By: Meena Tadimeti Contributor: specialneedsinmycity.com @meenatadimeti
Our family was traveling in Utah last week and one night we were having dinner at a restaurant. Our waitress, Sarah, in her 20s observed that my daughter couldn’t lift her heavy glass of water and immediately transferred it to a plastic cup with extra attention and care. So, I asked her if she was a parent after seeing her quick response with my daughter’s physical challenges (Cerebral Palsy). She replied with some hesitation but started to share her story.
Sarah shared that she is a single mother to a 2-year old son who has speech delays and displays uncontrollable behaviors. Fearful of her son’s difficult behaviors, she often gives in to his demands while hoping his developmental delays will self-correct.
She conveyed how she didn’t trust doctors, averse to getting her child immunized and didn’t have medical insurance. With no support from family and friends, she expressed feeling isolated and lonely. However, at the same time, she doubted her convictions and her long-held beliefs and assumptions about medical practitioners and treatments. She came back to the table and asked, “what will doctors say if I were to have my son evaluated? I noticed that my son had a fever from being immunized around the same time he was losing his speech.”
A look of anguish crossed her face as she kept dismissing any suggestions I offered for her child. To her, life made no sense. The world around appeared meaningless and overwhelming, feelings we can all relate to on the special needs journey. Being in denial appeared to be her coping mechanism, a way to currently survive.
As a parent, I had empathy for Sarah’s situation as she spoke about her son. She was expressing her worries and fears while fighting hard to keep the tears from rolling down her cheek. I was careful not to suggest that her child may have special needs since she was in deep pain … a stage we all have gone through as special parents.
I gently explained to her about early intervention and how I found it very helpful with my own child’s speech delays. Still, no sign from her that anything I said was making sense. She just gave me a look of despair and said, “just say it ain’t so” and finally added, maybe I should, yuh?” as she left our table.
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