Last weekend our new neighborhood had a block party. We were really excited about this event because we've heard such wonderful things about our neighbors, but only have met a few.
When we attend group events like this, and bring Sadie, I am always a little nervous as to how people will react. I worry that they'll be afraid of us, or be intimidated by us, or the worst...feel sorry for us. So, I always dress Sadie up really cute, make sure her hair is fixed and that her face is clean. I mean, Sadie is for sure a "looker" so I want people to see how cute she is FIRST, and her disability SECOND.
We walked to the end of the street filled both with excitement and nervousness...at least I was.
But people were SO NICE.
There was a karaoke machine and people were singing and it was loud where we were standing, so I moved Sadie over to the lawn area and just parked her there. There was an older man (everybody was older) sitting at a table over there, and I could see her, so I just left her there. And I watched her. And people who had met her when we were standing in front of the speakers, or who I'd met and pointed her out to, went over and were talking to her, touching her head, rubbing her legs, etc. It was really sweet to see.
Nobody was afraid of her. Nobody was intimidated. Nobody was obviously keeping a distance from her or from us. Everybody was just super nice.
So, on Monday, I walked down the street and knocked on the door of one mom I met who has a 2 year old and a baby and asked if they want to go to the park with us. Sadie spent a long time on the swings and had a really good time. And I made a new friend.
But the most amazing part of this whole story is that my new friend invited us to a community Easter Egg hunt tomorrow morning!! We're not going, because Sadie can't find eggs, and even if she could, I'm sure she can't have what's inside of them. But, the fact that this woman didn't even think of that and just invited us like we were a normal family with a normal kid who would want to hunt Easter Eggs really made me happy.
I feel like this whole experience reflects a cultural shift. When I was younger I didn't know about special needs kids, I'm not sure I was around them enough to be aware. I remember staring. I remember being afraid to ask questions. I remember they weren't at my parties and in my classes and at the playground. Were they hidden? Or were there just fewer of them? But now days it seems like special needs kids are everywhere. I mean, autism diagnoses are booming, medical technology is so amazing that it is saving the lives of babies born at 20-something weeks, and, because of the internet and facebook, we are learning more and more about different families with special needs kids. We are speaking out against the word "retarded" and adapting equipment and activities so that everyone can participate.
I am proud of my new neighborhood and the acceptance they showed us last weekend. And I love that Sadie was seen as a 2-year-old, not a disabled 2-year-old who can't do anything. I think we're really going to like it here.
So, tell me...have you had an experience like mine? Where your kid was accepted as a kid and not as a special needs kid? Did you recognize it when this happened or were you like, "we don't treat him/her any differently at home so we don't expect anybody else to either"? How did you react?