How it all started....
Eli’s social skills are very poor so his interaction with others can be a little weird. He can get too close to people, he can grab their food or he can scream like nobody else is around, everything is possible. Some people may stare at him or may say mean things to him or us. As soon as I explain that my son has a disability their interaction changes. They are more compassionate and kind. I understood that people were reacting like that because they were not aware of Eli’s disability and they just didn’t know any better.
The tipping point to start this project was a particular day at a playground. My middle child, Eitan, was looking after Eli in one of the games. Suddenly Eitan comes to me with Eli. Eitan’s face was pale. He looked very confused and kind of scared. He started to tell me that a man told Eli: “if you keep touching my daughter, I will slap your face". I immediately understood that maybe Eli, with the intention of playing and connecting with this little girl, was actually bothering her.
While I was explaining to Eitan that Eli’s disability is hard to see, so some people may think that he is just being annoying or misbehaving, I see a man approaching us. I was all ready to put on my "I'm sorry" face and anticipating my apology speech and explanation about Eli's disability. But to my surprise, this time was different. This man hugged Eli and started telling him with tears in his eyes “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry” This man couldn’t look at me. He was deeply embarrassed, but here he was: apologizing to my son with tears.
I was in shock. I didn’t expect a reaction like that. I had NEVER experienced a reaction like his. I just wanted to cry.
This everyday journey would be much easier if people were more educated, understanding, and inclusive. And this man had just given me that final push I needed to embark on this journey with our community.
Parents with special needs kids have to face a lot of challenges. But when people understand that these kids have disabilities, their behavior towards the children is different. After this event, I knew I wanted to educate people about invisible disabilities, to make us all more aware, to invite us to think twice before reacting or judging someone who is behaving differently.
“It’s easy to judge. It’s more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.” - Doe Zantamata