Being a parent of a child with a disability is a very tough thing. Parents of “normal” kids don’t get it. With my son having TS, ADHD, OCD, SPD, and other initial disorders, he has had a lot of friends. The problem is most of the friends don’t stay as his friends. They come and go like waves on a beach over the years. He just wants to be accepted, like any child does. He has a very forgiving heart, and he doesn’t hold a grudge for too long. He has tried to tell people about his Tourette’s in the past, but it doesn’t usually go to well for him. He has been bullied over it. But even worse than kids are adults who refuse to understand that he is different. A neighbor told us once that he is one of those children who will respond well to kindness and compassion. Unfortunately he hasn’t had a lot of that in his ten short years on this world. People don’t always get it and I believe some don’t even want to. They don’t want to accept what is different. I’m not sure why. Maybe if they do that, then maybe they will see that we are all different in some way.
Sometimes, as a special needs parent, you want to bury your head in the sand and run away from it all. The challenges at home are one thing, but to see it in schools, neighborhoods, churches, scouts, stores…it can be overwhelming. You question if you are a good parent and your own self-worth can go down the drain pretty quick. But then I will hear my son laughing, and it all goes away. My wife and I can be very tough sometimes, and I think God gave us some thick skin so we can protect and advocate for our son as long as he needs us to. For those who know who I am, this is a fact: I will not tolerate any discrimination against my son. He is a boy. A caring, kind-hearted boy. That is who he is deep inside, the true him. What you may see is a manifestation of his disabilities, and you may judge him by that cover. Every book has a cover, but the heart of any book is what’s inside. I would rather see my son have very few friends who accept him for who he is, than have several “friends” go in and out of his life. The same is true for my family. We have each other, and sometimes that has to be enough.
Last nigh, my son was told to “consider his ways” by a youth leader during a bible reading at a local church youth group. This was his second time at this youth group, and my wife had advised them of his disabilities the first time he went. An hour later, while playing tag, her son jumped on my son so he pushed him off, which is a normal reaction. The youth leader came to my son, grabbed his arms, kicked the back of his leg, pushed him down and said “Now you see what it feels like”.
When we found out, my wife went down to the church to confront the youth leader. She denied it and said he was lying. All the other kids were involved in another activity, so no one else could have seen it. Of course the whole group said nothing happened. The youth leader refused to talk to my wife in private, and told her and my son they were no longer welcome at their church. My wife said some not so nice words to her and left. My wife was able to find the phone number for the pastor and left a message. The pastor called back and denied anything happened, even though she wasn’t there. After some back and forth, we called our state police. An officer came out, took our statement, talked to my son, and we advised him we wanted to press charges against the youth leader. He advised it wouldn’t be physical assault, it would be offensive touching. He called later in the evening and said there were conflicting stories and he couldn’t do anything. He said we could file a complaint with the justice of the peace.
What kind of world do we live in where an adult leader at a youth group can attack a child like that and the law doesn’t protect a boy with disabilities? And where a pastor refuses to give the name of the youth leader? I eventually found it Scooby-Doo style for the 21st Century by going through the church Facebook page, and going through likes and other people’s comments and then their friends and so on. It truly is amazing what some people will put on Facebook for the world to see. But I digress. Once again, my son has been traumatized by a person in a leadership capacity. When will this stop? I know other parents go through this kind of crap. We need to stand together. Our children need us. Because one day someone may tell your child to “Consider your ways” without looking at how evil their own are.
Obviously, no one in my family will EVER attend that church again, and we have never been happier to be “not welcome” there. Because any church that would allow that type of thing to happen and then try to cover it up isn’t associated with the God I believe in. They may be upset at how my wife reacted, however several parents have told me they would have done much worse than say some words in anger after their son had been physically assaulted. I was a little miffed my wife lost her temper, but let’s be real. I would have too! Any parent would. What they don’t know is something only I know. If my son was lying, I would know it. He does something, very subtle and unique when he lies. He doesn’t even realize I know what it is, and I don’t believe he is even aware he does it. And guess what he did not do when he told us what happened? That thing he does. God bless my child, because his flock certainly won’t at a certain church in my area. But guess what, he doesn’t need them. What he has is more precious than any building or group of people. He has a good heart. Consider your ways…