As an autism mom, I’ve heard it all…
When I finally decided to open up and share my son’s autism diagnosis with family and friends, I had many fears and concerns. I worried my son would be an outcast, that others would look at him differently. In all honesty, I wasn’t wrong.
I’ll admit, I kept my son at arms length from many, many people over the years. It’s only now that I’ve been bringing him around more often, allowing those I’ve shielded him from a window into our lives.
Having done so, I’ve made some observations about human nature. The stares. The incessant questions. The rude and beyond ignorant remarks.
Just like the tradition practiced on the fictional holiday, Festivus (shameless Seinfeld reference), I’m going to air out my grievances. Here are some of the most annoying things I’ve encountered as an autism parent.
People will stare at my son, likely because he’s jumping around or hand-flapping. These behaviours have a tendency to make some people uncomfortable and when they see me looking at them staring at my child, they are quick to avert their eyes or if they’re brave enough, offer an awkward smile. This irks me.
My first impulse is to say “do you want to take a picture, it will last longer!,” but I refrain from doing so — mainly because I don’t want to embarrass my husband, he would cringe. Instead, I put on my best bitch-face and stare them down until they’re so uncomfortable they have to walk away.
Question. Answer. Repeat.
Inquiring minds want to know and I’m happy to educate those who have a genuine curiosity about autism. Before I had my child, I knew absolutely nothing about the disorder, it wasn’t on my radar and it wasn’t something I ever thought would affect me personally.
What I don’t enjoy is having to explain autism to the rude and ignorant. I have spent countless hours schooling people on my son’s autism. Why? Because that’s the job a parent takes on when society is unaware, unaccepting, and uneducated on this very complex disorder. I have had to school my family, friends, waiters, flight staff, kids at the park, doctors, emergency room staff, hair stylists, and the list goes on. I am a walking, talking handbook on my son’s autism. I have to educate people as to why my son is doing something or why he isn’t doing something, and this happens more often than not. It’s exhausting.
Just once, I’d love to have an autism-free conversation. I’m more than just an autism mom. I can discuss many things such as current events, politics and pop culture. I love to talk about travel. I can recommend some great podcasts for your listening pleasure and I can chat at length about Game of Thrones. I can offer my friendship and support. Not everything has to revolve around autism. Some days I just need to turn it off.
Telling Me “My Kid Does That Too”
No, they don’t. Stop. Please, don’t compare your neurotypical kid to mine. I know you’re just trying to make me feel better or “normal,” but inside I secretly want to punch you in your ignorant face.
Your kid is a picky eater, my kid has sensory issues that literally make him gag and sometimes vomit at an offensive smell or texture. Your kid hates the dentist because, well, everyone hates the dentist. My kid has tremendous difficulty tolerating the extreme sensory overload that comes with a visit to the dentist. The overhead lights, the scraping of teeth with sharp tools and being told you “have to sit still and open very wide.” It’s enough to send my kid over the edge. So yeah, not the same.
I Know Someone Else with An Autistic Child
More often than not, nothing else is followed up to support that statement and it’s really annoying. Is this the only relatable thing you can say to me?? I truly don’t care if your neighbours daughters husbands brother is autistic. Great. I hope that person is doing well. Not sure what’s expected of me on this one.
Another one that really kills me is “I know this boy who’s 10 now and you’d never know he was autistic.” I know you mean well but your autism “success stories” are not helpful and aren’t what I need to hear.
I also can’t stand when someone asks “have you seen that movie with the autistic character? That guy was so smart and amazing!” Ummm…it’s fiction. How does that in any shape or form relate to my situation? Or “Do you watch (insert TV show with an autistic character here)? No. No, I don’t.
Where do I begin? Without writing a continuous sentence full of expletives, I will just say that this is probably the most offensive thing you can say to me, or any other parent to a child who has special needs.
Is this your indirect way of saying you feel sorry for me? Well, don’t. I don’t need pity or sympathy. I have a really awesome, beautiful and happy child, why are you sorry about that?
Another one that gets to me is when people tilt their head to one side, smile and say “he’s really sweet.” My mind decodes this as: “Your life must be really hard so this is my way of trying to be nice” It’s a verbal consolation prize. Just stop.
Can Autism be Detected In Utero?
I’m serious when I say someone I considered a good friend asked me this question. My response was “No.” Her reply was “if it was, I’d abort.”
We’re no longer friends.
So there it is, these are some of the top things that get under my skin as an autism mom. You’ve been warned.