I absolutely hate when people say “Oh yeah, my son does that too.” Or “yup, all kids have special needs of some sort or another.” Another common response that rubs me the wrong way is “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”
It bothers me because those people are talking about their typical children. And throughout my life, I’ve come to know that Willie and typical children are far, far apart. I know I’m right, as I have three other children and their challenges, while real, sometimes quite difficult, and important, are nothing like the ones that Willie faces.
Yesterday, I was talking to Willie’s psychiatrist. Willie is doing badly right now with daily behavioral and emotional outbursts. We’re worried about him. My monthly visits with his psychiatrist are much-needed.
Halfway through the session, the psychiatrist said one of those comments that I absolutely hate. But somehow, in the context, and how he said it, made all the difference.
We were brainstorming ideas of how to help Willie feel happier in life. This psychiatrist stopped me and said: “Willie is going through a developmental stage. The issues he’s struggling with are quite similar to other 23-year-olds. He is wondering who he is. Separating from you all, his family. He’s questioning what his role in life is. What’s he to do with himself?”
Surprising myself, I breathed a large sigh of relief and felt a beacon of hope I haven’t known for quite some time.
For I am one of those people who compare my son Willie to other young adults regularly. Those with special needs. Those without special needs. And to hear that he is in the middle of all the angst that other 23-year-olds are struggling with, from the psychiatrist who talks to 23-year-olds daily, felt like things would get better one day.
Sure, the psychiatrist was referring to typical or non developmentally-disabled young adults. And believe me, I’m well aware that Willie has some giant limitations.
But somehow, comparing Willie to that typical young adult gave me all the hope I needed.