We have always taken Joshua out and about with us; he is well travelled and that began when he was only a few weeks old, when we loaded up his pram with all his milk and nappies, and took him on the ferry to Holland for a holiday. He has been to the USA several times, to Center Parcs on holiday and to the theatre, so we have never shied away from giving him rich experiences as he has grown up. We had an incident yesterday, however which shook my confidence, now that he is stronger, larger, cheekier and quicker than he once was:
All three of us had gone into our home town to do some errands and as Joshua has rejected his wheelchair of late, he was walking between us. We had walked either side of him to the chemist to collect his prescription and to the pet shop to buy new collars for the puppies and all had gone well. My husband had nipped into a third shop and I had agreed to meet him in the cafe, so Joshua and I carried on alone, with me holding onto his immobile right hand, leaving his left hand free. We overtook a lady who was pushing an elderly man in a wheelchair and she had a frail man following her behind. Unfortunately, this old man was wearing a woolly bobble hat and Joshua has an aversion to hats on himself, but also on others. So, before I knew it, he was grabbing this old mans hat off his head. The man turned in shock and tried to hold onto his hat, but in so doing, he fell backwards onto his back on the pavement.
I was horrified and apologised of course and asked him how he was, but Joshua stood smiling at his game. The carer shouted at us both, she told that I needed to have better control of him when out in public. I apologised again and helped the elderly man to stand up, I saw that he could walk , as I feared that he might have broken a hip as he looked so frail. There was no more that I could do as I wanted to get Joshua away from them so I apologised again then took him next door to the cafe, where I sat down to recover as I was very shaken. I watched the party of three walk by and when my husband appeared, I told him what had happened and he went after them to explain and to add his apologies. He seemed to take forever, during which time Joshua was smiling and waving and trying to cheer me up, while I pondered what might have happened. I did not ask for the details of their conversation when my husband returned, only that the old man seemed to be OK and that she had asked how we cope with Joshua.
It is incidents like this one that would make me think twice about taking Joshua out on my own and might advise Yorkshire Grandma to do the same. We have insurance against public injuries but I know how bad I would feel if that man had been really hurt. But instead of hiding him away from the public, when he gets so much pleasure from interacting with people, we will just have to be more careful and alert to potential situations. – if I had hold of his good hand, this would not have arisen. I am not going to keep him a recluse as a result of this one incident and I began to ponder that the man was so frail that a puff of wind could have knocked him over and I am not sure, if she was there carer, that she should have been out 2:1 and that she had the right approach and understanding as a carer. I can only recall one other similar incident when he was much younger, when we were out shopping and a bored young Joshua kicked a dog and the owner shouted at him. On that occasion, I was surprised how quickly my husband bristled and leapt to the defence of his “disabled son”.
I told four people last night about it and interestingly, got four different reactions : one parent of an autistic boy was outraged by her response, one friend who teaches in SEN was defensive and protective of Joshua and cross at the carer’s reaction, a friend who offers respite for SEN children knew that I would be upset by the incident but knew that Joshua would not intend any harm and my sister was supportive of me, offering me support for the shock of the situation. But all four agreed that there was no malice or aggression in Joshua’s actions, they all understood that in his mind, this was a fun game. As he often falls over, he would not appreciate that this was a bigger deal for an elderly man who would not recover as quickly as he does. Luckily, although all of the adults involved were shaken, nobody thankfully came to any real harm this time and it is my responsibility to be more attentive, to try to ensure that nothing like it happens again.