The last time it happened we were at the apple orchard. My daughter, a teen with a disability called FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), hopped on the train trolley and sat on the opposite side of the train away from me. She was in a prickly, anxious mood and clearly didn’t want to be near me.
That’s all fine and good, but COVID protocols had been mentioned verbally, once, by the train conductor. And he said each family should sit together. The train car was open on the way back and she sat across from me instead. Part of her brain-based disability is memory impairment, and another part is processing speed. She might hear something one minute and literally have forgotten it within the next 15 minutes, or she could still be thinking about what she heard three to four minutes after that.
Sometimes I like to say my daughter needs a translator. It’s the nature of her disability. The older she gets, the less she wants me around and that is part of the process of growing up. Anyway, for whatever reason, that day I missed her cue and forgot to translate. My daughter’s disability is mostly invisible, which comes with some challenges when interacting in the community.
People see her not do what they just said to do, and oftentimes, they react with hostility and rudeness. Frequently, her behaviour is not intentional.
But people don’t know that, because her disability is mostly invisible. There are no visual triggers that would show you she has a disability of any sort. Someone sees her sit and assumes she’s being defiant. They make a snappy comment in a louder tone, just as the conductor and a second employee both did that day.
In a split second, I caught her looking slightly embarrassed, eyes turned down to the ground. She moved back over to sit beside me as the train conductor and another employee both turned and rolled their eyes. I know this look too well. It’s a look that tells me you think she did it on purpose. Sometimes there’s a tiny snort or a dismissive grunt. I have seen and heard it so many other times. The one that says: just another rude defiant teenager or just another rude kid.