Autism Watch: 2007

So, what exactly is wrong with people??

Posted on: July 29, 2009

Do you ever wonder that?

There are days that really make me lose faith in people. Days where I just don’t get it, where I wonder if I’m cracked, expecting too much of people, but wondering why we’ve got so many people running around claiming to be people loving their neighbor yet screwing them when they can, whether deliberate or not.

I had (another) one of those days yesterday. I’m still flabbergasted, shocked, dismayed, disappointed, discouraged et al. Few things make me dwell on them for this long, yet this situation has. And I hate that. I have far more important things in my life to waste any of my life on this but I’m drawn to it like a gawker at a train wreck. I still can’t get over it, and yet I’m pretty much unable to do anything else about it.

Last week, my son resurrected a relationship with another little boy from the neighborhood. They’d been friends on/off before, but only lately has my son’s age/maturity level meshed. (My son is 8, the boy is 10.) The boy, who we will refer to as Boy A, is a good kid, polite, well-mannered, patient, and just plain fun for my son. All of last week, they played together outside, hours at a time. We were thrilled. Few people understand the excitement we can feel for our children when they have an achievement that other people take for granted. In this case, it was a successful friendship, a relationship without issues and problems. Hence, the thrill factor.

Fast forward to the weekend, where another neighborhood boy, who we’ll call Boy B, who has been friends with Boy A for a while now, returns from a week vacation. He comes home to find his friend playing with my son. They attempt to play together, and they make it work for a couple of days. Given the history of my son and this boy, it was a surprise. They are typically like oil and water. This boy (Boy B) is diagnosed with Asperger’s, and mom likes to blame everything on meds not at the right level. Oh, if only meds were magic, right?

Anyway, all three of the kids are playing together briefly on Tuesday morning, and something happened. I don’t yet know what, but Boy A and my son leave Boy B’s yard and head to mine, where they’re happily playing. Boy A’s phone rings, he stops smiling, and tells my son that Boy B’s mom says they can’t play together, he has to go, bye. Lost yet?

I am.

Boy B’s mom talks to Boy A on the phone. She is not his mom, yet she makes these comments to him about another child, and in his ‘listen to adults’ world, particularly an adult he’s been around quite a bit due to some events the families attend together, he listens. I don’t blame him, he’s young and listening to an adult, but can you guess what happens next?

Yep. Major meltdown, along with attempted hairpulling but he controlled himself. I was SO proud of that in itself. After he explains it all to me, I, in my inability to comprehend that an adult would really do that, go to talk to Boy A, who confirms the story. After a quick two-minute call to dh to clarify he agrees that it’s time, the gauntlet was thrown and it’s time to engage. We knew it would happen someday, but still naively hoped it wouldn’t.

Once I could get a sentence out without a bad word, I head over to Boy B’s house to speak with his mom. After playing the “huh? what do you mean?” card and seeing it wasn’t working, she admitted speaking to Boy A on the phone and basically blamed my son for pushing her son’s buttons. WTH? After another 5-6 minutes of trying to get her to understand the irrationality of singling out my child so her son would have a friend, and we (my 19-year-old son and I) gave up. It was futile. She simply couldn’t understand that there were no problems until her son returned to the picture, and taking it out on my son was inappropriate. There was no apology, no compassion, no real anything but a whole lot of “is this what you learn to do when you go to church on Sunday or when you’re posting to religious blogs or about the bible on FB?” I came home, continued to calm down little dude by telling him, over and over, that he did nothing wrong. This was not his problem. How do you tell a very intelligent, very literal 8 year old boy with autism that this boy’s mom was way out of line and said things she shouldn’t have without saying it outright? So I said it outright. I think it’s important my son see that he’s defended, that he feels safe knowing we’ve got his back, and knowing that the bad people don’t always win, even if they do temporarily. And I won’t lie. I also, as did dh, felt it was important for this woman to be aware that my son matters. He may not matter to her, but he does to me. He may not be her son, but he’s someone’s son. The other thing I have strong feelings about is something I can’t touch: that the mom taught her son to fight dirty, to rumor, and that whining will get you what you want. And poor Boy A who was basically stuck between two friends and someone else’s mom? I wonder what he learned….probably nothing positive.

I wondered what would happen today when little dude was trying to play outside. Thankfully, it was so extremely hot, he was inside until after 4pm. His siblings played with him a lot, and I bought him a new set of Magnetix at my (horrible) trip to Target. (In fact, Target owes me $54.73 for a cash register breaking amidst my transaction, resulting in my ATM card being charged twice. Sigh. Let me just add the phonecall to the list of things I have to do tomorrow before little guy’s neuro appt.) At the end of the day, during a Magnetix break, he found Boy A outside. They rode together for just a few minutes, but Boy A had someone coming over for a sleepover, so he had to go inside when the guest arrived. It cleared the air though, and relieved my sweetie that the boy wasn’t scared off of playing with him. And if he was? What to do? I just hope we don’t have that worry.

Aside from that, the reality is that I have an instigator who feels no remorse about making others think my son is a troublemaker, living about five doors down the street. Who knows who else she runs into. I did make it clear that if there was anything she even wanted to breathe in the direction of my son, to see me or my husband instead. Thing is, I don’t think she realizes what exactly it is she did. Maybe in her mind, she was truly just trying to make her son happy. I know that’s a priority to me, but to throw another innocent child under the bus to achieve that is wrong. In any sense of the word, wrong. I don’t care what she says about me but I do care what she says about my son.

And the kicker? This is a special education teacher. Be careful, people who can’t handle their own children and treat others’ kids this way could be teaching your children.

Got a neighbor who treats your autistic child badly, or your family badly? I’d love to hear. I’d love to hear what you did, and how you learned to live with it. I’m lucky — I’m moving in another six months or so — but I do have to protect my son for those six months, which could include some other ignorant uncompassionate person run-in. Some days, I am thoroughly optimistic that the general public is good, that people do care, and that you can be good to one another. I go to the store where someone opens the door for me, another person hands me something I’ve dropped and a person walking by on the sidewalk says hello. No one stares at my son’s behavior, and I even get a few green lights on my drive home. Then a day like yesterday sadly wipes it all away, though I know it shouldn’t. She’s just one person, one stressed, tired mom who took her frustrations out on someone she thought wouldn’t talk back. But it’s the bigger picture, it’s what she represents  — the inability of society to truly care for those who are different, for people to really love each other as they love themselves, and the lack of interest in learning to even try to reach out in a positive way. It’s the dark side of people, where you may know someone but you never really do, because people are only nice until you mess with the happy convenience of their day by calling them on their bad behavior that was initiated sheerly to ensure that happy convenience.

Tomorrow will be better. I won’t let her sap too much of my energy, but I am determined to prevent any further related issues. Once again, my son has learned a harsh lesson at too young an age. For that, I will try to forgive, but I won’t forget. Each one of these situations takes a toll, and it’s my job to fix that. I’ll chalk it up to learning something else that hopefully will somehow help in the future, though I’m not sure yet what that is.

In the last year, we’ve learned we aren’t safe from judgment at school or church. Now I can add our own neighborhood to the list. Moving day can’t come soon enough.

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