Could You?

A mother's challenge

by Dee O'Neill

Could you walk in my son's shoes?

Maybe you could.... That is, if you ever got the socks on right. You might need to take them off and put them on again three or four times, till they were right. Then you could try on five shirts; one might be OK as long as the seams did not "hurt you" or the tag "itch you." Forget about jeans altogether -- "they hurt" and you could not work the zipper, buttons or snaps anyway.

Maybe you could ... at school.

That is, if the lights didn't bother your eyes and "talk to you." And you could hear the teacher talk when your classmate was tapping a pencil, rustling a paper or even just breathing. Hoping the teacher repeats what she said so you know what to do. Standing in line when someone bumps you and feeling like you were punched instead. Not being able to eat lunch because of the noise and the smells. Trying to play at recess when there is no structure and everyone's just running around in different directions. How about being snatched out of your class unexpectedly one day and not being able to go back and not understand why "because Mrs. Moore misses me"? Could you ride the bus home thinking intensely "Did I have a good day?" Is there a note or is the teacher going to call and not being able to remember. Just hoping it was good so "Mom will not look sooooo sad and be angry."
Maybe you could ....

If you could get your mind to go in the right direction all the time. If there wasn't "a traffic jam in my head" and your thoughts were not always "making the wrong turns." Too many smells, sounds, things to look at and to touch. If you understood why the grown-ups were upset, but the kids are laughing, they must be happy and like me. You clown around to fit in and to "make kids laugh," that's the only way you know how they feel, "they are laughing, they are having fun."

Maybe you could ....

If you understood why "people look at you strangely," roll their eyes and won't let their kids play with you. You know "you are handsome," with blond hair, blue eyes and a great big wonderful smile. You always make people laugh, you must be nice. You get good grades, you must be smart, "then why is Mom sad," or you wonder why you feel sad, "where did my smile go?"

Maybe you could ... but I DO NOT THINK SO!

Could you ask mom to repeat the "rules" for hockey every week? And ask her to raise her hand if you're not doing right. Could you discuss how to have a good day at school every morning, only to have a bad one anyway? Could you hide the pain in your eyes because you're "always in trouble" and hear your classmates tell your mom that "you are sooooo bad in class"? Could you sit with mom and cry for hours wondering "what's wrong with me" and asking again and again "why can't I be good," confused and upset? Could you understand the pain when you have a birthday party and out of 20 kids only two come, and never being invited to others? Could you not play baseball because you can't hold the bat or hit the ball? Could you not even get to try soccer because you have therapy four times a week? Could you be so obsessed with nature and science that you have more books than you can count and eight bug houses? Could you catch butterflies with your bare hands without hurting them to put them in a cage to study them and then let them go so careful not to hurt them? Could you understand why kids cannot play your complex games and understand the way you play? Could you understand why "Mom doesn't know anything" and have to look your thoughts and questions up in the encyclopedia? Could you watch kids eat whatever they want and you cannot because your skin will itch, ears and cheeks turn red and "belly will hurt." Could you fix all your stuff till its "just right" before you could get in bed? Could you toss and turn trying to go to sleep "cause the sheets hurt and itch" you? Could you cry at night just praying to Jesus that "I will be good tomorrow" and be like other kids? Could your heart understand "why are you crying again Mom, I love you"?

Could you walk in my son's shoes?

Could you walk around only processing half of what's going on around you. Could you walk around looking so normal, but have a hidden disability?

Maybe you THINK you could ....

But, I do not think you could walk in my son's shoes.

Not because they are too small, but because

YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL ENOUGH!!


[Dee O'Neill is the mother of an 8-year-old diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction and Asperger's Syndrome.]

Copyright © 2002 by Dee O'Neill

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