Saturday, May 17, 2008

"He Has Autism. What's your excuse?"

I was trying to think of what I might write about as my second post here and the topic naturally presented itself when my husband took our Max to the supermarket this morning.

Max was in rare form this morning, chirping, peeping, and singing a medley of nursery rhyme songs. Most people are understanding and accepting of Max. The clerks at our local supermarket know him well and always greet him with a smiling hello. But there are always folks who do not understand autism nor are they accepting of people who appear and behave differently than the norm. And I hate to say this but the general population who has ever given us any trouble are usually the elderly crowd. Maybe it is because in their generation, these kids were hidden away, never to be seen or heard. Maybe it is because they lack patience. Maybe some are just nuts as I suspect this woman was.

So they are waiting for the food to be rung up and in the midst of my son's squeaks and tics, this elderly lady of about five feet tall bellows, "WHY ISN'T HE IN AN INSTITUTION?" Startled and then enraged, my husband reported that he bent down within inches of this troll's nose and told her to get some manners about how to treat a person who has autism. She refused to back down and began screaming it again. Finally she left the line with her noxious self to wait in another line.

Of course as my husband relayed the story, I was thinking of my own snappy come backs and the one comes prominently to mind, "He has autism! What is your excuse?" Seriously, there is no excuse for that sort of ranting. My son wasn't aggressive. He wasn't hurting her, offending her, or even holding her up. He was just doing his thing. Yes let's just lock everyone up who looks a little "strange". Better yet let's institutionalize all the mean hateful people in the world. I am sure they could all have fun together.

I thought back to the days when I was working in the field as an instructor for adults who had multiple disabilities. I had seen it all. Part of my job was to do community training with my clients. I had to handle situations where my client might become agitated, scream, cry, jump up and down, kick, giggle incessantly, bite their own skin, cuss, run, and even try to urinate publicly. The stares of the public didn't really bother me that much. I had a job to do and my client came first. I left all ego at the door. I was there to teach, not to worry about what we looked like in public. But boy does it feel different when it is your own kid. When people are cruel it hurts.

The fact of the matter is, not everyone is going to accept my child or his behaviors. I understand this. But if your behavior causes me or my child distress then there will be consequences. I will say something. There are times I may attempt to educate and there are times when I will just let you have it. If my child's only offense is appearing odd, I will never quietly accept rude behavior. The only consolation here is that Max was totally unbothered by the woman's rantings and he even giggled at her. It is both a curse and a blessing that Max doesn't give a rat's behind what people think of him. I am the one with the problem here.

As much as I don't like to admit it, I care. As much as I want to shrug it off, this type of does sting.


WherestheBox said...

I actually saw a shirt that had a similar expression on it at a conference and almost bought one for my son! I think this is the worst scenario - when someone does understand there is a disability but just doesn't care and doesn't think they should have to deal with seeing it in public. At least with people who are ignorant, they might respond to some education.

Mrs. C said...

Oh, my word. I'd be pretty close to becoming eligible for that institution called "prison" if somebody said that to me in the checkout line.

Hun, YOU are not the one with the problem. She is. Isn't it *interesting* how autism can show you who your true friends are? LOL I've discovered I have very few, but they are all refined (as gold in the fire!) and wonderful.

Judith said...

That's just awful! Bad karma for her ... :(

Emily, as some know me said...

Things like that make my high-pressure blood boil. I'd probably either have ignored her completely or said, "Why aren't you in one, you crazy old bat?" Sometimes, my mouth gets away from me.

We have the same blessing/curse with TH. He seems oblivious to insult from others (for the most part) and as his aide at school tells us, never seems to hold a grudge. And you don't have a problem; that whackjob old lady does. I think she'd have been like that in any generation.

LAA and Family said...

Wow, how insensitive! It's surprising that anyone even thinks like that anymore, let alone says something like that out loud. There has only been one incident of someone being rude because of my son's behavior. We have lots of understanding people in our town and at our church, places Samuel has cause plenty of scenese at over the years!

groovyteach said...

Oh man, did the tears roll when I read this. My daughter is 3 and already we get things said to us and it DOES hurt. I love my daughter so much it aches, and when someone is judging her, it absolutely feels like someone punched me in the gut. Thank you for starting this blog.