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When I Recognized Another Mom of a Child With a Disability

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Many of us who have a son or daughter with disabilities tend to become hypersensitive to any “atypical” behavior in those around us, be it subtle or conspicuous. We develop a sort of radar that cues us into other members of our “tribe.” Perhaps it’s that passenger acting out on the airplane or the child having a tantrum at the store.

In these situations, my reaction is to establish eye contact with the person and/or his caregiver and smile reassuringly, hopefully communicating: “I get it and it’s fine…”.

One recent example comes to mind.

For the past few months my husband has been battling with liver cancer. Before COVID-19, I used to stay with him in the infusion room during his treatment, debunking the idea of cancer treatment and cancer patients being depressing/depressed.

Our cancer center is a warm, cheerful place. Patients are rather upbeat and the nurses are kind and good-humored. So, over the months, you get to make friends and share “war stories” with those around you.

Just before the stay-at-home protocols kicked in, I had one of those “I get you” moments.

While reading on my tablet waiting for my husband’s IVs to finish running, I heard a particularly loud and friendly conversation close by, between a young man and one of the nurses. There was just a tad more familiarity than the norm. Obviously the nurse knew him well and joked back and forth while poking him to get his treatment going.

“One of our tribe,” I thought, smiling at the young man.

He was commenting on his favorite TV shows and repeatedly asked his mother to corroborate what he was saying.

“Aha,” I thought, turning around to see where his mom was sitting.

Sure enough, there she was. A couple of recliners away, doing some crocheting, I think.

My heart went out to this mother and son dyad.

I too have been there.

Early intervention when we were younger and had more stamina. Endless IEPs throughout primary and secondary education. The search for post-secondary services later on. Endless, loving caregiving.

I suspect that for this particular mom at the cancer center, pressing worries over who will watch her son’s back when she is gone.

#intellectualdisability #downsyndrome #family

Photo credit: Alberto Pardo Gomez/Getty Images

Originally published: May 19, 2020
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