The other day I took The Boy down to Kaleidoscope in Lewisham. That's the name they've given to the Children's Centre here. Kaleidoscope. It's quite a nice name until you try to write it down or spell it.
Going into Kaleidoscope, chances are you'll know someone in there. Met them at an Occupational Therapy class or at some support group or another. On the whole I like meeting other parents. It's good to listen and share with those who know and understand. But here's the shocker. Some of them are tossers.
There's tossers the world over, but for some reason I thought this sacred group were exempt. But no, it turns out that proportionately it's the same as everyone else - a percentage of parents of children with special needs are tossers.
So when I sat down the other day in the garishly bright Kaleidoscope (we're so focused on the children, with our coloured windows), I spotted a woman and her son from a physiotherapy class. "Fancy seeing you here" I said joking. I'm ever so witty like that.
Then it started.
"We're never out of here. We might as well move in. This is the third time this month. They've never seen anyone like him..." she blurted out. And as her rant trailed off into the background I realised it was too late. I found myself unwittingly playing yet another game of Disability Top Trumps.
For the uninitiated, Disability Top Trumps is a game played by some parents who will try to outdo 'disabledness' on every level and turn it into a kind of a competition.
"Oh, your Jessica sleeps for 3 hours a night? Well... I'm lucky if James here manages an hour".
"It takes you 55 minutes to get ready for school each morning? That's nothing, we have to start getting ready the day before..."
"I'll take your feeding tube and I'll see it with epilepsy and challenging behaviour..."
Disability Top Trumps. I'm not sure why people do it. Or maybe I am. I recognise for some it's purely to vent their frustrations. But sometimes it seems to be more than that. We all want our children to be the the very best at things. We all want them to thrive and succeed. And when the realisation dawns that your child won't be the captain of the First XI, or soloist in the school orchestra, then some people have to find something that they will come top of. Even if that means becoming the best-at-being-disabled-kid ever.
I know this all sounds a bit harsh. And it probably says more about me and my inadequacies than about others. Maybe it comes about because sometimes I feel The Boy isn't disabled ENOUGH. Who am I to moan about my problems when other people have far worse to deal with? There's plenty who have been dealt a worse hand than me.
All I know is, I hate playing Disability Top Trumps. So if you're one of the ones who does it, please stop. I've had parents come up to me after the show and state that they feel like a fraud because "their child is only a bit autistic" or apologising because their children "aren't that bad".
This whole thing isn't a competition. Although it may well be just a game. A game that involves thousands and millions of people, each of them as unique as the next.
Just for once, can't everyone be a winner?
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.