It is a question we face often: Do we tell people about my son’s disability? I see the looks we get when he has an episode. People stare with disbelief that we let our son behave this way. We should teach him better, the looks seem to say.
But, if we tell people what his problems are, it can seem like we expect them to treat him differently. And what benefit would that have for him in the long run? After all, he can’t wear a sign when he’s older that says, “You have to put up with anything I do because I’m disabled.”
So, as he grows older, we pick and choose whom we share the details with. His teachers know. Our close friends and the parents of his playmates all know too, just in case. We are, among other things, trying to teach him to function in the world he lives in instead of making the world use different rules for him.
Now, we are debating if we tell his baseball coach. He is functioning well, with a sprinkle of quirkiness, in practices and games. His teammates seem to instinctively know he needs a bit more chatter on the field from them to stay focused and play his best. But, his coach occasionally sets him off and we can see the frustration from both.
Last night, the coach told him to join another boy fielding at second during a pre-game drill. My linear-thinking, rule-abiding son was caught like one of Asimov’s robots between conflicting commands. Coach said to go to second, you can’t have two players in the same position, coach said go to second, you can’t have…
In the end, his coach prevailed by yelling to him to just do what he was told. It may seem harsh, but my son came out of that situation smiling and had one of his best games ever. If we tell the coach about the disabilities, would he be more likely to be lenient with our son or, even worse, expect less from him? If that happened, I believe he would miss the best lessons that little league baseball has to offer.
So, no, we are not telling people about his disabilities. And, we are not making excuses for people to just put up with any unusual behavior. In exchange, we would appreciate a little less staring and a little more benefit-of-the-doubt.