children are still learning how to be in control of their wants and needs. Please because of this give the family scene in front of you a large portion of compassion.
2) Use your manners! Don’t stare. Don’t make comments behind your hand. No pointing (had that happen.) Or any other thing that would have Miss Manners writing a column on your poor behavior.
3) Ask if there is anything you can do to help. A reader of the FB page pointed this one out. She said you never know if an extra hand is just what is needed. Also by asking you are sharing empathy with a parent that is probably feeling stressed. That alone could be a wonderful lift on a depressed shopping trip.
4) If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything. Leave the aisle. Find another checkout. Just don’t stand there pretending to be a victim to my child’s behavior when you are free to go somewhere else. I am sorry you feel the need to leave, but you are not my main priority, my child is, and that is as it should be.
When I was a young wife on a shopping trip to the commisary I had my first brush with a family problem at the store. One toddler in the cart with mommy’s purse. Two older kids one a daughter that was a shy 6-ish and a boy about 4. Suddenly the boy began having the worst nose bleed I have ever seen. He had both his hands over his nose. Mom had tissues from her purse over it with both her hands. She looked like a deer in the headlights. She needed to get her son to the bathroom and she had blood on both hands and a child that was melting down, screaming.
Thank the Lord, I minded my manners. Dropped what I was doing and immediately began helping her get her whole family to the bathroom safely. She just needed an extra set of hands to take care of her family.
I also want you to consider there are consquences to how you react.
1) You decide to ignore that this is a moment in time, you have no foundation from which to base clear decisions on. You call mall security. You start telling the parents about the great therapy or diet that would make their child ‘cured’. Your assumptions suck the energy right out of any parent that has to deal with a child in mid meltdown AND you. I have even heard about police being called on parents. Please refrain your reality tv tendancies. Don’t be nosy!
2) You decide manners don’t count when you know what is right. ‘That child just needs a good spanking.’ Who have I heard that the most from older people or younger? Surprisingly younger people. I have outright asked several do you even have a child. No. They were college students that were or had taken a human developement class. Ahh yes. That text book fills in any gap in experience that you have. Call me when you forget to cover your child’s privates when changing diapers and get the ‘tv gag’ spray. It happens. Better yet call me if your child is diagnosed with autism, I will help, without passing judgment or assigning blame. (In this area the odds are high your child will have some form of autism.)
3) You decide to look right through us, or point, grumble under your breathe ect. You have taught me, my hubby, my other children that there is something wrong with us as a whole. You are teaching my child having the meltdown that they are a problem to the whole family. Feelings of anxiety, worthlessness, and the desire to not want to leave the house can start with those glares at Targets.
If you are choosing to read this then I know you want to help. I know that you are nice and caring and DON’T want to overtly or inadvertly cause a hard situation to become even worse.
Meltdown aren’t an easy thing to deal with. Even with all the knowledge in the world about autism or sensory issues. Your help could be that lovely bright spot that is able to help a parent regain emotional control, not feel embarassed, or even met a fellow parent dealing with autism or other issues.
A special thanks to Leigh from flappiness is… for the inspiration of this post and wonderful conversation on Special Needs Homeschooling page that lets us all know we are not alone in our high points and low points. Together we will make it through supporting and encouraging one another!