You know how you feel if you see a sign while you’re driving that says, “DANGER AHEAD!!” Well, it’s not like we see those signs often, if ever, but in my life with our autistic Aaron there are most definitely sure pointers to a certain danger lying ahead of us.
Take, for instance…masks.
I knew when this COVID issue was ramping up and masks were becoming suggested…strongly suggested…then required…
Well, I knew we were probably in for a rough road ahead with Aaron.
Aaron…who would come home from school at a very young age with holes torn in his shirt because he had angrily ripped the tag out. The tag irritated him and so I learned to cut tags out of each of his shirts.
Aaron…who furiously rebelled at wearing jeans when he was young because he only wanted “soft pants.”
I could go on, but you understand. And so do many of my special-needs friends and other parents I don’t even know who are facing this mask dilemma with their tactically sensitive children…young or adult.
Aaron and I pulled into our Aldi parking lot when I decided to have him wear a mask for the first time. Actually, I had been plotting this day for awhile. I took Aaron for a nice walk nearby at Nellie’s Pond. We sat on a bench and watched a family of ducks. We watched people fishing. We watched geese munching on grass nearby. We were relaxed and happy. A perfect time to broach the irritating subject of…MASKS!!
And to break the news to Aaron that on this day…in just a few minutes…he would be wearing a mask and I would be wearing a mask when we went to Aldi.
I helped Aaron with his mask before we exited the van. He was not too happy, to say the least, but he did keep it on. We hadn’t even opened our doors yet but I was telling myself, “So far, so good!! The mask is ON his face!!”
“Okay!!” I happily exclaimed as we met at the back of the van and I took out my shopping bags. “Let’s go shopping!”
We had taken only a few steps when…
“This is all TRUMP’S fault!!” Aaron angrily responded.
For some strange reason, since the virus first became an issue, Aaron had an issue with Trump. He blamed the virus and the disruption in his personal life on Trump. Who knows why?!
“Aaron,” I reprimanded firmly, “stop saying that! Do NOT say that in the store!”
Aaron was quiet as we walked inside. As he looked at some cookies, he made a comment about them and then stopped mid-sentence.
“My VOICE sounds funny!!” he blurted out.
“Then just don’t talk, Aaron,” I replied with impatience. I walked away and Aaron followed, with me dreading what the next outburst might be. I just wanted to hurry and be done with our shopping. When Aaron gets upset like this, there is no pleasing him. No pep talks. No consolations. No smiles (he couldn’t see them under my mask anyway!!).
Really, nothing helps but to end the misery and I was determined to not give him an easy out.
Through the rest of the store he pointed out people who weren’t wearing masks. I glared at him with my best glare!
He complained about being uncomfortable. He said his ears hurt. And the second we stepped up to the register line, he was done. Off came the mask!
All in all, though, I thought it went pretty well. Trust me. It could have been FAR worse!
The following weeks have seen progress with Aaron and his mask. Look at him here at his doctor visit in June!
But there was a big hurdle ahead…one I really dreaded.
Going back to his day group, Paradigm.
Masks were being required there, although his wonderful staff said they all understood that not only Aaron but several of the clients might have serious issues with wearing a mask all day.
His first day back last week started out a little rough. I walked in with him and my heart sank as he at first refused the hand sanitizer, and emphatically said NO each time he was reminded to wear his mask. I left there and drove home with a very heavy heart. But later, after he ate, he was told to look around at how everybody else had on a mask. So he put his on and has done well every day since.
I was talking with some of the staff later in the week. They are amazed at the resilience and adaptability from these special-needs adults. They have so many challenges already on many various levels, yet there they are in their day group…happy, chatting together, eating, laughing, not able to go out in the community right now, some sitting in wheel chairs, struggling with all sorts of health issues and other problems…and they’re wearing their masks.
They’re not arguing about whether masks do a good job. They’re not talking about conspiracy theories. They’re not reading the latest media stories or listening to all the debates. They just know that they are, at this point, required to add one more uncomfortable thing to their already uncomfortable lives…so they do it.
They just do it.
Sometimes I wonder if our special-needs ones, full of so much discomfort already, have an easier time adapting to just one more discomfort than do we.
We…who are acting a bit spoiled, I might add.
I have ONE thing that’s irritating to me on most days. A mask.
I don’t have the myriad issues that Aaron and his friends at his day group have.
Then why am I the one that is quick to complain?
I am humbled, once again, at our wonderful special-needs population…many of whom were unable to be with their families for weeks as they were in lockdown in their group homes.
I am humbled by the parents of our special-needs angels…parents who are exhausted and worried and have yet one more huge concern to add to their already full plates.
So let’s follow their example and just do what needs to be done right now, thanking God for each day and not letting our little inconvenience of wearing a mask turn us into absolute grouches.
Smile along with Aaron, everyone!