Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Squeal Together



"Why is he acting that way?" asked the 8 year old boy sitting in front of me on the swings. He was speaking of Caden, seated behind me. We had just finished one turn on the ride and since there was no line, the ride operator had offered us all another go. This young boy could hear Caden squealing with joy while Frank and I couldn't stop laughing at his glee during that first ride. The boy had actually moved seats to be closer to us after that, explaining, "Whenever I see such happy faces, I can't resist!" But now he was getting a better look at Caden and was curious. I looked over my shoulder at my son and saw nothing but excitement.

"Because he's happy," I answered, thinking it should be pretty obvious. The little boy watched and pondered Caden some more as he babbled away in his unclear speech and made nonsensical sounds of delight.

"Does he have braces?" he guessed.

"No braces - yet," I replied ."But he did have ten teeth pulled earlier this year. Are you seeing the gaps in his smile?"

"No. I thought maybe that's why he couldn't talk. Because he has braces."

I typically explain to children that Caden has low muscle tone so speech is difficult for him but he can use sign language and his iPad to communicate. This is usually pretty interesting to other kids, even giving my boy a cool factor. But I was so humored by this boy's idea that people who get braces can't talk that I couldn't go into teachable moment mode. No matter. The new friend had moved on and was asking us if we were going to ride again, even though we were still waiting for our current turn to begin. Once we got going, he echoed Caden's squeals and commented on how much more fun the ride was while doing that. He spent the majority of the ride nearly turned backwards to watch Caden and share in our happiness.

To me, this is life with a disability in a nutshell. Other people notice differences. It's only human. Sometimes they stare, sometimes they ask questions and sometimes they do both. Part of sharing Caden with the world means embracing this natural reaction to help others understand. But then we move on. We focus on what we share in common and how we are alike. We learn from the differences but we revel in our similarities. Then it's easy to be in a happy place and squeal together.

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