THIS is for the mother at the supermarket who told me to “control your child” and the elderly lady who took it upon herself to tell my son “oh you are being a naughty boy”.
And to everyone else who stares at us each and every day; everyone who has rolled their eyes or made rude remarks about my son.
My 5-year-old son is not naughty, he has autism.
Autism, or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a disorder that affects 1 in 100 children. ASD isn’t just different behaviour. It isn’t just rocking in the corner. It isn’t just lining things up in colour coordinated perfection. It isn’t just yelling and having ‘meltdowns.’ ASD is all of that but it is also so much more.
As a mother with a child who has ASD, my heart breaks when my child is so over stimulated from a sensory overload.
Often it is from something other people view as nothing, like a sheet on the bed lying wrong. And my heart breaks when people judge his behaviour at the store and have no idea what an accomplishment it is for him to make it to the shops, dressed and happy, in the first place.
He has autism, he is not naughty. Source: Supplied
On the other hand, my heart exploded with pride when he finally wore his school top for more than five minutes without a fight.
Many children on the spectrum have major sensory issues that affect how they process the environment around them. Often they can’t handle noise, lights and sometimes even strong smells like coffee.
Imagine that there is a safe haven for you but every time you leave that place things go wrong. Things like hearing a buzz from a light that you can’t stop; it sounds like helicopters in your ears. Or someone walking down a hallway and it sounds like a herd of elephants is stomping past you.
Or maybe someone has brushed you briefly but as you touched it felt like an electric shock on your skin.
Now imagine that happens every time you leave this safe place. You would never leave, right?
We ask children with ASD to leave their safe place every single day. This is the life they face every time they move into a new and unfamiliar environment.
As a parent of a child with ASD we learn how to minimise the change and our lives become very routine. For us this means a morning routine to just leave the house. It has seven steps. When my son was first diagnosed we had 10 steps.
As a mum, I try to protect my child from the harm and ridicule he faces every day but I can’t protect my child from the ignorant comments of those who don’t know our situation. They see him at his most vulnerable times and they judge his behaviour on that.
I speak for myself, and the parents and carers of all kids with autism, when I ask you to think before commenting next time.
If a child is having a meltdown and yelling and crying or pulling their ears remember that child may be a child like my son. We need your support not your negative comments.
Instead of criticising why not put yourself in the child’s shoes and ask yourself what they must be feeling to act this way. Ask yourself how you can help.
A simple smile and a nod to let us know you understand and can see that are we are doing our best means more to us than you can ever imagine.