It is disturbing as a parent to see how people look at individuals with autism. I experienced firsthand today how people give the “empathetic look” to individuals with physical disabilities and others, like my precious children, get the “what the heck is wrong with you” look. It is saddening and disheartening to witness this.
Today I took Trenton in to his occupational therapy appointment at our new therapy place. As I walked in there was one woman in the waiting room. She flashed us a nice smile as I walked in with Trenton and Andrew. Trenton was making his “uneasy” noises. The noises he makes when he does not know what to expect. The noises that tells me his anxiety is rising. He immediately starts pacing up and down the waiting room making his noises. The lady who smiled so nicely at us starts talking to the boys. I immediately think that she is either a very kind hearted person or she “knows” and “understands”. Sure enough a therapist brings out her son to her and I could tell instantly that he had autism. She was not just a kind hearted person; she “knew” and “understood.” As I admired her and her son talking to his therapist, I got a flash forward of what Trenton will be like as a teenager and maybe Andrew as well.
As soon as they left, the waiting room filled up with lots of other people. In walked a father with his daughter who had something wrong with her legs and arms. If I had to guess, I would say cerebral palsy. After they walked in, several other parents with their children walked in. They all had to walk around Trenton who was pacing up and down the waiting room making his noises. I couldn’t help but notice the way the parents looked at Trenton and they way they looked at the cute little girl with physical disabilities. Every single one of them looked at her and smiled and gave her and her father that “empathetic” look. Unfortunately, Trenton and I did not get that kind of look. Everyone looked at Trenton as if he was an alien walking around with a contagious disease.
I have always been fairly good at reading people’s expressions. Non-verbal language speaks volumes!!! I have got even better at it after having my own child who can’t speak. People don’t realize how much they tell a person through the way they look at someone. A person’s eyes is one of the strongest “voices” a person has. Body language is another way that expresses to others what one is really thinking.
I am not saying these people were ready to throw Trenton and I under the bus! They, by no means, gave us the same type of look they gave a girl with a physical disability. I am not looking for empathy and sympathy from others. It is simply not me! I know what I endure daily; I don’t have to prove to anyone how hard autism is. Unfortunately, I do have to stick up for my children. Sadly, I have to spend every minute of my so called free time educating and advocating for my children. If parents like me don’t do it, then my children will live their whole lives getting the mean stares from others. Usually the mean stares lead to other mean things from immature kids and loser adults.
Trenton’s life is hard enough. He doesn’t need to get the “what the heck are you doing” stares from others. Trust me when I say, he may not act like he notices but he does! He may not act like he cares that you are looking at him in a funny way but he does! He has the most beautiful soul that is trapped in a body that does not let him express his fears and anxiety. Therefore, what does he do when he is scared and confused?????? Well, he makes noises and paces.
It is a complete shame that we live in a world where people judge everything. Yes, I feel horrible for that little girl and her family for what they go through with their child’s disability. If I had to guess, I am sure she will have lots of people help her in her life. I am sure she will get people who will open the door for her. I am sure she will get people who will help her get her food at school. She will get a handicap sticker for her car. I am sure people will offer her lots of support throughout her life. What will people do for individuals with “hidden disabilities” such as autism and mental disorders? The ones who “understand” and “get it” will help but too often than none, many people will just stare and talk.
It is sad that it is like this in the autism world. That is one reason why many parents chose to hide their child’s disability. I am sure it is a pride thing with the parent. They may not want others talking about their child because it then leads to talking about the parents. So many parents chose to hide the disability or they chose to simply not talk about it and make it appear that things are not as bad as they really are. Their disability is hidden. Their wheelchair is on their brain but the public can’t see that.
Well, for the sake of my children’s life, I choose to talk about it. I choose to educate and be a part of the huge awareness of autism that has happened over the last few years. If every parent was on board just think of the change that we could make! Awareness needs to be done in order to save our children from the stares and bullying that goes along with their disability. They have a hard enough life without that. So let’s make it better parents and educate the world on our children’s hidden disability.