Not a huge fan of John Quinones, not sure why exactly, but I have seen the show; particularly the one where there is a disruptive child with autism and you see how people respond. However, the question, what would you do, is a pretty fair one. One of my closest friends called me a few nights ago and asked if she could share a story of something she witnessed. I think it was partly to relay something somewhat traumatic but also to let me know it made her think of Bryan and me. This friend is very mushy and on the occasions she has been with Bryan she has been loving and warm. Consequently, he digs her. Ok I got off track. So the story goes like this: She has seen a woman and her preteen son with autism once or twice at the local pool. He can be somewhat loud and I guess the mom has offered up to the folks at the pool that he has autism and can say inappropriate things. So far, sounds pretty much like something many of us have had to contend with at one time or another. For me, most people can figure out something is off with Bryan, but because Bryan is so sweet and is always saying “I love you” he often gets a pass. Ok I am seriously having trouble staying on track. In any event, my friend and her friend went into a drug store. When they walked in they saw this boy on the floor completely melting down. The mom was hysterical and the kid was hysterical. Apparently the kid wanted a watch and the mom wasn’t getting him one and he had a fit. So my friend then relayed how people in the store responded, including herself. It was kind of mix between some folks wanting to help, some observing a sort of freak show, some horrified and some just ignoring the situation. My friend and I then had a long discussion about what should someone do in that situation. Should you mind your own business, should you try to help, should you call the authorities or a doctor? There is no clear cut way to approach this so I’m just going to relay some of my experiences and you can take from this what works best for you.
- Don’t get paralyzed. If you think you can help, offer it up, “hey do you need some help here?” If you need to watch or look, I get it, it’s a commotion and people want to see a commotion, but look and move on. One time I had a couple stop and watch as Bryan pinched the crap out of me, was screaming and hitting me. They were stopped in their tracks like it was a movie. I turned to them, with my bitch face and said “there is nothing to look at here.” I did leave my shopping cart with its contents and took Bryan home. I am fortunate that when I grab his hand, with my death grip, and even if he hurts me, I can get him to leave a place.
- Don’t judge. You have no idea who I am or what kind of parent I am or am not. My kid is not misbehaving, he is suffering with his ability to control his body and mind. They are not the same thing. Ask yourself, would I know how to handle a child with autism? You can’t answer unless you have one, and you can’t answer for any other parent of a child with autism because they are all different.
- Remind yourself that a little kindness goes a long way. One time I was in Target with Bryan and again, another very bad encounter of screaming and bad behavior. I was trying to get him to calm down but some combination of sleep deprivation and pain set in and I started to cry. A very nice lady came over to me and said, “I see you are having a tough time, can I give you a hug?” I literally am choking back tears typing this because I did need a hug and I took it from her and I regrouped and pulled myself together. Kindness rocks!
And….as long as I am on this topic of other people’s behavior, I need to vent a bit. I always encourage people to talk to me about their kids and their development. If your kid is on the spectrum, if you know me at all, you know I firmly believe parenting advice is the best. Here is where I get upset. This is what I get from a lot of parents, you know my little so and so has some issues, a little bit on the spectrum, a little spectrumy, but certainly not like Bryan. My kid has issues but not anything like what you have to deal with and your son’s issues or problems. I mean little so and so has some delays or some speech issues, but not autism. It’s not a contest here. If my child had diabetes would you say, gee my kid’s hypoglycemic, but doesn’t have diabetes like your kid. What the hell!!! Am I supposed to feel happy/relieved for you that you don’t have the shitty autism diagnosis for your kid, or bad for myself that Bryan does? Think before you speak, try to imagine how your words and thoughts might sound to the parent of the kid with autism. No one behaves well or appropriately all the time; clearly I don’t but awareness, that’s what matters. I am happy to give you any advice, experience I have, but don’t make me feel bad in the process. Be aware of what you say and how you say it.
So, when someone asks you what would you do, say, “I would do the kind thing, I would do the sensitive thing, I would try to help and not judge.” Ok, I’m done!