Many people walk around worrying what others think of them. They imagine that every person they walk past is secretly thinking of how weird they are. But if you have a family like mine, with a sibling that has special needs, people don’t hide their thinking about you. They look at you in unkind ways, whether it is a pitiful or snobby look. What’s worse is that they think it is acceptable! People with special needs are different. That’s the truth. But staring at people is unkind, no matter what the circumstances. I have two older brothers who are 15 and 16 years old, both with autism. I also have a little sister. One of my brothers has high-functioning autism, and the other has more low-functioning autism. My family often gets stared at because of one of my brothers. This is so common for me that I came up with a name for it – “the look.”
Sometimes people look at me and my family in a pitiful way. This is wrong because it makes me feel like my family is something to feel bad or embarrassed about, even though I know it is not. Looks happen most often in public places like zoos, restaurants, and airports. People feel bad when this look is directed at them because they think people feel sorry for them. It is not a bad thing to have someone with special needs in your family. In other words, it is not bad for your family to be different. Sure, dealing with a special needs family member can be challenging, but it is surely not bad. In fact, for me it sort of shapes my life and makes me a more kind and thoughtful person. You should never act or look sorry for a family of a person with special needs because it is not something to feel sorry for. Although you may think it is not mean, all it does is put those people down for no good reason.
Often times people with special needs can be loud. This can cause commotions in public places, and if you are near the commotion, it is just a reflex to look over to see what is going on. That is okay for you to do. What is not okay is to frequently glance over at the commotion, thinking that you are not seen. That’s because the thing is, this look is pretty obvious. Although it may be hard, it is very important to avoid making this look because it can be really stressful for the family. It can make them feel like they are disturbing people, and feel sorry when they really should not be. If people look this way at you, know that it is just a reflex. Never feel bad if your sibling with special needs is causing a commotion.
The look that I think is the most mean is a snobby or grossed out look. It is selfish for people to do because they often do this because they think of themselves as cooler and above the family. Everyone is equal, and acting like you are above someone or their family just because they are different is very unfair. Even worse, sometimes people will move away after making this look, as if special needs is like a disease. The people who make this look could not be more wrong. Different is not gross or uncool. Making people feel odd or out of place because their family is different is what is uncool. Acting disgusted at people with special needs alone is not fair, because most of the time they cannot help it. But it’s also unfair because it can make others feel bad for no good reason.
I used to let these looks get to me and make me feel bad, but now I realize that most people that make these looks don’t know that they might make somebody feel bad. Sometimes they may have good intentions. Now that you know that these looks are hurtful, don’t make them. People with special needs are not weird, gross, or uncool. They are just different, and that is okay.
This Siblings Flaunt has been published in partnership with the fabulously flaunting organization, Siblings with a Mission.