I have been talking a lot about kids lately and how they perceive and interact with Eddie. It seems when grown-ups are uncomfortable, or thrown off guard by Eddie, other children seem to step right up to the task. Adults often talk around him or misinterpret his behavior, or sometimes even ignore him. Kids won’t be bothered by all that nonsense and simply accept Eddie.
I think adults that are unfamiliar with special needs children struggle with many emotions when it comes to kids like Eddie. They want to interact, but aren’t sure how. They want to talk to him just like any other kid, but don’t know how he’ll react. With Eddie, many questions are left unanswered and conversations are left one-sided. Those of us that are used to it keep on talking anyway and ignore the silence or echolalia coming from our blind, autistic six-year-old. We keep on talking because every once in a while we do get an appropriate response, and that is simply awesome.
The other thing that many adults worry about is offending the parents by not acting “the right way”. I want to tell everybody that there is no “right way.” We piece our relationship with Eddie together day-by-day and expect nothing else from others. Eddie is complicated, and so are the millions of children around the world with special needs. My advice it to talk to him like he’s a kid and let him respond in his own way. He may not answer your questions, but by recognizing him you are showing him affection that he needs, just like everybody else.
I thought about this while I was reliving an interaction I had with one of Eddie’s classmates yesterday. I knew he was in Eddie’s Kindergarten class so I told him I was “Eddie’s mom.” He said, “Really? Eddie is nice.” I had never heard Eddie described as that before. I know that Eddie doesn’t show enough empathy yet or understanding of social interactions to really be “nice,” but this 5-year-old didn’t care. To him, Eddie was “nice.” How cool is that?
In reality, Eddie is definitely nice. It is amazingly “nice” to have him in our family and interacting with him daily is a “nice” addition to everything I do. He also has a “nice” way of making me a better mother and a better teacher. Kids are great for pointing out the not-so-obvious to us adults that must interpret everything in the literal sense. I can’t wait to learn more from the peers in Eddie’s school and I can’t wait for him to be able to cultivate all these wonderful little friendships.