Another Saskatchewan mom with a disabled daughter wants people to stop shaming the mom in the Amber Alert case, because “it’s not as simple as people make it out to be.”
On Sunday night, North Battleford RCMP issued an Amber Alert for a six-year-old girl with epilepsy and autism after someone stole her family’s SUV from a parking lot when she was left in the backseat.
When Erin McLellan saw the Amber Alert on her phone from the Moose Jaw area, she was filled with terror.
“I can’t imagine what that mom felt, but just the fragileness of a special needs child just intensifies your emotions a thousand per cent because nothing is simple with them,” McLellan commented, noting that she couldn’t sleep thinking about the girl and her family.
Once the girl was found the next morning, McLellan knew the judgment and mom-shaming would follow quickly online. Strangers began asking when people will learn not to leave children alone in running vehicles, while some even went so far as to ask if she could be charged with neglect.
“It was only a matter of time, and it angered me,” McLellan said.
So she wrote a public Facebook post in response to put into perspective how a “quick errand” can become a huge ordeal for someone with a special needs child.
“Any mom who tells you they’ve never left their kid whether they’re typical or special needs in the car for two seconds to go pay for gas or whatever it may be is probably lying and if they haven’t done it they probably will at some point in their child’s life,” McLellan told 980 CJME in a phone interview.
“We live in a northern climate and it’s not always easy as people think to take your child out of the car for a quick run in and it’s even 1,000 per cent harder when you have a special needs child.”
McLellan’s own daughter suffers from seizures and she said it’s even more of a gamble to take her out of the house, knowing she could be putting her at risk of a seizure. When you factor special needs on top of medical fragility, she said it gets even harder because they can become a hazard to themselves.
“It is lugging a child that maybe isn’t having the best day out of an enormous special needs car seat. It’s taking their ridiculous amount of equipment with you. It carries that heavy six-year-old because they cannot walk or cannot walk safety. It’s trying to pay while your child gets overstimulated and starts to head bang you. Hard. It’s the stares. The whispers as your child shrieks the highest pitch shriek know to man. It’s trying to get them back into that car seat that is not made for easy access. Bending strong wilful limps all the while trying to avoid the biting, the head banging and the kicking,” McLellan wrote on Facebook.
McLellan said she sees both sides of the debate over leaving any child in a vehicle for a few minutes, but said this is not only about a matter of convenience for parents. In the end, she just feels for a fellow mother who wound up facing a terrifying ordeal based on one decision which she probably weighed more than people might expect.
“It’s not something that you want to do. I’m sure she would love her daughter to be able to skip and hop alongside her as she goes into a store as I would love my daughter to – but that’s not the reality of our lives, and that’s not the reality of their lives.”
For people who think this came down to a matter of convenience, McLellan argues it is far more complicated because there are risks involved no matter what you do.
“My whole post was just trying to help people see that we can’t judge her because we don’t know. And unless you’ve walked in her special needs shoes you have no idea what it is like,” McLellan commented.
Rather than shaming the parents, McLellan asks if those in the community who are quick to judge would be willing to stand with them and offer help.
“A friend coming and sitting in the car with me when I know that I have multiple stops to make and I would rather not drag my daughter out – is more meaningful to me than anything that anyone could ever say or do,” she commented.
She said it becomes a long and lonely road to raise a special needs child because while friends are quick to offer help in the beginning, eventually people expect you to get used to dealing with the challenge, but it’s not something you can just get used to.