Updated: Feb 20
For many neurodiverse individuals their disability, condition or neurotype is invisible. (Please note that I add a number of descriptions as individuals often have their own preference).
I can remember being in Asda with my son a few years. He was struggling. Tearful and arguing, sensory overload and feeling overwhelmed. It wasn't fair that I could buy toilet rolls for me but not a £40 playstation game!! I was struggling too. Sensory overload, a bit depressed and most definitely burnout.
This particular shopping trip wasn't memorable because of his behaviour or how I was feeling, it was the words of another shopper that sticks out. Firstly because of what she said, and secondly because I never replied to her.
She had seen my son's behaviour as they were in almost every aisle we were in, saw how I was trying to work with him, finish shopping and get out of there. I think my face must have said it all.
She was standing beside me and said "just be grateful your son isn't like my grandson" and pointed to a child of around the same age in a wheelchair.
I was taken aback, shocked. I couldn't even reply to her.
She had been watching us and saw a child who appeared to be normal (whatever normal is), misbehaving and his mother struggling to deal with it.
I remember being quite angry as I processed what she had said. She had no idea what we were dealing with. She made an assumption based on what she saw.
I remember thinking that, in a way, they were more fortunate because people could see the disability, there was probably more support out there for them. I know this may not have been the case given our health service but at the time it is what I thought.
What sits with me now is she was saying my child struggles more than your child. My child is disabled and yours is not. Consider yourself lucky. I think in her own way she was trying to make me feel better.
People often do this, they make a statement about someone else they know in the hope that you feel better. They've decided that their struggles are worse than yours. Over the years I've actually witnessed parents arguing with each other over whose child has it the worst, who has the most stress.
Since when did it become a competition?
What I've learnt is that struggles can vary from person to person in the same way that neurotypes differ from person to person, and in a world where there are many differences, comparisons and judgements don't help. Acceptance and empathy does.