Stranger ain’t ALWAYS danger…

Before Ethan’s diagnosis, there were plenty of other diagnoses…Sensory Processing Disorder was the most recent one, in the run up to Christmas 2007.

It was Christmas week. The atmosphere in our City of Galway was magical. The boys were anticipating the arrival of Mr C himself.

“Let’s just take the lads into town for an hour, soak up some of that atmosphere”D suggested, as the cold winter winds shook our leafless hedges. “Maybe.”I pondered as I watched Ethan and J, each flicking through a ‘Smyths’ catalogue.
“Why don’t we just go as far as Smyths?”, I nodded towards the two boys. “ ’Suppose it can’t be that busy” D reasoned.

We had finished ‘the’ shopping, weeks before and assumed most parents would have too!
“6pm, ah why not. Let’s get these kids super excited” D laughed as he grabbed their coats.
Neither of our boys have ever needed motivation to get excited but there is something about Christmas…so we bundled ourselves up and faced the dark wintery evening.

“Oh sugar D. It looks quiet busy” I glanced around the busy carpark. “Yippee” J roared with excitement. Ethan was yelping in his seat “Santee IT’S TRISSMASS” followed quickly by his infamous, “WHOO HOO”. We both laughed. “We’ll go in for five minutes, if it’s shit crazy, we will just leave” D patted my leg as he opened the car door.

If you ever have a spare half hour on the 23rd of December, I beg you, visit a toy shop(without the kids!) You will never see panic like that…pure unapologetic panic…fully grown adults shoving and grabbing…rushing and shouting.

Hindsight –that’s when we should have turned and left. We had our giggle. There really was no need to actually step into the madness…but as always J had a different idea.

“ ‘Piderman daddy pwease, ‘PIDERMAN. ‘OH PIDERMAN” J was on the verge of a toddler tantrum. Ethan was screeching from the top of his lungs “WHOO HOO”. “Ethan seems ok. Do you want to go to the teddies and I’ll bring J to look at Spiderman, meet ya back here in five” D scooped J up.

“Come on buddy, let’s see Mickey Mouse” I held Ethan’s hand and braced myself. The crowd was dense at the top of the teddy isle, of course it would have to be. I sighed.

I felt my heart race as Ethan began to wriggle, trying hard to break from my grip. I held tighter. Pushing my way through a group of arguing parents, I had decided mid-way through, this was NOT a good idea. I swiftly changed direction…suddenly Ethan’s hand jerked. He was gone.

I pushed harder through the crowd. My heart was skipping beats.”ETHAN” I roared as my eyes began to well up. The crowd suddenly grew quiet. “ETHAN” I screamed. “We’ll find him” I heard a few say. “Close the doors” someone else shouted. I hadn’t the time to thank any of them. D ran towards me, J up in his arms. “What the..”

“Over here” a woman motioned for me to go towards her.

And there he was. Under the escalator rocking himself back and fourth, his chubby hands covering his ears, his eyes shut tight. Squashed beside him, was a grown man, in a security uniform, humming gently and rocking; slightly slower than Ethan. We didn’t interrupt.

I felt my heart rate slow down as other shoppers where nodding and smiling at me. We waited by the escalator, unsure of what to do.

The man slowly got up, all 6ft of him. I thanked him for keeping my baby safe. “My son has Autism, I get it”, he winked. “Little man, will be fine in a minute” he shook D’s hand while nodding at me.

Another diagnosis… this time though, made by a wonderful caring special needs daddy, who was, in that moment in time…an angel.

For ALL the diagnoses Ethan had(up to that point); made by all kinds of Doctors and Specialists, this was the only correct diagnosis—a diagnosis made by another parent, who was working on a busy December evening in a toy store.

Thank you kind Sir. Thank you.


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