By Guest Blogger Christina Holder

It’s official. It’s hand-sanitizer season. I mean, every season is hand-sanitizer season, but I buy it in bulk November through April. My kids are always catching something. For instance my youngest has RSV as I sit and write this!

If your not familiar with my story I have three kids. My 13-year-old step daughter, my 7-year-old daughter who has autism, and my 3-year-old daughter who has sensory processing disorder and will be evaluated for autism in August.

My house is never dull, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my children – through their struggles and their challenges and their accomplishments big and small. One particular challenge is a doctor trip. I prepare days in advance by telling them what’s coming and what’s going to happen. As well as packing crayons, coloring books, and stuffed animals.

One thing I’m never prepared for, though, are the looks and comments from other people, including doctors and nurses. I am well aware that not everyone has to have three nurses hold their child down for a simple flu shot, or to swab their throat for strep. I am also aware that not everyone understands that even though my children look “normal” they are not. Which is fine by me because their differences are what allow them to be so creative, loving and non-judgmental.

It is somewhat expected to get the occasional glance or snide remark at the grocery store if my kids are struggling with the bright lights or the loud noises and are acting out. Not everyone is aware and educated on invisible Illnesses and disabilities. However, the doctor’s office should be a more understanding accommodating place for children with special needs.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part it is, but there seems to be occasional side glances or shaking of the head or “oh she just needs discipline and structure, she’ll grow out of it.” This is simply not true. I know that that there are plenty of doctors who specialize in children with special needs, but when you live in a small town like I do, those doctor offices are often hours away. While both of my children do see certain specialists for different issues they have, they all see the same small town pediatrician who my older step daughter sees, and who a lot of children in our town, and surrounding towns, see. I love our pediatrician. She is kind and understanding, but I could see a few areas where things could change to make the visits for mamas and dads of special needs children easier and less stressful.

I sit here and write this to raise awareness of the invisible disabilities. I do this for my children and all the other children and adults out there who get the disapproving stares or unsolicited advice on how to “handle” our children. I feel that awareness needs to be raised in all settings, doctors offices included. Going to the doctor is stressful enough. When adding in a child with special needs, it would be helpful to have dimmer lights, fidget toys, and for all employees to be educated on illnesses and disorders that affect behavior and comprehension. It is mandatory for places to be wheelchair accessible which I fully support. But what about the people with sensory disorders, including autism, ADHD, and sensory processing disorder? These kids could truly benefit from some minor adjustments to make their visit a little less scary and stressful.

So next time you see someone struggling, let’s not just assume they have bad behavior or their parents aren’t doing enough. Let’s have some empathy and compassion for them. Even if they aren’t struggling with an invisible illness, is it really our place to judge?

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