Frustration bubbles over at the common misconceptions I come across daily as the parent of an autistic child. The sheer amount of well intended, yet thoughtless and often insulting comments I come across can often leave me at best bewildered, at worst, enraged. For a condition that is more common than most would assume, people’s misconceptions of Autism are frankly baffling and often nonsensical.
This past month alone I’ve heard phrases like “oh he doesn’t look like one of those” and “well he doesn’t look retarded…” and the worst thing is, that there is really no hidden malice behind the words, it really just a complete lack of education and knowledge about Autism, though that being said, knowing that does not remove the sting out of the words…
The greatest misconception I have come across is often in public, and usually involves my child having a meltdown. The looks of disdain that both my child and myself whenever my child has a meltdown in a bus or a shop are enough to tests the very limits of my patience. Yes I understand my child becomes very loud and can be violent when having a meltdown, yes I understand that my child might severely distressing you due to his noise interrupting your peaceful and silent existence. Forgive me, however for not really caring about anybody’s sensitivities, my priorities are to my clearly distressed child, the same child that the majority of people in that bus or shop, have labelled as a the badly behaved hell spawn of two useless parents…
Perception is reality, often our opinions are based purely on what is presented before our eyes, however, appearances can be deceiving. Place yourself in my child’s shoes, place yourselves in a world where every sound, every thought, every colour is just that more vivid, and each as sharp and as loud as the other. Imagine how unnerving this can be, where all your senses are continually assaulted by the world around you, as you struggle to make sense of things and cannot compartmentalise each different aspect, and yet you still have to process this.
It is relentless, yet it is nowhere near the end, under all this duress, as you try to comprehend the cacophony around you, you still have to deal with your emotions and the social situation you find yourself in. Emotions which, again are complex and beyond your understanding, whilst continually bubbling towards the surface. For an Autistic child, every day life is a bewildering, chaotic pandora’s box. Life for a child is complex enough at times, for an Autistic child however, it is far worse, often beyond our very comprehension.
One month ago, I attempted to see the world through the eyes of my child, and I was able to express the world as I saw it, through his eyes, in a blog post called The Tallest Tree, and in all honesty, it was a struggle to be able to put myself into my child’s shoes. Once I did however, I was able to comprehend, just how frightening and perplexing life for an Autistic child can be. Below is the aforementioned blog post for your perusal.
As a parent, all I ask is for people to educate themselves as to what Autism truly entails, and to at least show some understanding rather than being judgemental. Yes I do realise that a child screaming at the top of their lungs, is not atop of anyone’s list of appreciated sounds, but not every tearful child is a misbehaving child, the differences, if more than a disdainful look is given, are there to see.
Parents of an autistic child have a hard enough job as it is, whilst not seeking any pity for myself, put yourself in a position of having to anticipate and understand every meltdown your child has, then hold back the tears as your child struggles to enunciate just what has caused him such upset, and has to equate everything into a degree of linearity whilst taking possession of the most insignificant things, like a certain spot on the carpet, just to be able to make sense of every day life, to be able to acclimatise himself to the reality that surrounds the child.
Try to comprehend being told that due to his condition, your child might forever find his or herself on the peripheral outskirts of society, all on his or her lonesome, purely because your child’s condition makes socialisation as complex to comprehend as neuroscience is to a common field mouse. You sit there and can clearly observe the brilliance within your child, just waiting to get out, whilst your child (for some people) can spend their entire lives without so much as saying a single word. Consider that notion for a moment, consider and imagine the possibility, which for some parents of autistic children, is a reality, that you may never hear your child speak, that your child may never utter a single word. There will be no first words, not hearing your child calling mummy or daddy for the first time, never hearing your child saying I do, everything that we take for granted and look forward to as parents, gone, in the blink of an eye.
Life is not easy for children with Autism, nor for the parents of children with Autism, all we ask, is for a little understanding, for a cessation to the judgemental looks of disdain, and for the realisation that an Autistic child does not look in a specific way, that an Autistic child is not devoid of intelligence, that an Autistic child is not retarded (I loathe having to use the word, but needs must), in fact, more often than not, a child with Autism, is far more intellectual than many of us can comprehend. At three years old my child could count to three hundred, and solve complex logic puzzles that frankly left myself and other adults bewildered, as well as recognise words and numbers just by looking at them. My Autistic child has a beautiful and brilliant mind, all it means is, that like a perfectly cultivated rose, it merely takes a little longer to bloom, and a little longer for us to be able to appreciate and observe its splendour.
Until next time,
P.S. For more information on Autism, please visit http://www.autism.org.uk/