I’m a proud mommy to two amazing daughters, a 13-year-old and a 7-year-old. My 7-year-old was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder at 2 and a half and has extreme difficulties with self-regulation and self-soothing.
One day, my daughters and I were at a free clothing organization. My 7-year-old is a “girly girl.” She loves playing dress-up with fancy dresses, makeup and high heels. She saw two pairs of high heels she wanted to take home for dress-up. I told her she could pick one pair and leave the other pair for someone else who may need them. She explained she was having a difficult time choosing which pair she wanted.
While I calmly tried to help her decide, a woman who volunteers there sternly said to her, “You need to put a pair back right now or you can leave both pairs.” Well, that upset my daughter a lot since she was already trying hard to decide which pair to keep. That became too much for her to handle and she started having a complete meltdown. As my daughter screamed at the top of her lungs, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…” over and over again repeatedly, I sat on the floor with her. I started to rock her as she sucked on her binkie (which is how I help soothe her during a meltdown).
The woman spoke up again and said, “You need to get her out of here now. I can’t have her in here screaming like that.” I responded calmly by saying, “I am trying to calm her down enough so we can leave since she is too big for me to carry out.” She then told me, “Just get up and start walking out. I guarantee she will follow you.” Well that upset me instantly. How dare a stranger tell me how to respond to my child? How dare she tell me to walk away from my child who needed my help more than anything at that moment? I said, “Actually, no, she won’t follow me. She will scream even louder and continue to cry on the floor. I told you I am doing what I have to do to calm her down enough so she can walk out with me. Thank you.”
She then had the nerve to say to me, “Well that’s why she acts like that, because you baby her and respond to her temper tantrum instead of just walking away.” I was beyond upset now for the way she was talking to me about my daughter. So I said, “She is not throwing a temper tantrum. She is having a meltdown. There’s a huge difference. She has sensory processing disorder and has difficulties with self-regulation and self-soothing.” She promptly apologized by saying, “Oh my gosh. I am so sorry. That’s different.” A minute or two later, I finally got my daughter calmed down enough to walk out with me.
When we talked about the experience later, my 7-year-old said to me that the volunteer had no right to say anything to us, and that she was hurt at what the woman said. My oldest daughter was upset as well. I explained to both of my daughters that I don’t feel the woman said anything with the intention of hurting anyone’s feelings. I also explained that’s why I informed the woman about why my 7-year-old reacted that way. I still remind them (when other people have responded rudely to meltdowns) that people don’t understand why the meltdowns are happening, and it doesn’t make them bad people — just uninformed about certain behaviors.
I was upset because the woman automatically jumped to the conclusion that my daughter was just acting like a “spoiled brat,” but I was more upset and heartbroken that my daughter heard the negative way the woman spoke about her. However, I’m proud of myself for holding it together and informing the woman what was really going on instead of screaming about the way she judged my daughter.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.