Thursday, December 29, 2011

Andrew can hear...

As I was thinking back on our Christmas gatherings I can't help but think about them through Andrew's eyes.  We were attending one small gathering of just extended 'immediate' family and I can't help but think of how Andrew was treated so differently from the other neurotypical grandchildren in the family.  Andrew was referred to in the third person.  One family member kept telling me, "He's so cute.  He's so sweet," all while he was right beside of me. All the while Andrew was smiling at her and playing peek a boo around my shoulder to get her attention.  He was never acknowledged.  They could have reciprocated with a smile back to him and could have said, "YOU'RE so sweet and cute,"  or even played the little game back to him, then they would've have received a cute laughter from him.    Instead, they chose to just speak to me and referred to him as if he couldn't even hear.   Just because he can't speak back to you in words doesn't mean he can't hear and doesn't know what's going on. 

He was never talked to about Christmas like the other children.  Joy was not shared with him in laughter like the other children.  It was almost like he wasn't there or they were afraid they might catch something from him.  He loves to cuddle, has a beautiful smile, a laugh that would bring joy to anyone, and enjoys the excitement of others.  He was never touched (except by me), given any type of affection, or spoken to by other family.  He was never met with, "Hey, Andrew; How are you doing?  Are you excited about Christmas?"  As I met each family member he was never addressed nor did they even ask me how he was doing.  This behavior continued the entire visit.

 I went and stayed out of obligation.  Unless things drastically change over the next year, I don't think we will be attending next year's gathering.  It is not fair to put Andrew in this environment and allow him to be treated this way.  He is not less of a person than anyone else.  Andrew and I did leave a little early because he was tired.  However, he was awake when we left and as I was trying to be nice and tell everyone "bye" and had Andrew attempt the same, no one spoke to him directly other than "bye."  If it had been one of the other children, they would have said things like, "Go get some sleep, Santa comes tonight!" or even, "I hope Santa is good to you."  Nothing along these lines were ever uttered to Andrew.  I don't know if they are thinking, "Well he can't speak to me, so I'm not talking to him."  He didn't even receive a rub or pat on the back.  Andrew can hear, has a desire for affection, and has feelings too.

 I'm sure he couldn't wait to get out of there.  At one point he was upset due to all of the commotion going on in a small room.  I walked out of the room with him and he was reaching for the door.  I picked him up and he was actually reaching towards our car and fussing.  I can't help but wonder if he was trying to tell me that he wanted to leave.  I felt the same way.  I know if I felt like an unwelcome outsider, I can imagine how he must have felt.

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