Monday, August 30, 2010

Mean People

 
 My family went out to eat last night at a restaurant here in town.  We usually go to kid friendly ones that are pretty noisy already.  If any of you have an autistic child you know how they cannot control their volume very well.  Sierra is very loud and she doesn't speak that well yet either, but she talks all the time and she squeals a lot when she is having fun.  She was happy and being silly, a far cry from a year ago when she didn't talk and just cried and yelled when we took her out.  We try to teach her how to use an inside voice when we are out but she does it for a minute and goes right back to being loud.

    There were two elderly women sitting across the isle from us and they were just horrified by Sierra, they held their ears and shot glances at us like my child was throwing knives at them.  I do usually apologize for her being loud and I did to the other tables closer to us, but they were being nice about it.  Now it wasn't a constant loudness, she was being very good and eating her food and just being silly because other people were playing with her and her baby sister.  When we were done my husband got up to pay the bill and that's when one of the elderly women said to me, "Can you keep your kid quiet or does she have to screech like that?"  I almost choked on my french fry, I have never had someone be so mean about it.

If she had actually took a minute to look at Sierra she would have noticed that she doesn't talk clearly in any way and that she uses sign language while she is screeching as she put it.  That might have been a clue that maybe my child makes noise like that because she does not know how to communicate properly yet!  I just said in a very loud and mad tone, "she is autistic and she does not understand how to be quiet!"  Then she just gave me a blank look and said, "OK".  I know she was a coward because she waited until my husband left the table to say it.  I hope she was embarrassed.  There was so much more I wanted to say but I just couldn't get it out, If get too upset then I start to cry, and I didn't want them to see me cry.

   I think people are very judgmental about autistic children, they don't look close enough to see that there might be something wrong with the child, all they see is an unruly child.  If they walked in our shoes for one day they would never be judgmental about another child and their family again.

The next time you see a child crying by the gumball machines it might not be that they are having a temper tantrum for candy, it could be my daughter crying because they changed what is in the machines.  At the restaurant she is crying because the chicken is stringy and she can't eat stuff with strings hanging off.  At the park its because the other kids scare her.  At the grocery store it's because we walked a different way through the store.  Sierra very rarely cries because she can't have a toy, she cries when her routine changes or when she has trouble communicating her needs. She gets unruly when she is scared and or on unfamiliar ground.  Imagine having to live life like that and think twice about being judgmental.

   I love my daughter so much and I wish other people could see her through my eyes, how wonderful, loving, and smart she is and how frustrated she gets trying to adapt in this world.  It breaks my heart every day knowing that she will have to put up with mean people that don't understand her and what autism is.

13 comments:

  1. I found your blog through the Autism Speaks website and I've been reading it all morning. My son is 2 and is going in for an evaluation in a few weeks. He has a LOT of the same symptoms that your daughter had and I am very worried. I can't wait to read more about your daughter and her progress.

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  2. Thank you for your comment. I wish the best for you and your son, I know that is a very hard time to go through. I will be writing about our DAN doctor visits and how they helped in the upcoming blogs. Just remember the evaluation is not the end but the beginning of the healing process. Our daughter was only moving backwards until we figured out what it was and how to help her.

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  3. My daugher Lily was diagnosed when she turned 3. She is now 6 years old and doing well. This story unfortunately has happened to every parent of a child with autism. It is very hard when people are rude and intrusive, but with time, you will learn to grow thick skin. I did, but it took time and sometimes biting my tongue when I really just wanted to rip someone to pieces. Don't ever feel like you need to make excuses for her or owe anyone an explanation. You don't. Just be her advocate because that is the most important thing you can do. Just know that you are not alone and that not everyone in that restaurant was looking down their nose at you beautiful baby girl.

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  4. i too saw this blog post on the Autism Speaks site and had to click over to visit your blog :). i am sorry you had this experience... i have found that most people are very very nice but all it takes is one to really make a lasting impression. i've had 2 experiences like yours in 15 years (my eldest at 15 has severe autism,severe cognitive impairments, and an uncontrolled seizure disorder) and they hurt you to your core. I think it's insensitivity and ignorance with those types of people. or they're just nasty judgmental miserable people in general :)!!!
    it was nice to visit your beautiful blog and learn more about your wonderful daughter.

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  5. @Up and Away Quilts- I felt the need to explain a lot in the beginning, not so much now. I need to protect Sierra's feelings and not theirs.

    @Alicia D- I think with these ladies it was all the above!

    Thanks for the uplift guys!

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  6. As the parent of a nine (and a half, thank-you-very-much!) year old daughter who is also on the spectrum, I am utterly commiserating with you right now. I once joked that if I received a nickel for every rude comment I have heard my daughter's therapies would have been paid for twice over. People questioning my parenting skills I can handle; making rude comments within earshot of my daughter (or not within earshot, for that matter) unleashes an unholy fury in me. I've been waging a war of public education for the startlingly rude for some seven years now. I can only hope that one day such comments are a thing of the past...for all of us. :)

    And apologies for the deleted comment above. Trying to comment whilst doing four other things is not my strong suit. :)

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  7. That's my biggest problem with the comment, you can think whatever you want but don't say it to me or within earshot of my daughter. Wage on!

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  8. I also found your blog through the Autism Speaks blog postings. I also have dealt with rude people while out with my son (4 yrs old, classic autism). While at Wal-mart one day, he became upset for a reason I have yet to figure out and an older couple near us very loudly told me he needed a spanking.
    I enjoy reading blogs about other parents that are struggling with the daily aspects of Autism because it validates all of these feelings I go through on a regular basis. I also have a blog about my son that I started around the time of his dx over a year ago and would like to share it with anyone that may be interested in seeing how Autism affects each child and family differently.
    www.brycentimmer.blogspot.com
    I'm definitely going to keep up with your blog as I feel I have found another "friend" in all of this!

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  9. I was just in Wal-mart today and Sierra was upset about losing one piece of her gummies and cried until we left. I felt the stares but no comments this time. I will definitely follow your blog as well, we need all the friends we can get!

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  10. I also read your post on Autism Speaks . . . thank you for sharing such a personal and emotional moment in your life. When I linked to your blog I gasped . . . Sierra is GORGEOUS. I mean, take your breath away, gorgeous. That's all people see, of course, and EXPECT her to "behave normally." Our kids don't look disabled, so people automatically judge. I used to be the one to ignore people's stares and my husband would make some sharp comment even WHILE we were trying to calm our son mid-tantrum. However, the tables turned one day when we, too, were in a difficult restaurant situation (don't we ALL have at least a few restaurant stories in common?!). I won't go into the multitude of reasons why our son melted down, but the woman at the next table just kept staring at him. I finally couldn't contain myself any longer and I stared right back and said very sternly, "Your staring is not helping the situation at all." She was shocked and immediately looked away. Then, I proceeded to cry . . . quietly but quite uncontrollably, and I never looked back at that woman but really hope that she felt terrible about what she'd done. We have to stay strong for our kids, but on those days when we just can't anymore, perhaps our reactions will be the best lessons for those who don't understand.
    I'm made stronger by amazing people like you with the courage to blog about autism.

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  11. Thank you so much for the compliments, they mean a lot! Sierra has melted down in public a number of times, what I don't understand about this time was that she was happy, and this was the first comment made directly to me!

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  12. This is hard to handle and swallow.. I have thought of carrying a camera with me and snapping apic of all the ignorant people that make nasty comments and starting a website... Watch out for these ignorant people...They choose not to understand Autism!!! LOL..... You should read my blog about this:
    http://autismasawhole.blogspot.com/2010/11/ignorance-and-self-control.html

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  13. I thought about the camera thing too, and then put it in a full page ad in the newspaper telling how ignorant they were!

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