"He's Autistic. Is It Okay if They Play Together?"

Categories: Parenting

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Jef With One F
This weekend was the last weekend where I had to go find a place that was mostly free, had wifi, was air conditioned, and had something to keep my four-year-old occupied while I tried to get some writing done. My wife is finishing the final days of her nursing schooling, and the kid and I were once again banished from the house while she studied for finals. That means we went to McDonald's, where the play areas are pretty clean, we can get lunch for less than $10, Disney Jr. is on an HDTV, and there are usually plenty of little kids to make friends with.

It was also the last week of Autism Awareness Month, and apparently that brought a few more kids on the spectrum out to play than normal because my daughter met and frolicked with several of them. How do I know they were autistic? Because their parents told me. To be more accurate, they asked if their children being autistic was OK when they began playing with my own non-autistic daughter.

Took the savor out of my three McDoubles (Hold the pickles) I can tell you. Behind that question are more assholes than a toilet testing facility.

My daughter was born in 2009, which means that the Andrew Wakefield study that found a link between the MMR vaccines and autism was already being torn apart for the jug o'not science that it was, but the pop media fascination with the idea was really starting to take off. That means it was a really scary time to be a first-time parent, and my wife and I agonized over the possibility that we would have to chose between potentially deadly diseases and a lifetime neural development disorder.

Thankfully, we had a very patient pediatrician that explained to us in the kindest words possible just how many idiots there are in the world and how to distinguish them from actual scientists.

So, my daughter ended up not having autism, but I had prepared myself well for the possibility that she might. This gave me what I thought was a pretty good amount of empathy for the parents of autistic children, but being asked if I had a problem with my daughter playing with another child because they were autistic showed me that I know nothing about it at all.

What kind of parent would say no to that? Last I checked autism wasn't contagious, and even if I just go by what the movies tell me autistic children are no more dangerous than any other kid. It's not like autistic kids are prone to biting or flinging feces or something. That's chimpanzees, which are generally very thin on the ground in the House of the Clown.

But the mere fact that three different parents made it a point to inform me that their child was autistic before I let them run through a tube maze with my own child says loads about the world and how it deals with these children. In that question are dozens, maybe hundreds of times when parents quietly ushered their children away from the "abnormal" child. In just a few short words I could hear the tiredness brought on by countless judging stares whenever autistic behavior presented itself in public. The sort of holier-than-thou dismissive coldness epitomized by Michael Savage telling listeners that autism was an example of a "a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out."

This story continues on the next page.


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5 comments
raven_summersong
raven_summersong

Never should a parent have to appologize for who their child is. But as a librarian, I always appreciate it when a parent lets me know if there child is autistic, or has any other specific situations that mean I need to adjust how I do a program or a story hour to help them be comfortable. It's easy for me to adjust noise levels or other parts of the activities to make sure their child is more comfortable, whatever that particular child needs.

bruce_katherine
bruce_katherine

Can I just say that being told by a parent, however apologetically, is much better that having a mother in your face screaming "He's autistic, you bitch!!!" with spit flying into your eyes when you try to treat their child like a 'normal' child during an Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday. Sorry, but I think I'd rather be in your shoes. 

MommieDawn
MommieDawn

Again....well said.  As an aspie and mother to an aspie....I thank you. My daughter was diagnosed at age ten....so for ten years I felt I was just dealing with a special kid who was painfully shy, anxiety ridden, tightly wound, and very sensitive. It really didn't bother me, because I could relate and treated her the way I wished I was treated growing up.  So many times I'd be in public, say, at the grocery store, and she'd have a meltdown. As so many parents do...I did the opposite. I didn't tell her to 'HUSH' or tell her she's embarrassing me....rather, I got down on the floor with her and allowed her to move through this meltdown. We would rock. I would hold her, when she allowed me. And when she calmed down, we'd dig through my purse for a toy or pencil or even paper to tear. 

Meanwhile, every adult around me shot me Go To Hell looks...which I promptly shot back.  I was accused of coddling my child, catering to her, spoiling her and, yes, allowing her to 'act like a brat'. We parents of autistic kids, sometimes feel it necessary to tell others....some of us feel we need to wear a sandwich board while in public. 

I can say that being a parent is the hardest job in the universe.....being a parent to an autistic child adds about a million more tons of stress, guilt, anxiety and exhaustion. 

My oldest is twenty and away at college now. She's the ideal child - self sufficient and self assure. My aspie is 17 and has been home schooled for almost 5 years now. I have not been alone in years...she is my shadow and I am hers. She's still learning about herself and I'm here to smother and make sure she's ok. Do I wish I had a break now and again? Totally. I'm human..but this is life and I chose to be a mother and I take that title very seriously,. 

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