Monday, July 9, 2012

Why Do People Automatically Think My Child Is Bad?

     Autism impairs the development of a child’s social behavior and communication. This invisible disorder affects one in every eighty-eight children. Communication and social interaction is extremely difficult for a child with autism. The behavior of a child with autism can be most unpredictable. It is very important to remember that a child with autism does not see things the same way that we do. A child with autism doesn’t have as many filters to process the information that their brain receives. Because there is a limit to how much information that a child with autism can process at any given time, there is a good possibility that he or she could become confused, frustrated and react to what is going on around them. We have to remember that something happened to make the child “act out”. Figuring out what it was that “triggered” the reaction is critical to understanding the child. Anything such as body language, and how something is said, could serve as a “trigger” to set a child off.
     Unfortunately, it is easier for people to classify this behavior as “hateful” or “violent” rather than take the time and patience to understand how autism actually affects the child and everyone around them. This complacency makes it even more difficult for a child with autism who is already struggling to be included by his or her peers.  An example from our own experience would be, when he was younger, a few of Nathan’s teachers gave up on him, saying he was “uncontrollable” or that “he just needed to be spanked more”. This was their solution to something that they didn’t understand. If they had taken the time to work with our son, instead of writing him off, it would have made the difference to a child who was doing his best. These particular individuals were only interested in collecting their paycheck instead of doing what they could to figure out how to help a child that wasn’t like the rest. Each of them, as educators, had the opportunity to show compassion to a child and actually invest in his future. 
     Recently, an individual, in our own neighborhood, who we thought understood and supported our family’s incredible journey on the autism spectrum, verbalized that our child is a bully and attacks the other children in the neighborhood. Our family has known her family for almost ten years and she had confided in me that she and her own child, who is a year younger than my youngest child, had been prescribed medication for something that they have been diagnosed with. This made us believe that it was possible for our child to be accepted. All children need patience, understanding and friends. They will also have disagreements when playing and should be able to work things out amongst themselves. This is a crucial part of learning to socialize with their peers and that everyone needs space from time to time.

     My child has learned to put some distance between him and what is bothering him. Our neighbor’s child tends to ask “why” repeatedly and it annoys my child beyond words. My child tries so hard to not let it bother him but, in the end, he just can’t handle it. I have told my children that they should always ask the other child to “stop” and, if that doesn't work, then walk away. If my child is at home when he is being bothered, he has been given permission to ask the other child to go home. Having a social disorder impairs his communication and it makes it difficult for him to express exactly what he wants to say.

     Almost two months ago, our two boys were out in the front yard waiting for us to take them grocery shopping when several of their friends saw them outside and came down to our house. My husband and I were not outside at the time but, my child told me later that he said that they couldn’t play because we were getting ready to leave and that they would come get them, if they could play, when they got home. We had been at the store for almost half an hour when his mother called my mobile phone all upset about my child telling her child that he could not play with them. I politely tried to explain that I couldn’t talk to her right then but, I would be glad to do so when I returned home but, she proceeded to ridicule my child and wouldn’t stop. I hurriedly told her I was sorry but, I had to go.

     After we got back home and we had the opportunity to find out what had happened from our son, I decided to text her due to how the earlier conversation with her had gone. She had been so upset and had not let me finish one sentence. My child had only been honest and told her child that he and his brother couldn’t play. She texted me back and when I didn’t end up agreeing with her, she called me again. It was when she threatened to call the police and press “assault” charges against our nine year old son, who had autism, for a disagreement that happened, between the boys, almost six months ago. My husband and I were shocked that she had talked so ugly about our child! There was no reasoning with her and we decided that we would have to give her family plenty of space to avoid future conflict. Her son had actually been playing in our front yard with our boys and three other children  when this all occurred. My husband calmly stepped outside and told her child that his mother needed him to go home. The boy asked my husband “why” and he repeated what he had told him and then the child went home.

     It is really sad that an adult has caused so much trouble between neighborhood friends. My own boys have been told “I can’t play right now” and “our family is getting ready to go somewhere but, we can play when we get back home” or even “I am grounded and can’t play” by their friends. They always find something else to do. I have never called another child’s parent to ask why my child couldn’t play with their child, dragged my husband to their house or accused their child of assault and threatened to call the police on their child! Now, her child walks on the street, to avoid our front yard, on his way to see if the other neighborhood kids can play. This saddens me. I continue to pray for everyone that our special needs child comes in contact with. Awareness isn't always enough...we need to "understand" and "accept" Autism!

*Thank you to Autism Creations for these beautiful photos!

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry that happened.I had something like that happen too many times.This woman said there was no room in her car for my daughter who has Autism.We all got out of the car and walked home.It honestly looks to me like your boys are so well behaved and wonderful all due to you and your husbands good work.