By Afroditi Arvanitou
Theo wanted to join a gym group with 20 other children. The parents of the younger kids were allowed to stay in case the kids needed them. I was not even though Theo has a developmental disorder and always needs some time to get used to a new environment. The teacher’s statement was: ‘’I have to take care of the other kids; I can’t take care of your child. Bring him to an organization that focuses on disabled children and no, you cannot stay here with him, he is too old!’’
The organization she was referring to offers only swim classes and apart from that I would like Theo to have some contact with ‘’normal’’ kids. When I tried to register him for dancing lessons they told me that they were not trained to deal with my child, that they don’t have time for someone like him and that he would bother the other children.
All Theo wants is to feel like he fits in. However, it is hard to feel this way when he sees very little representation in the society around him. When our society only strives towards achieving homogeneity. Kids call him stupid and make fun of the way he speaks.
Theo understands this and sometimes he cries and asks me why he is being treated like that. He might have a developmental disorder, but he is very sensitive towards his environment which includes people’s attitude towards him.
For me as a mother it is painful to see my child suffer. I also feel how people look at me. The other day my pregnant neighbour told me that she is expecting a girl and that her husband is sad because he wants to have a boy. She told him that he should be happy, at least he will have a healthy girl and not a sick boy like I have. I froze when she told me.
This summer though we had a very beautiful experience. We went to Greece and he made so many friends and everyone played with him; the kids just thought he speaks another language which they don’t understand as he is from abroad.
However, doing things with everyone and like everybody else is possible when you have a developmental disorder. Certain steps might have to be taken or measurements put in place, but it is possible.
Making our society more open to differences will benefit us all.
We need more allies in this. Theo and I cannot do this alone. We do not need people to stare at us, make fun of us or pity us. What my son has is not a tragedy but society makes it look like one.
Let us learn from each other and succeed together. My child will always have a developmental disorder, it will not go away but it is just a part of him; he is much more than that and he is waiting for us to enter his world and him to be allowed into ours.