This isn't a post about running. Nope, I do more than just run. I, umm... yeah, there will be more on that list. Just give me a minute.
All those that know me, also know that I am a Mamma to an exceptional kid. An Autistically gifted exceptional kid. Its not a path for the faint-hearted and is in essence a battle against the world in education and tolerance. The education of the masses and your tolerance of idiots.
In Canada, I was pretty used to the stares and mutterings of other parents. When my kid had a fit at a child who pushed in line, it was my kid who had the problem and not the golden 'typical' brat. I have had to remove my child on a number of occasions from a situation because children couldn't deal with my son and the parents were unwilling to be educated. No-one made life easier for you and you just had to accept that this was your deal. You were an outcast from the school gate -- never to mingle with the 'School run hoards'.
This was my standard. I accepted that this would be my life now. Moving to the UK would be no different.
How wrong I was.
Over the last couple of months, I have been overwhelmed by the actions of people who have gone out of their way to make my life easier. These aren't the usual suspects, but just people I have run into doing the normal errands that life throws at you.
Like the customer service lady I spoke to about a prang someone did on my car in a car park (and then left without providing details). It was just before the school summer vacation and I had to leave it. I couldn't risk the car being out of action for weeks whilst D was home. I couldn't get a courtesy car to tide me over, because, well, D is Autistic. This is the boy who refused to get in the car for three days because we moved the car seat to the other back seat. This meant when I eventually called up to report the incident 8 weeks later, I should have been pretty much up the 'insurance creek without a policy paddle'. I explained the situation and tried to not sound to lame when I explained why it had taken so long. Not a problem. The agent even went out of her way to make things easier for me by contacting various people because she thought it might be tricky for me with D home so much. (D likes to start shouting as soon as I try to use the phone - hence why I use my ipad and mail SO much).
How about the bodyshop guy who organised the work to be done on my car? Again, I explained why it had taken so long to get the dent repaired and he organised a courtesy car that matched our car as much as possible so D wouldn't be affected so much. He also went out of his way to organise the paperwork so I didn't have to.
And the ride operators at the Kiddie amusement park. Again, I explained D was Autistic at the gate and we were given a pass to skip crowds, so D didn't have to wait. It wasn't explained very well, so we thought it meant an adult could wait in D's place in the ride line-up. We were so wrong. As the operator of one ride (who also had Autism) clarified. He actually had a moan at me for not using the pass properly and made D wait longer than he needed to. Yep, he was upset at me because he couldn't be MORE helpful to us. Every time we used the pass, we apologised to the operators for using it. We felt wrong queue jumping and didn't want to cause trouble. The parks attitude? Go ahead - people will stare at you and your kid enough in life. Ignore them and use all the help you can get.
I am not even going to get into all of the other parents, grandparents, shop assistants and strangers, who haven't glared at me when D was playing up. They just nodded at me as if to say, "We can see he has Autism, it's fine". Even when D's disability was clear in his behaviour in Canada, I never had that amount of acceptance.
There is an idea that mental health issues are still stigmatised in the UK. A case of 'Stiff upper lip; we don't discuss it'. That the British feel uncomfortable seeing and dealing with anyone who has a mental disability -- as if they would prefer them to be hidden in the attic. That perhaps the 'New World' is more enlightened and accepting. Canada prides itself on it's inclusion of differing nationalities, cultures and beliefs. When you think of Canada, you imagine a polite society where everyone -no matter who they are- are dealt with respect.
Yet, moving here, I am overwhelmed by the general acceptance of D and his Autism. IF I have to mention his disability at all, I don't receive pity and a need to explain, but just a small nod of the head and small little acts of help that are freely given. This attitude free's my heart.
Small acts of acceptance are worth more to me than a plethora of pity.
(And before I get flamed with all the exceptions to the rules, let me clarify. Yes, there are intolerant, uneducated arses in the UK who find Mental Health issues repulsive. There are also a number of tolerant, accepting people in Canada. I am talking about my general experience and frankly I would rather be under the illusion that there are more tolerant and accepting people out in the world, than the uneducated arses. So, just be kind and don't burst my bubble too much!) :)