Once upon a time, there was a lady who learned a lesson on the gangway of a cruise ship in The Bahamas about what disability looks like. Let's hope the lesson she learned that day stays with her for the rest of her life.
Our family took a three day cruise to The Bahamas to celebrate my husband's 40th birthday the weekend after Thanksgiving. On the second day, we stopped in Nassau, spending the day going on a shore excursion on a boat that allows you to see under the water, taking in the sights, shopping in the straw market, and dining on seafood and pina coladas. It was a very fun, but completely exhausting day.
As we were in line on the gangway to board the ship, the line stopped to allow some disabled passengers skip to the front of the line so they did not have to wait. One was in a wheelchair and the other had multiple sclerosis. It was obvious, just by looking at them, that waiting in line for an extended period of time would have been difficult for them.
There was only one woman ahead of our group when the forward progress temporarily stopped. JBird began asking my husband over and over why we had stopped and what was taking so long. As time ticked by, he began asking faster and faster, "Daddy, what's taking so long?", all the while my husband attempting to keep him calm.
Suddenly, the woman standing in front of them whipped around and said exasperatedly, "You know, there are people who are disabled and aren't able to wait in line to get on the ship! You are just going to have to be patient!" To which my husband replied, "Well he has Autism and (insert something probably far more diplomatic than I would have said)." Her eyes grew wide and it was apparent that she had an 'insert foot into mouth moment'.
Let's just say, it is probably best that it was my husband standing there at the time and that I was toward the back of our group and did not hear her exact words during the exchange. I am just not sure what would have come out of my mouth.
So, what do I hope she learned that day? Never assume that a kid is just being bratty or that their parent isn't properly parenting their child. Never assume that just because you cannot see someone's disability by the way they walk, talk, or look, that one does not exist.
This concludes the story of just another day in the life of spreading Autism Awareness.
And they lived happily ever after.