Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet Me in the Middle

People are funny, but not always in a humorous fashion. I’ve seen a lot of interesting reactions to Kiddo when it comes to his autism. There are two extremes: one that drives me up the wall, and another that makes my husband want to take up golfing just so he can club people.

My issue: the people who look at a child and assume that just because he/she is having a tantrum in public, he/she should be beaten into good behavior. Let’s break this down.

First, all children are going to have a bad day from time to time, and yes, they are going to do it in public. It’s inescapable. Kids are kids. Even the best behaved ones are going to melt down and become little terrors that make the parents want to crawl away and hide behind the 20-pound bags of dog food in the pet food aisle.


See how fast Daddy can run away!


Kids on the spectrum have it even worse. First of all, stores can be loud. There’s a lot to process visually. It can be overwhelming for an autistic kid to try and figure out everything going on around him. However, Kiddo’s sudden descent into wailing and screaming is no worse than any other child’s. It just happens more frequently. 


Full-on freak out in T-minus 3 seconds...

So I really don’t get it when adults, particularly ones with children of their own, give that disapproving look during a scream-a-thon. They level it at Kiddo and then at me, as if I’m some sort of criminal for not making my child behave better. As if I said, “Okay child of my loins and inheritor of the dystopia I plan to sow...when we get into the most crowded part of the store, make sure you lose your mind and shatter the unsuspecting public’s eardrums.”

Then you get the real winners of the bunch.


You touch my child, and YOU won’t walk for a week. It’s called defending my special needs kid.

I don’t care that my child looks neuro-typical and you can’t tell he’s on the spectrum. Just because you can’t see a disability doesn’t mean it’s not there. This is called compassion. YOU should try it.

Then there’s Hubs’ peeve: the overly sympathetic people who want to know all about our child. You know this type; they act concerned just to find out why the kid acts that way. 

This particular animal came out to sniff the air the last time Kiddo got his hair cut. It wore the distinctive camouflage of Nosy Old Lady. As we waited for my son’s turn in the barber’s chair, he sat on my lap. He chattered happily, though nonsensically, about whatever was playing in his head. The woman sitting two chairs away turned and sized him up. 

“Hello,” she said in syrupy sweet tones. “How old are you?” 

Kiddo was in his own little world, so I nudged him. This was, after all, an opportunity for him to practice interaction. It’s unwanted but useful, so I played along. “The lady wants to know how old you are.” 

After a little more prodding, he finally admitted to being eight. On the other side of me, Hubs’ lips are set in a tight line. 

Old Lady is really staring at Kiddo now. “What grade are you in?” 

Hubs is turning red. I ask the question a few more times, because my son is deep into his world and doesn’t want to be a part of this boring conversation. At last he sighs and says, “Second grade.”

Fortunately, the time has come for that haircut. The Inquisition is over.

However, Hubs is still seething afterward in the car. “I hate that. They know he’s different and keep doing their best to find out what’s going on. When you finally tell them ‘autism’ they light up like they just won a contest and say, “I knew it!”


Following Price is Right, win a new car on Guess That Disorder!

He’s right about such people. You’d think they’d just gotten their medical degree by figuring out Kiddo is on the spectrum.


Four out of five real doctors agree such people are asshats.

Look folks, it’s not that hard to deal with a special needs person. First of all, it’s not your place to judge anyone unless you’ve wield a gavel and wear a robe to work. Even then, you shouldn’t do your job outside the courtroom. If you can’t help but judge, keep it to yourself. If you still feel the urge to share your unwanted opinion, think of the kid (or his foul-tempered mother) as a big, strong guy who enjoys stomping others as a hobby. Ask yourself if you’d run your mouth at him.

This is my inner man. He will hurt you.

On the other side of the coin, don’t play like you really care about my child when all you want to do is satisfy your curiosity. I’m not grilling you on how old you are and what you want to be when you grow up (since maturity has still apparently not happened). Don’t interrogate my child in the hopes you can figure out why he’s talking gibberish at the moment. It’s rude.  

How does one treat others, particularly those with challenges? With the same respect you would want to be treated with. With the same sympathy you wish for when your kids or grandkids are having a trying moment in public. With the same regard you expect when you’re not at your best. With the compassion that should be there simply because we’re all in this together. 

See? Not so hard after all.

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