Considering Public Scrutiny
This post on the Autism Speaks blog reminds me why I don’t have to fear every social interaction my three boys and I have. My guys are all unique in their own way, but all three share the diagnosis of autism. In this they are all unique as well. Strangers on the street, in the stores around town, they sometimes remember one or all of the boys. They sometimes ask about them, not because they are remembering ‘that little autistic boy’ but because they are remembering one or all three unique, mischievous, sometimes-stimming, and always-entertaining boys.
As parents of (or in Josh’s case, sibling of) someone who is autistic, who has some developmental delay or disorder, we sometimes fear interactions with those in authority because we fear their reactions to our loved ones. In the same way, we sometimes fear society at large and their reaction to our loved ones. To us, the mannerisms and sometimes-strange looking things our guys do is part of who they are, something normal. But to those on the outside, they do look different, and those mannerisms do sometimes stand out.
Remembering that the way our guys act, talk, don’t talk, walk, skip, or otherwise interact with their world is something we are aware of by default. We can’t assume others won’t notice. But we don’t have to fear their scrutiny. Instead, using these opportunities to even simply say “they have special needs” or “they are autistic” or even, sometimes “you know, they don’t understand why you are upset and I don’t care.” Okay, maybe not the last one (although on one occasion I did use a variant of that one). The important thing is to remember your loved one is doing nothing to be ashamed of, they are not individuals to be ashamed of.
Celebrate them, love them, and explain their actions if you have to, but don’t apologize when they are just being themselves.
Note: Sometimes, it is appropriate to apologize if they cause a disruption in a public place, even to have them apologize if they cause a disruption, but never for acting in that way to being with. That’s how we act in public with my guys. It’s a subtle distinction I am careful to make. How do you handle public instances? What about Josh and Andrew’s story?