Well I first heard the words, 'autism is an excuse for naughty children' a year ago and I honestly thought that I would never hear them again, that this was just a one off ignorant comment made by an uneducated and 'nasty' person, but how wrong was I? I am surrounded by people who know and understand Tom, so it is always a shock to the system when comments are made like this.
This is what happened...
I had got off the bus with the two boys and saw a friend. I stopped to chat with him, but Tom had other ideas and did not want to stand and wait for me, he wanted to go to the Novel, this is what we always do. He started to pull my arm, saying, 'I don't like him!' My friend just smiled and started to laugh, as he knows Tom, he understood the reason for this behaviour. Anyway, as this encounter was happening, a lady got off the bus that we had been on and said to her friend, 'I would clip that child, parents today...,' as she watched what was going on, that had absolutely nothing to do with her.
Well, I just thought to myself, how dare she! She does not know my Tom! He wasn't even being that naughty, and he had sat good as gold on the bus! Hit my child? I think not, what kind of parenting is that?
So, perhaps I shouldn't, but I confronted her. I simply said:
'Excuse me; did you just say that you would clip my child?' After her startled reaction she said yes. To which I then replied: 'He's autistic, not naughty' and started to walk away. I just wanted her to think about what she had said; that there is always a reason for behaviours and that she should not pass judgments like that as they cause hurt and pain.
However, as I started to walk away. I then heard her tell her friend, 'Autism is just used as an excuse for naughty children, these parents today... '
Well again I just couldn't let this go. I'm not the world's greatest parent but neither am I a bad parent. I simply do my best, so to hear this comment, and especially said about me and not to me, infuriated me. Holding both my boys hands I turned back to her and said:
'Excuse me; he has a diagnosis of autism. He goes to an autism specialist school, he IS autistic.'
She then started to stammer and make excuses claiming that 'oh I know he's autistic, I just always thought he was naughty'. She then looked at Stephen, ruffled his hair, and said 'but this little one is always well behaved, you've brought him up well'
By this time I'd had enough. Without another word I told Stephen that we were going,turned and walked ahead without looking back.
So that told her..,
It did, but I shouldn't have had to. Why should I justify that my child is autistic? More importantly why do people believe that it does not exist and that children are just 'naughty'? I can't get my head around this, I really can't. This incident shouldn't have upset me but it did. It was upsetting because she questioned my ability as a parent, and as a parent of a special needs child I constantly question myself, I am not the confident and self assured mother that many people think I am, I too am vulnerable. Secondly, and more importantly in my eyes, her insult was aimed at Tom, whom she has no understanding or knowledge of, she judged him without knowing him.
So why am I sharing this incident? I'm not after sympathy, I feel that I won this small battle, but I want to share as many parents go through this kind of stigma and prejudice on a daily basis. I want them to know that they are doing a great job, that there are people out there who do understand and that yes, they do have a voice. Hold your head high and carry on doing what you do. Do not listen to these ignorant and uneducated criticisms of your parenting.
This kind of ignorance has to stop.