Playing the Disability Card

I have had a hard time asking for “special treatment” for my son, Eddie. I firmly believe that we should push our children to be treated like other children whenever possible. To get equal treatment, we need to have equal expectations. For example, if I want Eddie to be treated like everyone else in a movie, he needs to sit quietly. If he is throwing a tantrum, or crying, or making a lot of noise, I don’t expect equal treatment. Instead, I expect angry spectators. (This is why we don’t go to movies yet.)

Whenever we are out in public, I ask the same thing of Eddie as I do my other kids. He’s expected to behave, to speak when spoken to, and all the other basics of a polite society. If there is a line, he’s expected to wait in it, just like everybody else. I don’t want special treatment, because he also has to learn patience.

This weekend, I stepped off my soap box and asked others to give Eddie special treatment. I played the disability card, which I absolutely hate admitting. We had taken all the kids to an indoor water park, with lots of slides, fountains, and water. Eddie was having an absolute blast playing in the water and going down the “kiddy” slides. However, there was one slide I really wanted him to try.

This particular park had a large family ride that allowed us all to get into a giant inner tube and go down a great, big slide together. I knew Eddie would love it. I knew that we’d all enjoy a family activity. What I didn’t know was how to get Eddie up the 5+ flights of stairs. I also knew we had to try.

So, we made it up two flights before Eddie started crying, pinching, and screaming. Not only was it hard physical work, but we were stopped in line…waiting. There were people in front of us. There were people behind us. We’d be like this for at least fifteen minutes, and the claw marks were growing on my back.

My husband and I made a quick decision to ask to “cut” the line. We approached every family separately, while Eddie was in his Dad’s arms crying. I quickly said, “My son is disabled, and we’d really like him to try this ride once. Can we please cut ahead?” I had to state those same words over a dozen times. Every time, I was embarrassed, and ashamed to ask for special treatment.

By the time we reached the top, we only had one family look at us like, “Are you kidding?” Truthfully, that really hurt my feelings, because I didn’t want to ask for special treatment. I’d much rather Eddie waited patiently in that line like all the other children. But also like the other children, I wanted him to have fun.

For a blind child, I can’t think of anything greater than zipping down a swift tunnel in a giant tube with your two favorite parents by your side. Those twenty to thirty seconds of joy, followed by the world’s biggest smile, made our card-playing entirely worth it. Now, I can climb back up on my soap box, and require that he wait in line for lunch…just like everybody else.