When collegeman was four and obsessed with dinosaurs, the Museum of Natural History opened its doors for its new dinosaur exhibit. I can’t tell you how excited that child was. We stood outside the huge iron doors to the museum on opening day and collegeman actually helped push the doors open. He loved that exhibit and adored the computer programs that went with every part of the exhibits. He had to stay on those computers forever and would push his way to them when he could. I distinctly remember one day when he pushed his way passed an elderly couple so he could play on a computer. The old biddy called him a brat. I can hear her clear as day to this day. Of course I answered her back, in my kind, understanding New York sort of way. We did not know at the time that collegeman was autistic. But truthfully even so, a child excited about education, computers and wanting to learn was seen as an affront to this couple. I thought of them as ignorant. Ok, I told them they were ignorant and wouldn’t know how to raise an intelligent child if they had had one. The old bitch laughed. But they walked away and cleared a path away from us throughout our stay that day at the museum. That was 15 years ago and I thought the world had changed. I had fooled myself into thinking that at least the younger generation understood disabilities. Oh boy was I wrong.

I have to tell you that I was flabbergasted when I came across this post today READ HERE. It had been tweeted with a request for people’s response. Squidalicious actually calls on everyone to write a response in honor of Autism Awareness Day (April 2). I am going to call the woman who wrote the post S. S home schools her children, the entire lot of them and considers herself a true believer and lover of Christ. I am not sure what God she follows but as I am taught, by my myriad of Christian friends, particularly my friend Barb Dittrich who runs Snappin Ministries, an organization dedicated to helping and supporting families of special needs children, true Christianity rejects cruelty towards others in thought as well as deed. I don’t think belittling and picking on an obviously impaired child, or even if you believe the child to be misparented, is what Christ had in mind for his followers. I can actually say at least it is certainly not an action that the God I have been taught to love would accept.

If you read the post you are regaled with the story about a small girl who stands behind S’s children as they played on a computer in a public library. The girl in question is standing there flapping her hands and continually telling her grandmother that she is being patient waiting her turn to play. Her grandmother of course praises the child and tells her how wonderful she is. S contemplates how fast the child will have to flap her hands before she is airborne and how she doesn’t understand why the grandmother didn’t take the child somewhere else while her children played on the computer. She goes on to excoriate the grandmother and discuss how unfit she is to parent. By the way we are regaled with all her snarky rude comments toward this small child and her grandmother as she tells us she is reading her Bible. Not sure which bible she reads, but being self-righteous and holier than thou as a commandment from God does not appear in any Holy book I read.

You know what was even more disappointing than this intellectually moribund sad excuse for a mother was the other parents who thought she was being funny. That making fun of and deriding a small child seems to be play for these individuals. Tell me are they still in middle school. Have they never evolved past the bitchy twelve year old level of emotional development? Obviously not (for the full flavor make sure you read all the comments too.) I find it sad that these grown women who pride themselves on their motherhood cannot for one moment think outside themselves. I am sure that most of them are educated. I am sure that most of them can read, well maybe some not so well. (Oh yeah, I think if you pick on a four year old, disabled or not, it’s open season on your ass)The irony of the comments, yes it gets better, is how someone suggested that the little girl sounds like she is autistic, but that Dr. Temple Grandin said you need to discipline these children as if it were the 1950s or they are destined for disaster. And by not doing so the grandmother was being terribly negligent.

So having watched the HBO movie and possibly read an article or two about Temple Grandin these posters are now experts in autism. They seem to know everything that should be done with an autistic child because they read an interview with Temple Grandin. I guess none of them realized that Dr. Grandin was not born Dr. Grandin, but a hand flapping, nonverbal, and sensory over stimulated child who through decades of what we now call therapy and support by her mother, teachers and mentors was able to lead a normal life. You just don’t discipline an autistic child like it’s the 1950s, maybe the grandmother should have beaten the child perhaps that would have made them happy. I mean corporal punishment was acceptable back then. Oh and by the way, these women’s idea of 1950s discipline is neither what Dr. Grandin meant nor what she was talking about when it came to discipline and expectations of an autistic child. Dr. Grandin was referring to the need for structure and rules so lacking for the younger generation. (My take on discipline for an autistic child, here) Personally since these women think the 1950s is such a boon time, I think that these women should read a 1950s book on etiquette, truthfully they could use a good lesson in manners.

It is sad really that in their self-involved little worlds that It never dawned on any of these women that:

1. This accomplishment of patience and waiting is probably a major step for this child. That the hand flapping is a calming technique that helps her with her patience and that the grandmother cannot distract her with anything else, because autistics are very focused on what they are interested in and can not transition out of the phase just because you tell them to. It is called perseveration.

2. Rigidity and sensory issues can cause a major meltdown in a child.

3. A simple noise that a neurotypical child accepts can cause excruciating pain to an autistic child.

4. That clothing no matter how soft can feel like barbed wire on their skin.

5. The simple act of speaking can take all of an autistic’s child energy, if they can speak at all, and for all they knew that little girl in the library could barely speak beyond the few words she was saying.

6. Dozens upon dozens of hours of therapy probably was spent to get that child to stand there and wait her turn. That it was a major accomplishment and she should have been praised.

7. Sleep is a major factor for anyone with a neurological imbalance and uneven circadian rhythms take its toll too.

8. Autistic children are prone to seizures, tics, autoimmune diseases and neurological problems.

9. That autistic persons usually need special diets and medications in order to function.

10. That autistic children are not aware of the world around them and do not understand danger and evil and snarky bitchy adults.

11. That there are special gadgets you can use to attach to your child if they run, unlock the doors to the house or disappear without warning. Because run is what they do and it is a known danger.

12. That a large number of autistic children never toilet train properly.

13. The school district picks up only a fraction of what your child needs in order to learn to function in the world. The rest is up to you and an overwhelming number of parents of autistic children end up bankrupt.

14. Along with the autism can come attention deficit issues, obsessive compulsive issues, even bipolar and oppositional issues.

15. The inability to control your body, such as hand-flapping and toe walking, is a major part of any neurological disorder and that is why most children with autism or even those with ADD for that matter end up in occupational and physical therapy.

16. Misunderstanding language and its purpose affect autistic children. Pragmatic speech is lost on many with neurological issues. So even telling this child to stop hand flapping or perseverating would do no good.

17. Most persons with neurological imbalance have auditory processing issues that inhibit their ability to understand social and emotional issues. This also lead to emotional disregulation and meltdowns when they can neither understand how they feel nor can they explain it.

18. Even if employable most persons with neurological imbalances are unemployed. In the autism community it is upwards of 75%.

19. Because of society’s ignorance about their condition most persons with autism, especially those considered high functioning, are at a greater risk of suicide than the population as a whole.

(This is just my short list of educational tips for the population at large concerning autism. In the comment section please feel free to add your own).

Someone should tell these women that they are judgmental of someone else’s parenting and ignorant of those with disabilities and should be ashamed of themselves. Someone should tell those self-righteous women that the only thing that child wanted was to play on the computer. She didn’t want their money, their clothes, their home, their food or one of their organs, that this child wanted nothing from any of their children either. That the child wanted nothing from them but what she needed was understanding and compassion. You know the truth of the matter, that little four-year-old didn’t even notice how rude and condescending S was. Her grandmother if she noticed S payed her no never mind.

In reality the ones who lost out, the ones who were punished because of S’s self-righteous ignorance were her children. Instead of learning a lesson in compassion, instead of being taught how to put your Bible lessons into use in the real world, what they learned quite frankly was how to grow up to become a bitch.

April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day. I am sad to say, we have a long way to go.

Until next time,

Elise

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