Autism Watch: 2007

Up In Arms? Again? Expecting Too Much From Others

Posted on: May 29, 2009

I like to think I stay on top of the autism community news pretty well. Sometimes I skim through articles, and sometimes, well, I have an autistic child, I don’t necessarily have the time to read something due to caring for him and the chaos that can surround us. But, overall, I really try to keep abreast of the research, the advances, and the injustices. There’s always some new research, quite often fluff stuff that doesn’t really help us, there’s an advance or exciting treatment opportunity now and then, but the category I see growing the most is in the injustices. Most days I read them, shake my head, and wonder what’s wrong in the world, but today, it hit me — maybe we’re our own worst enemy.

I’m a person who believes in fairness. If someone slams the door in my face, I might just say “Thanks!” loud enough for them to hear me. If I hold the door open for someone and they walk through, ignoring me, I might say “You’re welcome.” And if someone yells at my child, I usually will say something akin to “Mind your own business, tend to your own children, this one’s mine.” If service is bad enough to leave or not return, I’ll tell management. And so on. But, I do temper my actions with the thought of “is it really worth it?” first. Manners, yes, always worth it. We use to be a society that cared more about each other, if nothing else, we were more polite. But now, it’s all about me. And me. No, me!  Customer service, if I never plan on going back anyway because it’s too far or not my kind of food, nah, why bother. If I have  my children with me and it’s only going to waste time complaining about wasted time, I’ll pass. So I don’t go off whole-hog in a mood to correct the injustices. I very definitely pick and choose my battles.

So why don’t we as a community do that? I’m not saying my way is best, but honestly, if we want to appear credible, why aren’t we saving our time and energy for the big guns?  There are plenty of them to choose from. If I boycotted every place that I received glares from staff for my noisy son, laying on the floor screaming, I’d have nowhere left to go. Sad but true. It’s human nature. People will stare. Now, if they continue to stare, or say something, that’s a different story, but sometimes I think we expect too much of people. We expect everyone from teen baggers in the grocery store to first-time moms of newborns to the substitute mailman and our childless neighbors to understand our children, know they are special needs from the get-go, and go out of their way to help us. We expect them to somehow magically absorb understanding that removes any annoyance, and if they don’t, we call them ignorant, even if they’ve never had the opportunity or reason to learn. We don’t just expect compassion, which everybody ought to have, but let’s face it — we don’t know what’s going on in others’ lives. We want them to be nice and helpful to us, but are we giving any time at all to the fact that their lives may be in a shambles right now too? Maybe the teen bagger has an autistic brother and the job is a break for him. It’s likely the first-time mom is tired, depleted of everything because it all goes to the baby and she’s never had any experience with autistic kids because her friends are all young first-time moms. Maybe the substitute mailman is single and childless and normally delivers in a retirement community all day. And, the childless neighbors, or even empty-nesters, don’t get out much with people with children, are elderly and didn’t grow up in the face of rising autism diagnoses, or the husband is dying of cancer but they are too private to talk about it. In some peoples’ day, sharing personal issues wasn’t the norm. Lots of things out there that we just don’t know, and quite frankly, I don’t see us taking the time to care about — which, uhm, isn’t that the same thing we presume they’re doing to us?

So before I get up in arms today because Dairy Queen ‘froze out’ autistic students by asking them to leave (read the story here: Dairy Queen Freezes Out Autistic Students) I’m going to assume that just like most media stories, there’s more to it. Maybe the Dairy Queen management didn’t like having their front sidewalk blocked by a bunch of noisy kids scattering lunch items. There’s a really good possibility it had nothing to do with them being autistic or even special needs — as you so often see people say “You don’t ‘look’ autistic. There’s no autistic ‘look,’ they are beautiful normal looking children.” (That comes back to bite us, doesn’t it?) It’s likely he was frustrated with a mess/noisy crowd outside his door and simply didn’t want to deal with it. Is it right? Heck no, he’s an ice cream store, he should deal with kids, expect kids to be noisy, but I’m not going to boycott Dairy Queen or call the media to say autism discrimination. Pick your battles. Don’t you want more time with your children anyway?

I hear a lot about how particular groups of people are looked at negatively because they’re always upset about something. Do we want to be those people? I don’t. I want to be the people crusading for what’s right and fair for our children, but just like any other mom. I want to bear in mind that I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me, and I’m sure there will be legitimate battles to fight. I’m going to save my energy for them, and hope that I’m not looked at as wacky because too many people choose to fight every little injustice. Let’s face it — life’s full of injustices. Life’s not fair. (Would autism be around if life was fair?) Let’s save our strength for the bigger things, and not be people flying off the handle at everything we hear, particularly those things that don’t affect us. And don’t flame me with — “but it could be  you next time.” True, it could be. I flew into Raleigh-Durham airport within days of the incident where the autistic child was kicked off the flight, and I flew the same airlines, so I know the “but it could be you.” If it happens to me, and it’s legit, I will address it, as the school director/principal of the autistic kids that visited Dairy Queen did. Let’s let that suffice instead of boycotting the chain, running up our phone bill with calls, and stressing ourselves over making sure everyone knows what the store did…or didn’t do. But be sure you know what you’re addressing, and look at where it fits in the big picture. Your child probably needs you, stress-free, more.

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1 Response to "Up In Arms? Again? Expecting Too Much From Others"

An opinion that should be paid heed by everybody in other spheres of life as well as other interests/concerns. Thank you.

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