A mom is leaving a therapy center with her 3-year-old son. He has autism and difficulties with transitions. The little boy is having a terrible meltdown; screaming, kicking, hitting, collapsing to the floor.

Exasperated, the mother manages to get him just outside the door of the waiting room. That’s where I saw her, on my way to throw a stinky diaper in the trash outside. I asked her if she needed help. She said please carry my bag since he won’t walk.

On the way to the car she tells me she can’t believe that everyone in the waiting room just sat there and stared. No one offered to help; not the parents, not the staff.

I’m no saint either. I actually thought twice about offering to help. Not that I didn’t care. But because I’ve been there and I just thought maybe she had it covered, maybe she didn’t want help because she’s so tired of needing help.

But how silly is that? How many of us have been in a similar situation where maybe we didn’t want help, but we needed it?

This was a therapy center – we all should have known better. Instead of staring, every person there should have been on their feet offering to do something.

And what if the same thing happened at a grocery store, what then? What do you do when you have no idea that the child having a “temper tantrum” might have autism or some other condition that makes noises, lights, transitions, or who knows what difficult to endure? What do you do when you see a parent struggling with a struggling child? Do you stare? Do you give a sympathetic glance? Or do you offer to help?

It’s easy to say, “Oh I’d help in a second.” I’m sure most people would say that. But when actually faced with the situation – what do you do?

One thought

  1. I personally panic in moments like that, as I think some portion of the population does. I panic frozen stiff and blank mind when there’s any emergency situation. A teacher collapsed at my son’s elementary school lunchtime cafeteria, having a seizure and bleeding pretty profusely on the ground from a head wound, in front of hundreds of kids. I was the only one who saw and because she collapsed so quickly to the ground, the kids, two feet away from her, didn’t see. I froze in total and complete panic. The only thing I could think to do was grab the lunch lady and hope she had a functioning non-panicked brain and could think of something to do. She ran and called 911. I couldn’t even think to do that. Then she said “run and get the nurse” … I thought “how obvious, why didn’t I think of that?” … it all worked out, but my dad who was a fireman/paramedic and brother who’s an ER nurse, they are different than me … they think MORE clearly in an emergency situation, and I’m grateful that there are people like that!!! Having said all that, I’m surprised there weren’t more heroes at a therapy center, of all places!!!

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