29 March, 2006

I expect too much from people.

Last Friday evening, the hospital I work for had an employee event. The event was tickets to see our new home town ECHL hockey team in the brand new arena, truly a fun evening for everyone, or so I thought.

My son's, having never been to a hockey game, were understandably excited about this new experience. Of course, my wife and I didn't curtail their excitement much, being lovers of hockey. As with any activity, I had some concerns about how Connor would act, but I figured at a hockey game, everyone is out of their seats yelling and having fun, so no one would notice the silly kid flapping his hands.

Well, the evening started with a little bit of a challenge, as Connor became a little to excited and had an accident. This was unusual for him, and my wife and I were caught unprepared. Luckily, there happened to be a spare set of sweats in the car, so I was able to get things back on track rather quickly. Connor and I, having been separated from my wife and Aiden due to the accident, went into the arena and walked around a bit looking for our seats. After a little bit of back tracking, we discovered the right stair case and got where we needed to be.

Since my hospital had purchased the tickets, we were sitting with my co-workers to our sides and behind us. That made me feel at ease, since they were all aware of Connor's behaviors and would most certainly be understanding. My feeling of ease was lessened when I saw some people moving to take the seats in front of us.

As our new front neighbors took their seats, I saw what I felt was a good sign. The young man with them had Down Syndrome. To top it off, one of the ladies in the group had a T-shirt from a Special Olympics event. My heart was warmed. "How could we have been so lucky as to have a person who understands special needs in front of us?" I asked myself. Unfortunately, I expected far too much from them.

Even with the excitement of a hockey game, Connor found it rather difficult to sit still and started to kick the seat in front of him. Noticing it, I tried all I could to get him to stop, and finally moved him to a seat with an empty seat in front of him. The person in front was agitated at his kicking, so my hope was that by moving him, I would resolve any concerns. Unfortunately, Connor continued his seat kicking with the empty seat in front of him. The vibrations must have carried through the seats, as the second woman from the group asked that he stop. At that point, the first person decided to add her comments of how rude my son was and continued with a "what's his problem" comment.

I was disgusted. Sitting in front of me were two people who obviously had experience dealing with a special needs child. They, of all the people in the arena that evening, would be my first pick of people when looking for some understanding of the challenges of a child. I leaned between the two women and stated "I'm very sorry about the kicking, my son has Autism and it is very difficult for him to sit still in such an overwhelming crowd." The most boisterous of the two, the one wearing the Special Olympics shirt, rolled her eyes as if to say "what ever!" while the second stated "thank you" in a rather angry voice.

In conclusion, the three front neighbors finally decided to move to some empty seats a few rows ahead. As a parent of a special needs child and as someone who faces the same challenges myself, I try my best to be understanding of other people's challenges. I also tend to presume that someone in a similar situation would have the same understanding... but I guess I expect too much from people.


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