Photo courtesy Fan of Retail via Flickr

Trust me when I tell you that what came out of my mouth wasn’t at all what I truly wanted to say to her.  But I was suspended in that fragile moment between trying to hold it together for the sake of my children and succumbing to the need to come apart at the seams, and it was all my lips could muster as I wavered on the tightrope dividing the two.

“Um, excuse me, can I help you with something?”

She looked up at me startled.

I had to grip the shopping cart so I wouldn’t collapse from emotion.

“This is autism, I told her, as I pointed to Andrew, splayed out on the floor of the plastic bin aisle, engaging in an unraveling I had never witnessed in public before. “It can really be hard on my son sometimes, so please keep your staring and eye rolling to yourself.”

My voice was shaky but firm.

Obviously surprised at being caught and subsequently called out on her judgmental reaction to my son’s sudden and all-consuming meltdown, she croaked out a lame “sorry,” and scurried away.

It wasn’t until she was completely out of sight that I allowed my legs to turn to Jello and buckle underneath me as I sat next to Andrew on the cold floor.

Target had never felt so bleak and unwelcoming.

It took a good solid ten minutes to calm Andrew down. I used every trick in the book, attempted every protocol I had memorized in the last 8 years of behavioral intervention and still I could not get through to my baby boy.

Even his iPad was rendered useless as he chucked it across the aisle; I was again reminded that his Big Grips case was the best choice we could have made for a protective case for his device and I watched as the iPad bounced several times before coming to a stop on the ground, almost defiantly, as if in solidarity with its master.

In the end it was Andrew’s younger brother Ian who finally got through to him, breaking the spell by making a simple suggestion that pierced through the haze surrounding his overwhelmed brother.

I told him he was my hero.

With my attention no longer on comforting and subduing my son, I allowed myself to feel the mixture of sadness and anger welling inside of me.

In the midst of what was undoubtedly the worst undoing of Andrew outside of our home, a stranger had paused long enough to stare at him with disgust and roll her eyes at him, this ungodly little boy infiltrating her space, her day, her life with his shrill shrieks.

It was her eye rolling that did me in.

 

It said, “Your son is a menace.”

And

“I can’t believe you can’t control your kid, you loser.”

And

“You don’t belong here.”

I would have preferred a simple obscene gesture; it would have stung less.

Once Andrew was calm enough to continue, we gathered ourselves and our things and made our way towards the checkout.

That’s when I saw her.

I thought of all the things I had wanted to say but didn’t, all the names I wanted to call her, but couldn’t. I thought how easy it was to hate a perfect stranger.

I was tending to my wounds when I realized her being there wasn’t a coincidence.

She was headed straight for me; she had purposely sought me out.

I braced myself for what I was sure was going to be an epic verbal battle right there, next to the fluffy bath towels and plastic marmalade bowls.

And then she said it.

“I’m so sorry.”

I must have given her a look that suggested she was speaking in a foreign language because she said it again; “I’m so sorry.”

She was crying now. Her hands had made their way to mine and were clasping them in desperation.

“I should have never treated you or your son that way. I was having a bad day but obviously yours is much worse and I’m so sorry. I’m so deeply ashamed for the way I reacted.  I hope you can find a way to forgive me.”

It took approximately two seconds for what she had just done to sink in and my arms were suddenly around her and we were hugging and apologizing and forgiving and crying and I told her it took guts to come find me and tell me these things and that she’ll never know just how much that meant to me and we were two imperfect humans hugging it out and Target didn’t feel quite so bleak and unwelcoming anymore and neither did the world.

I gave her one last squeeze and looked in her eyes and I could tell something had transpired there that would leave her changed forever. You just know these things.

I thought about my initial exchange with her – when I had calmly informed her that Andrew had autism, that things were rough, and to please mind her own business – instead of saying what I really wanted to say which was something along the lines of “$%#&!@*^*&^@#*&!!%!%&*&!!!,” and I knew that had I lashed out, lost my temper, and called her names, things would have ended much differently for the both of us.

Which brings me to my message for you all this week:

The looks, the stares, the eye rolls, the judgments; they will continue for my family and your families for many years to come. Some you won’t notice, some will be but a passing flicker, and some will leave deep, lasting scars.

Our instincts tell us to protect our loved ones and we exclaim to all who will listen that we will do so at any cost but I’m here to tell you that we need to look at the bigger picture and make a commitment to be part of the solution and not the problem.

Every time you’re out with your child on the spectrum, you’re an ambassador for autism. Every time you choose the high road and lead by example, you’re changing the world and making it a kinder, gentler place for our kids and adult children.

Every time you refrain from lashing out when someone stares too long, says something ignorant, or perceives your child to be something he or she isn’t, you create an opportunity to right the wrong, to teach those who don’t know, to heal the scars that were left behind from the last time someone mistook your amazing son or daughter for an unruly, spoiled brat.

Every time you make the conscious decision to speak slowly, clearly, effectively, informatively, and honestly rather than becoming belligerent, defensive, and vulgar, you are providing someone with the opportunity to seek you out and apologize.

You are saying to the universe “My child is worth the millions of conversations I may have to have in order to set others straight about what it means to have autism.”

And the universe is ready and poised to listen.

I will never forget this woman from Target. I will never forget the almost incapacitating mixture of emotions I felt in a very short time – from blinding anger, to gut-wrenching sorrow, to unparalleled joy. I will never forget the ride home with my boys, my pulse throbbing well past my head and into my lashes as I sobbed silently from relief and wonder.

I will never forget my quivering voice and the way I held my own and I will never forget the way it took my breath away when the same person who had caused me so much pain turned around and caused me so much happiness.

Mostly though, I will take care not to forget that it’s my job as Andrew’s mom to teach others about autism, and not assume that they should know; that it’s my job to thwart judgment with truth and kindness, and that it’s up to me what others will take away as they cross paths with my son and I in this great big world.

Will they be confronted by an angry, defensive, rude version of me? Or will I encourage and facilitate understanding and compassion by being an example rather than just someone who demands it from everyone else?

I hope you’ll join me in my efforts to educate, empower, and eliminate misconceptions about our community in a way that builds us up, not tears us down; in a way that will make a lasting imprint on the hearts of those who might otherwise allow fear and ignorance to guide them; in a way that will generate more spontaneous hugs near the fluffy towels and plastic marmalade bowls.

I promise you; there’s nothing else quite like it.

 

*For reasons I can’t yet disclose, I’m experiencing severe regression in this area. My view of society and the way people interpret and judge my son has suffered great setbacks in the last six months (I’ll fill you in eventually. I promise).  So today I have chosen to publish this post to my blog, which originally appeared in my special needs column for The Orange County Register in July of 2012 as a way to remind myself that there are still plenty of good people out there who just need to be educated in autism kindly and patiently. Mostly though, I just needed a way to remember that there are more good people out there than bad ones and so today I cling to this post and its message.

 

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161 Replies to “Attitude Adjustment on Aisle 17”

  1. You just loaded a whole lot of hope in people. I have lost hope in the stares, and eye rolls long ago. After a horrible exchange with a woman unloading her frustrations on her bad life choices on my kids, I just lost hope in good people, they are too far and few between. I’m glad you ran into a kind soul who was having a bad moment. You are amazing, and I pray for you and the Ashlines daily.

    1. it’s hard to hang on to that hope though, when the going gets rough, doesn’t it? I suppose that’s where our enormous support systems come in, reminding us that we aren’t alone in the world. Thank you.

  2. If I haven’t told you lately (or before) that I have an enormous amount of admiration for you, I am telling you now: I have an enormous amount of admiration for you. Huge. xo

    1. Oh honey. I know you get it. Which makes the effort so worth it. Because it’s OUR world and our kids will inherit it someday. You too do your part and I thank you as well.

  3. Thanks. You give us love and hope. There are so many days I just cry for my non-verbal, 7 yr. Old grandson who has self-injurious behaviors. He is so handsome so smart and Grandpa and I have been his caregivers since birth while parents work. Some days I need strength to endure.But we stay on our.knees for healing for all of our “special” kids. Thanks for being there for all of us.

  4. This made me teary… and it made me think… if I was walking by you in the Target that day, at that moment, what would you WANT my reaction to be? I only ask because Im sure that I would have felt bad for you, for your children, and for the situation but I have no idea what, at that moment, would be the “right” thing for me to do…

    1. This is an excellent question Patti. That same day, at that same Target, a lovely, kind, elderly woman came up to me and offered to push my cart to my car for me while I held my son in my arms. I was planning on ditching the checkout and leaving my stuff, but this woman came at the exact time. It’s not that I want anyone to feel “badly” for me. I think, the old saying, “if you haven’t got something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” applies here. More importantly however, is that the public must shift towards thinking the best of people rather than the worst. Before we leave our homes, many of us parenting children with autism have to convince ourselves that the trip won’t end in disaster, that society won’t judge our family, that there are more good people “out there” than negative, rude ones. It can take one person to make or break us, to motivate us to push ourselves when we least want to, or to hide beneath our covers while we give into the fear. Don’t over think it. Offer a helping hand, a kind smile, a knowing glance that says, “Hey Mom, I may not understand your circumstances completely, but I understand what it means to be a parent and so far the store isn’t on fire/flooded/evacuated so you must be doing an amazing job!”

  5. Wow! I am crying while reading because I have two on the spectrum and know this scenario very well. I have so been there and go up and down with taking the high road and also suffer from regression. It’s difficult and I take it day by day. Thank you so much for sharing. I look forward to hearing your journey with judgemental people. Setbacks and all! It will definitely help me as well as others.

  6. I was Christmas shopping with 4 of my kids. The three NTs headed into the back of Barnes and Noble to look at the children’s section and to avoid being seen with their brother and me. My ASD son was having a hard day but it was almost Christmas and by golly, I need to find an Indian cookbook. I had him pinned between my knees while I reached for the book I wanted. He continued to scream, the two other women next to me continued to stare and I continued to smile. I leaned over and said, “Someday I’m going to get him a Tshirt that says I’m Autistic, Not Rude”. They smiled. But he, in his limited way, decided to yell this phrase the rest of the time in the store. As he kicked his Bob the Builder boots high into the air “I’m autistic, not rude!!” As I literally pulled him along by the arm because he refused to walk “I’m autistic, not rude!!” As he sat in the long Christmas shopping line and we inched towards the checkout counters “I’m autistic, not rude!!” Even as he was pinned again between my knees so I could pay “I’m autistic, not rude!”
    And it was then that I saw her. At the end of the long line of cashiers and customers, just in front of the door, a woman stood, clearly watching us and waiting for us to just try and get past her. I took my Indian cookbook in one hand and my screaming son in the other, the Bob boots tucked under my arm, pushed my shoulders back and held my head high and walked right up to her.
    And she said, “I just wanted you to know I think you’re doing a great job. You’re so patient with him.”
    I wanted to cry, and to hug her but he kept on screaming. I gave her my best grateful look, said thank you and made a break for the door. But I’ve never forgotten her or the fact that she took a minute out of her busy December day to encourage me. I’ve always thought of her as an Angel in disguise that day.

    1. Oh my gosh, you don’t know how many times I have wanted to make a shirt similar to that. I love yours much better than the ones I have thought of, some not so polite. I love that your son picked up on it too. Good for you to hold your head high!!!

  7. Thank you for the reminder to stay strong when we are just too exhausted for yet ONE more lesson about “this is autism”. Yes, as a parent, it’s our life-long journey. Got it. Don’t like it, but I appreciate the reminder.

  8. This was a powerful piece. My son is high functioning. He doesn’t have huge meltdowns, but he, at 15, can be pretty rude in public. It’s hard. So very hard. You touched someone’s life that day. She will never forget and will teach others about her experience. The ripple effect of your one encounter with her will be huge.

  9. This was such a powerful post and something I wish I’d read a couple of years ago. What is it about Target anyway? =) It’s where I’ve had some of the best experiences with strangers and some of the worst. Since I want to focus on the good, I’ll just share this little moment.

    It was 30 degrees, snowing and the parking lot of Target was full of slush. My son had a complete meltdown (he was 3.5) in the parking lot and laid down in front of traffic. Cars were stopped, my son was flailing and screaming and I was weighed down by a heavy coat, a purse and my arm around a child who had decided to go “dead weight” on me at the worst time. Somehow, I was able to lift him with one arm and throw him over my shoulder. There’s no reason in the world I should have been able to do that. I was embarrassed and exhausted and still hadn’t made it into the store. A woman came up to me and said with her arms outstretched, “What can I do for you?” At that point, I was afraid to let go of anything…purse, child….I had them in a firm grasp and just needed to get to the store. I said, “Nothing….but THANK YOU so much for asking. You have no idea how much that alone means to me” and she smiled and walked away.

    That day changed me. I don’t get embarrassed as much and I now look for the nice people with an arm out-stretched. I forget sometimes those people are out there, so your post was a great reminder!!

    1. It’s amazing how a simple gesture of kindness from a stranger stays with us, isn’t it?? Thank you so much for sharing your story Jen. I’m so glad to know that you too were changed for the better…..

  10. Love it, love it, love it, LOVE IT! This is the first time I have been to your blog, and I shall be adding it to my favorites! I love your message in this story. I try to tell this to all the autism families in my world. We have these great moments to advocate and educate, but, unfortunately, we are at our most vulnerable when our children come unglued, especially in public. My mama bear is usually in full growl during these events. It doesn’t matter to me if I am at home or away, those situations always leave me with ragged breath, a queasy stomach, and the shakes. I keep it together during the event, but, after the storm has passed, I want nothing more than silence and isolation for MYSELF. I long for my own pillow fort. When I know that I am going into a public space with my youngest daughter (especially a situation that I KNOW will present opportunities for meltdowns), I intentionally wear autism gear (tshirts, hats, button pins, bags), and when trouble is brewing, I silently point to the word autism on my clothing and give observers pointed stares. (She hates it when I talk about her in front of her.) Most people get the picture and do not interfere. I try to be proactive. But, I do confess, I am not always prepared. This year, for the very first time, my daughter had a meltdown at her school. It was a “meet and greet,” and she started screaming at me in the middle of the hallway. We had an audience of third grade teachers, the principal, other parents and third graders. I was tempted to just grab her and run, but I handled it. I tried to be calm and keep my words measured, guiding her off the proverbial ledge. I could feel the stares all around me, but not one person said a word….thankfully. So far, her teaching team has been fabulous, and this has been the best year ever. Thanks for sharing this story. I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to share it on my autism page on FB.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Lisa. This whole autism parenting gig is such a work in progress, right? =) Share away, and thanks again!

  11. My name is stef I have autism an sometime still have major meltdowns to so I proubly no my friends an family feel same way .if I see a child acting like that I don’t stare or I talk to the kid say oh what wrong sometime snap them out if it as even nt kids through fits to in stores at times

  12. I just wanted to say, this brought tears to my eyes and made me sob, because I went through the very same thing about 14 years ago ( my daughter is 15 now). when she was born, she could hear and some how she lost her hearing and became deaf by the time she was 1 year old. ( she was very sick when she was born etc.) and she would scream and holler all of the time and we would sign to her and try to make sure she would be quiet in public, but you just couldn’t with a baby that didn’t understand. we got stares, and mean looks and almost into fights, and then when people would see that we were signing to her, its like they would lighten up some and they would understand and nod at us, and the temper tantrums that I dealt with from the developmental delay in age (acts 4 but was 8 yrs. old) it has been a wild ride. but it has brought back a lot of memories reading your story and knowing that I went through it too. I always look at families and think, God bless them and give them the strength, courage, knowledge, and love to raise a special needs child, and then I look back, and I say, hey, I raised one too!

  13. Wow.. This is an amazing post.. I am the autism mom that will almost come to blows when someone looks at my son the wrong way..

    Your words will hopefully help me next time I’m out in the community not to start a big fight and hopefully educate, educate, educate!

    I hope that someday we can change the world so that our kids are accepted….
    Your words brought tears to my eyes.. I have a little hero too..
    It’s nice to know you I am not alone in these Autism struggles..

    Thank you.
    Adriane Boat

  14. I don’t know why people don’t step forward and ask “can I help you in any way?” It would be so affirming. I’m a good Mommy. I have a good child, he just has [fill in the blank with your child’s diagnosis].

  15. It does get easier in a way when they get older. My daughter was 20, one day when we were on our way back from the shore and she had to stop to use the bathroom. She was in full melt down mode as we stopped at a gas station and she flung the passenger door open dinging the door of a car parked next to us. Well the biggest ugliest nastiest looking man got out of his car cursing like a maniac. At this point daughter just wants to get to the bathroom, and this muscle dude is smack in our way.
    Well she looked at him, stuck both her arms out to the side and made this other worldly sound halfway between a scream and a growl, I swear she levitated off the ground. Well the guy shut up immediately paled and backed up. I simply said “this is autism and you’d better move”. He did. 🙂 Hang in there.

    1. While the guy whose car your delightful girl damaged should not have uttered curse words at you and your kid, he wasn’t exactly out of line in being spectacularly annoyed that some ransom person was careless enough to dent his PARKED car.

      Having autism is not an excuse for wantonly damaging other people’s property. Expecting folks to be happy (heck, even not angry! Or not annoyed!) that your kid damaged their property is not reasonable. You’re certainly entitled to go through life with that expectation… but setting oneself up for constant disappointment doesn’t strike me as an especially good strategy for a happy life.

    2. Sue,

      WOW! In the midst of tears reading this post and comments I saw yours and you gave me such a laugh….I can just picture your 20 year old daughter growling at a mean, nasty looking man…him paling and backing up must have been priceless!

  16. Jo,
    Thank you for this post. I have a son, 11, who never goes anywhere with me because I am afraid of the reaction he would get when he had a meltdown in public. I am afraid I couldn’t control him; keep him from hurting himself or others, breaking things, or keep myself from crying in public. I realize I am not doing what is best for him and I want him to be able to be independent, but I just can’t stand for someone to stare at him or point their fingers at him. It breaks my heart and makes me angry. Just ask us about him. offer to help. Pray for us!
    Thank you!

    1. Please don’t stop taking your son to various places for several reasons. First, he deserves the same opportunities that other children have; besides, you never know that one time you don’t take him out may be the one “aha” moment that helps him over the hump of some type of issue, whatever that may be. I know that it can be very difficult when a meltdown occurs, and I wish I could make it easier for you. I do have to tell you that I have been to stores before, and seen some pretty amazing tantrums from some children (and there weren’t any issues such as autism with them). The other reason I would hope that you continue to take him places is that it might be good “bonding time” for you and your son. I know your job is very difficult, and I applaud you. Keep your chin up!

  17. Loved this, love the reminder that there are good and bad out there but either one can change depending on circumstances…just like me, so I have to make the effort.

  18. This was just what I needed to read. Today, my daughter was melting down at the dentist. It wasn’t the dental assistants or the dentist. The secretary took it upon herself to walk back & tell me what kind of mother she thought I was. This was preceded with her scolding my child. I lost it & told her that she shouldn’t throw stones & should go back to her desk as the 4 adults present could handle it, thanks. I am still mad at myself for reacting.

  19. I am as grateful to you for this as you were to that lovely, apologizing woman. I sometimes need to be reminded that my son is worth the millions of times I have to explain things to people. He just is. And we are, too. We are not only ambassadors for autistic people, we are for ourselves, too.

    We need tee shirts.

      1. I am an 82 yr old mother of ten, granmom of 28, & great gram of 39, & 40th already on the way. I’ve been addicted to children since I was 5, & decided I wanted 12 of my own. The seven sons, & 3 daughters are fabulous. When youngest was 10, I was blessed to get a job with a school district-transporting ‘special’ children of assorted disabilities in my 15 passenger van. We had many ‘meltdowns’, we had up-chucks, shoes thrown out windows, tears. You name it we had it. But most of all we had fun!! We sang, recited nursery rhymes, tooted toy horns. After couple of years, I was also asked to work with these diverse lovely kids, as an aide, in between drives to & from . The first year was with middle school to teens, mostly with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In summers I volunteered at camp for specials. Infant stimulation room. Believe me when I say I got to experience all the stories you are telling. We took older kids from school on field trips so they could be out in the real world. Hikes & picnics at parks, Zoo, Down town during Xmas season. I loved them all, from the infants to the teens. What an experience helping them & their frazzled parents. After seven years, my youngest son became the surviver of a severe traumatic brain injury, in Nov of 1982. The lesson I learned- NO ONE CAN TRULY UNDERSTAND, UNLESS YOU LIVE WITH A SPECIAL CHILD. I now have a grandaughter with three young sons (five, three & half, & two) All have fragileX syndrome, & three yr old also diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Three with extreme difficulties. I join her for breakfast out at Frish’s with the three & 5 0r6 of regular kids & moms. The kids need to get out in the world & the world & every one in it needs to get to know the kids. I take, my now 47 yr old special son, along. Know its tough all you beautiful mothers, but keep taking them out. Its the only way they will learn to join the rest of us. They deserve a LIFE.

  20. Today I was at Costco getting my daughter a sundae after a long day of therapy appointments. We were walking back to the table so she could eat and a lady said that she was the happiest little girl she’s ever seen. That my daughter just made her day. I thanked her and we went on. It didn’t make sense to squash it with all of our troubles and how she had been having a similar throw down an hour before.

  21. I’m so glad you chose to republish this because I needed to read it. It is easy to grow callused and bitter and then send that attitude out into the word. I need to remember your message, always, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I blubbered right through this. Love to you Jo.

  22. I hope that I have a little bit of both the types of courage you and that woman had. I don’t have kids and I was in tears for you both.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have tears running down my face as I write this. It is a reminder to me of a very similar situation I encountered a few months ago and it brought the same feelings rushing back to me. My son has autism and had been diagnosed for a year when I was minding my own business at the grocery store. As he learned new words, he repeated them, A LOT! This day his word was “help” and as he said it over and over again, I kept assuring him he was okay. Then it happened. A woman probably in her 60’s stopped me, gave an eye roll and threw her hands in the air and rudely said, “is he ok”? I said he was fine and that’s when her annoyance went to another level and she walked away. I thought ” ok, this is your chance to inform and teach”. So I did. That’s when she told me I was a horrible parent for “ignoring” my child and a few other mean things to go along with it. I was crushed. It made me very fearful to talk to strangers about my son and it makes me feel like all eyes are on us when we have public meltdowns.

    I am so glad that you had a happy ending. There are good people in this world. I have to remind myself of that a lot and I know that being open and honest about my son is much better then hiding it. I’m not ashamed of who he is, just ashamed of how people react to him sometimes and that is what breaks my heart. Your story has restored my faith that good people still exist and it has reminded me that I should never stop trying to educate people about autism. Thanks again for sharing! We are all in this together:)

    1. Michele,
      I totally relate to this!! My son likes to not only say/yell “help” repeatedly, he will also crouch/ cower on the ground while covering his head when overwhelmed. Well, people just assume instead of coming to see if you actually need help. Needless to say, I had the cops called on me when my son did this on a public sidewalk!! I was not happy and of course my son freaked out even more once the cops showed up.

  24. What a great read! Thank you. I had an incident the other day at Walmart. My son, who has autism too, was having a minor melt down about wanting all three items and not choosing just one – while all the other stuff was rang up and we were just waiting on him. The lady behind me said “He was doing the same thing, in the exact same spot last time we were here>” I didn’t know how to respond to that – not sure of her tone, if it was negative or she was just stating a fact. She did end up going to another lane. Later, I thought it might have been really funny if I had said something like “I know! Can you believe we are still here after all this time and he still hasn’t made up his mind?” Of course next time, I’ll probably just give her a quick fact about Autism.

  25. I have a friend whose son has Asperger’s. When he was younger, he would have horrible meltdowns in public. Finally, as a way to educate people without losing her s—-, she had business-type cards made up which basically said, “I am not a horrible parent. My kid is not horrible. He has Asperger’s and has severe difficulty managing his emotions. I’m sorry he has captured your attention. You could help the situation by….” It really helped her because it allowed her to focus her energy on her son’s needs in the moment.

  26. I don’t have a child with Autism, but found this posted on my wall. Thank you for giving me insight to something I know very little about. I do try to reserve judgement on people, and would never intentionally disrespect anyone. But it is nice to learn that the next time I see a child throw a tantrum, I will know that a mother may be at her wits end, I will think of this article and maybe offer help or a shoulder to cry on. We do need to be better educated on how a special needs child behaves differently. We all need to learn to have more compassion for each other, and not judge and tear each other down!!

  27. I had a similar incident happen to me without such a great turn out. I was at my local Kroger store in the check out lane putting my grocery items on the belt while also trying to take care of my 1 year old daugther, 2 year old son and 5 year old autistic son. My 5 year old was standing next to the cold drink section repeatedly staying over and over again, I want sips. I was doing my best to ignore him, normally he just fizzles out, when the man in front of us turns to my son and yells at him, I HEAR YOU! Wow my mean mother mode just whipped out on me. I kept my cool when speaking to him and telling him, while my insides are on fire, that my son is autistic and he can’t help himself. The response I received was not what I expected and honestly set me off. The man in front of me proceeds to tell me that ” well all kids must be autistic then”. I then calmly educate him on autism and what it all entails for not just the child but the family and also in public. He continues to mumble things to me and I just continue to educate him all while in the grocery line. He finally pays, gives me a half hearted sorry and leaves. I get to the checkout, not realizing that the staff at the store at the time was listening to everything I was saying. The guy checking me out asks me how I was doing, with the exception of that jerk that just left. I said I’ve heard worse than him, which was a lie. He and the woman behind him bagging and the woman in the next aisle over all said how impressed they were and how much they didn’t understand until they heard what I was saying. They were impressed with how I handled myself. That made me happy. What made me happier was that they spread the word. They told the other employees and through them other customers heard about autism. Now whenever we walk into the store, even 3 years later, we get a warm reception. They always great my kids, especially my oldest, and they treat us with respect. They get it and so I guess a good thing did come from a bad experience.

  28. Such a moving post, with so many thoughtful comments. I’m not yet a mother, but I’m around kids all day. I will be on the look-out for situations where I can simply ask “Can I help you in any way?” with outstretched hands and open heart. To all of the mothers who posted, keep up your love and thank you for educating the rest of us.

  29. You are my hero Jo. Keep your head up and push forward. You’ve got us all behind you for support. My mom always tells me, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.” Hang tough Mama.

  30. Thank you for this post it is so hard to take the high road day after day . I just feel like why do I have to keep explaining to everyone who stares and rolls their eyes but you are so right we need to continue to educate for our children one eye roll at a time ! I took the high road all day long on a Kings Dominion trip until at the very end when we were leaving the last snicker and laugh set me off and I let the people have and it solved nothing and made me even more upset !!! Big thanks to your post I love it !

  31. Thank you for this post and article. Your son is blessed to have such a valiant advocate for his needs. Some of the strongest women I know are those who are mothers of special needs children. There is no doubt that God knew what He was doing by putting your son in your care. Though a daunting and overwhelming blessing this journey may be, bless you for not shirking it but growing and helping others grow in understanding.

  32. Just wanted to share this person’s story. I hope you have many more good experiences. Thank you for being a loving, educating mom.

    http://www.danoah.com/2013/09/because-people-really-are-good-part-vi.html
    ” I have a special needs child, she sometimes gets overwhelmed in public and gets upset. It takes a lot of calming activities and talking her down to help her gain her composure. Because she doesn’t LOOK disabled, we get a lot of snide comments about rude children, brats who just need spankings, etc. We went to an ice cream place when it started to warm up and she started to have a meltdown. I caught it before it got out of control and helped calm her down; but she still disrupted the dining area. One woman smiled at me and said, “You’re doing such a great job with her. She’ll really appreciate that someday.” I cried. No one ever has nice things to say, and it meant SO much to me that someone understood and that my daughter wasn’t be judged as “just a brat.” “

  33. What a great story! I have had these experiences often, way too often! I am a firm believer of informing people right away. It seems to make it a little easier. Does anyone have a child with more violent behavior than good? My son, who is 9, has become vey violent to the point where my family is very scared. I am having trouble finding and getting help. Does anyone have any advice? I am truly in need of some help…..

  34. Very good heartfelt story. Ive been there with those people staring. Ive had cps called on me. Ive been thru many and many public melt down ive learned to stand with confidence that its my kid. I some times I have to get down on one knew try to get eye contact and ill speak loud directly to my daughter and own it. Sometimes Ill look at everyone smiling when we walk away. My daughter’s non verbal and ive had people come up to me and threaten to call cops. I know with my kid I cant feel weakness I cant feel pain. Im so happy to hear these stories and Im proud of all who can be the bigger person. You can say what you want to me. Ill be poliite and explain, but shout to danielle Spears cause the second you dont talk to me and start taking my daughter with autism ive would of lost it. These stories keep me motivated

    1. People are not dirtbags, just people who do not understand. While I agree that rolling the eyes is painful to the poor mom and her struggling child, lets not pass judgement on her the way that other have have passed judgement on the poor mom with a child that is just so overwhelmed that all they can do is scream.

  35. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My son is now 15 and I have had this and many like these in my son’s life time. I have always felt alone in these moments. Everyday is a challenge everyday is an adventure – and not a fun adventure. Rocio

  36. This post just brought tears to my eyes. I also love that you (as the author) are able to look back to it to gather strength during a time when you’re experiencing difficulty. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  37. WOW…what an eye-opening article! It is hard being the parent of a “normal” kiddo, but any type of “out of the box” behavior is considered unacceptable in our society. I applaud you for your actions…you are an amazing mama!

  38. I cried when I read this..I cried for your son and I cried for you. Bless your other son for his level headness. I promise that if I have the chance to meet a screaming little child and his Mother who looks like the world is heavy on her shoulders I will offer her a smile of encouragement and not a roll of my eyes.

  39. I had a similar experience at an amusement park with my daughter, although there was no hugging after I calmly informed them of my daughter’s autism. There was, however, a complete change in the way they reacted to the situation.

    I agree that we need to advocate and be the voices for our children on the spectrum, and that we need to do it kindly and calmly. How can we ever expect understanding and acceptance if we can’t show a little ourselves? I try to remember that there was a time when Autism was a stranger to me too.

  40. Thank You for Sharing, I have a Son, Joshua, with Autism. He is now a Young Man of 25 years old… My Journey has been a Blessing, He is My Teacher…
    I have similar stories, and so does his Sister of 14 months age difference. As a Single Mother for 23 of those years, I learned to advocate for My Son, and Others along the Journey. As we see and hear, There will always be those who do not know, who need to be educated, and as we go about our everyday lives, even those moments spent with so many emotions, I know that for those moments that I have cried, I have been disappointed, I have been furious , I look at Josh, and it melts away, Compassion always Wins! Thank You again for Sharing, for making everyone Aware, that we have come a distance, yet we still have to Use Our Voices for those we Care For, as we go on this journey, and Many Blessings To You & Your Family <3

  41. Looks like a lot of learning went on that day. Favorite line:Every time you’re out with your child on the spectrum, you’re an ambassador for autism.

  42. Usually the only decent ones I come across are those who say to be that they have a child/client/friend who does the same thing. It’s code for “I know he has autism, I get, I live it”. The rest… are a**holes. Sorry, I lost my positivity a long time ago. My son is almost 17. Six feet tall, 165 pounds… mustache and working on some chin whiskers as well. It doesn’t get better. Society gets less tolerant as are kids get bigger. So… I am thinking of just teaching him to flip people off. It will make he and I laugh and that is all that matters.

    1. Misinformation breeds ignorance. Those that have not lived with “it” have no reason to learn about it. That may not be how it should be, but that’s how it is. If you want people to understand, you have to be willing to take the time to educate them, rather than judging them for their bad behavior in the same way they judge you and your child. And, for your child’s sake, I hope you can take a lesson from this wonderful article and try to help fix the problem, rather than contributing to it by flipping people off when they don’t get it. Don’t give them any more reasons to pass judgement on your son…suck it up and give him the tools to best deal with the difficult path he has been handed in life.

  43. After reading your message about the experience in Target, It was amazing to see God move the hearts of others, to reach our heart in great Love and joy. Thank so much for sharing this beautiful story, and may we all take from it of God’s never ending great Love for us who love Him, In Christ, Troy

  44. My friend, Rosie, emailed me this website. She has a 15 year old son who is Autistic and she has gone through many difficult times over the years. I met her at work, she was only there for 6 yrs….but when I saw her, she was crying. I met her in the ladies room and we talked…and I found out the reason for her tears. At work they knew her son was autistic…after all it is a state college with many professionals…who also are professors as well. There were times she couldn’t take a day off from work….so she had to bring her son to work….they made her life so difficult…she tried the legal route..but with no money and the powers to be…I told her to hang in there and helped her out on many occasions. She eventually retired….which I am happy for her…she now has the time to take care of her son…but again its amazing about professional attitudes…you would think they would know better. But what was she suppose to do…after all she was the sole support of her son…lock in up in the closet..he is her only child…society sometimes has many difficulties understanding on how to put yourself in a person’s shoes. We must stop, think and thank God that we have a good life…where other people must go on…trying to find ways to find the causes of Autism…it is a major issue in this country…yet we have money for wars…but not much for the needs of our special needs children….Think first…before we look at someone..and do not prejudge the child and the parent!! Get involved…join a group….become active and perhaps we can wipe away the tears of the parents.

  45. There is something very liberating to people able to share the terrifying experiences
    that only the loved ones of someone with autism, has experienced in restaurants, at school, on the bus, in the car, at the shops, at home etc etc etc
    After a while you realise that the focus of the situation should not be the horrified strangers who look on but the person on the floor who cannot cope with what is going on around them.
    Always remember if someone wants to judge let them come and live with you for a few days and see if they would do better.

    The front of my t -shirt would read ” I Love Someone With Autism”
    And the Back” Welcome To My World”

  46. I have had similar melt downs with my son. You never get used to it, and its not just those with autism. Mine has other “labels” but I understand. I once had a Walmart employee call the ambulance because he thought my son was having a seizure (it was a meltdown).

  47. Thanks for sharing this. I don’t have autistic children, and you have an amazing way of conveying your experiences and feelings so that “outsiders” understand what you are going through. I am so impressed by your poise and grace. Thanks for the reminder to be mindful of the seen and unseen battles that others are fighting every day.

  48. Great writing! Ok, I cried too, but I wanted to say that you write beautifully. Thank you for the reminder that some demonstrative kids are not spoiled. Some patient mothers are not “week”, and all extreme situations should be allowed the time to reveal what is really going on. Kudos to you, and keep an eye out for those of us that do not rush to judgement.

  49. I do not have a child with Autism and your story filled my eyes with tears. Not only because it was so well written, but because of the truth behind it. There ARE good people in our world.
    As a matter of fact, I was just drafting a blog post about how we are all ambassadors for our people. I’m writing it in completely different context and yet, here we are, with the same compassionate view of who we are – in all of our humanity.
    We are all ambassadors of our people, whether we are white, black, Jewish, American, employees, rich, poor, family of people with disabilities, cancer, or depression, or all of these!
    Each interaction we have is an opportunity to embrace our humanity and it seems that people who appear most cruel are the ones who need our humanity the most.
    Thank you for sharing this story – today – because I just happened to see it shared on Facebook and it just happened to hit exactly where I needed it – today.

  50. Hang tough momma!! You’re not alone. There are many, many people out there who feel and share your pain. We all have each other to lean on during these rough times. May God bless you and your family each and every day.

  51. I am in tears as I read this. There are good people out there, most of them just live in a perfect bubble and don’t get it. My grandson has challenges from a brain injury suffered before birth. My daughter is unfailing in her desire to give him a chance to connect to people, knowing full well that each time she takes him out, the noise, lights, sounds, smells might be enough to overwhelm him and cause a melt down.

    But she perseveres. She deals with people who judge and don’t understand, and she continues to love and support him through all of it. I help as much as I can. But the lion’s share of care falls on her slender, tough shoulders, and I am humbled and awed by her ability to hang in there.

    I am sorry to hear that you’ve recently had trouble. If I could be hugging you and hanging in there with you, I would, as I would for every parent out there with a special needs kid. I pray that the world at large gets smarter. Know that a great deal of love is headed your way as I write this, and I hope today brings a little ease.

  52. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this. It brought tears to my eyes. I am thinking of the value of what you have shared here if we use it in all of our relationships. Early this afternoon I was leaving the grocery store with someone to whom I give rides to run errands. She was slowly letting her cart go into another car, saying that’s what those things on the corners are for. I called out her name after trying to get her to stop a few times. It would not occur to me to let my cart rest on another car. My reaction was not horrible, but not pleasant. As I ponder what you have shared here in relation to this incident, I could have just taken hold of the cart from the very beginning. She is deserving of better treatment than I give her. Father God, help me. Oh, how I want to keep these things in mind and respond appropriately. This highlights that others must see a difference in us if we are calling ourselves Christians. God bless you, Jo.

  53. An amazing example of what we need to do for our children! I do the same, but haven’t had that experience of someone actually apologizing…gives me hope that one day it will happen! I do have to share one experience which went against the way I delivered the message, however I did receive a honest apology. After my son was having a huge melt-down waiting in line (Ugh! Lines! Hate them!) to go into a haunted house and a stranger (next to my friends with their own kids and I) literally bent down and screamed in my son’s 9 year old face to ‘shut the f@*! up’. In front of his daughter and wife as well. I could not control my anger at that point. #1: How dare you scream and swear in any child’s face? #2: He’s autistic, and maybe you should be concerned with your behavior in front of my son, your daughter, and 5 other children present. He quickly became quiet and apologized. It was just horrid it had to happen that way…for everyone involved.

  54. This is both beautiful and encouraging <3 Thank-you so much for sharing this here. I too cling to it's message at a time where it's getting harder and harder to deal with what others in society can throw at us.

  55. Thank you for your blog and I send you big hugs! We’ve been in many of these situations in many many many places. To the point that I had to stop driving with my son, stop taking him to the stores and such because it was to dangerous for him and me. My doctor wrote a card for me, which I made copies of, and I would use those to hand to people and/or police when in these situations. The card explained the situation and gave her name, title, and phone number in which some people did call her to verify. I can now tell you that my son is 17 years old and after a lot of therapy, medicine changes, and constantly teaching him (which continues for appropriate social behaviors) he has made great strides in his self-control with a lot less public melt downs. He still has them but they are fewer and far between and less destructive. I say all this to give hope as when he was younger I had no hope that things would be different and no one could tell me that there would be a change. About his 5th or 6th grade he was getting bigger in size and I couldn’t handle him as I am only 5’2″ & 110# and his doctor began to take steps to find other living arrangements for him. But, it was like a light went on and he just turned the corner and we began to see drastic changes and quickly. Since hitting the teenage years, it has been difficult but not nearly as intense as when he was younger. So we have hope in his future and ours and the family’s. We don’t know exactly what that future looks like and we don’t have all the answers and we haven’t ‘arrived’ at bliss, but that is what our faith is all about. Faith in knowing a God that is in control of all things and He knows the beginning into eternity and we are thankful for that. Hugs and prayers.

  56. Wow. I’m in awe. I don’t have an autistic child. And to be honest most of us parents who don’t have to deal with it don’t know much about it…because it doesn’t affect us personally and we are so ingrained in our own lives and children. But they say it takes a village to raise a child and I believe that. I think to be good neighbors, friends, Christians, or to just be a better person, we all have an interest in getting more educated on this. I have many times thought a kid acting up in a store was a little brat with parents lacking in discipline and wanting to be a friend to their kid rather then parent. But I see I was probably wrong most of the time. I really was (and still am) very unaware of what autism is and how many are affected. Those parents are facing greater challenges then me as a single mom to a healthy and happy 5 year old girl. I think next time I will be more conscience of my reaction and look to show praise. We need to realize too that being a mom is tough and we need to give all the moms out there reassuring smiles and praise.

  57. I dont often respond to blogs, but your post script inspired me. I live in NYC and my family — with 2 ASD boys & a NT girl — often takes trips to various museums. Once, we were at the Metropolitan Museum and my oldest boy became disturbed by something (maybe there was an elevator that we passed without riding) and began screaming at the top of his lungs. We were on a stair case and I was able to sit him down and restrain him, with museum goers rushing past us. After about 4 minutes, I had calmed him down and kept myself together, and we quietly walked down the stairs to join the rest of our family. At the bottom of the stairs was one of the museum guards, who can often be gruff and a bit unyielding in their insistence on proper museum behavior. I took a deep breath, looked at him and he stared straight at me and put his hands over his heart. Then he pointed at me.
    There are good people out there. I have other nice stories, stories of confusion turned to kindness. I have more of those stories than ones of ignorance & intolerance, though I have a few of those too. I hope the tides of kindness turn in your favor soon.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. That simple, kind gesture from the museum guard…..that just shot right through my heart. Beautiful.

  58. Hello. I am not surprised to hear that people can treat you so cruely when they have no idea how beautiful a child with autism can be. I am so thankful that there are patient people like you out there that can show ignorant people that there is still kindness in the world. I teach children with special needs including autism. I can honestly tell you I have never had a job I love more. It’s tough at times but I am blessed to be able to understand and be able to know and learn from these beautiful children. I find it funny that I am THEIR teacher yet everyday they teach me something new. I was wanting to print off your story and share it with my new staff so they can understand what the parents have to go through due to cruel people. This way they can also be advocates for in the community and help educate those who refuse to recognize anything other than their “normal” (whatever that word means). Would this be okay with you? Stay strong and don’t let the world defeat you. You are a beautiful individual and the world could use more people like you.

  59. Have been in your shoes. In a family catfish restaurant on my birthday, an elderly woman approached me and told me that my son had ruined her meal, that she has 5 children and many grandchildren and that none behaved so badly (This wasn’t even a bad day. At age 3, he stood up and bounced on his feet to look out the window at a delivery truck and excitedly told us to watch.) The lady hovered over me pointing her fingers in my face, telling me what a terrible mother I was in front of my mother and son, said people like us belonged at McDonalds. The area we were seated in had only one other family seated next to us, who were kind enough to say that N did not bother them. I stood to lead her away from my family and our table, made the mistake of touching her shoulder and she went spitting mad. Her friend got her out of there. I wondered how I could have responded (really couldn’t get a word in edgewise and was too stunned to respond.) I broke into tears afterword, the restaurant was nice and gave us a free meal, the next table was kind. I figured the lady must be going through her own torment, sad to have a life focused on what is wrong instead of what is right, feeling miserable and spreading misery instead of helping others. I prayed for the lady, and I prayed that I know how to handle the situation better if it happens again. There was no time to educate anyone, I remember a time when I did not like my son very much because he caused me so many situations to deal with and embarrassments, I wanted to hole up in the house and I got more and more depressed. I had to focus on his good and not his bad behaviors, the joy he brought, not the frustrations. I grew to love him more and more because I felt I knew him in a way no one else did. God put us together because He knew I was the right combinations of traits and growth sequences to grow us together. He is 9 now and quirky, he has matured and can behave better in public, still stands out, but I have so much joy in who he is and what he has accomplished. That’s the thing about parenting, the result is not apparent until way in the future, so don’t let anyone judge your process.

    1. Wow, N Mom. I appreciateyour honesty about feeling like you didn’t like your son and you are not alone. I felt that way, too sometimes. It’s one of the most difficult things to deal with, especially as a mother. I’m glad things are so much better and that you have had nice people around you. It’s easier to remember the ones who lash out than the ones who are kind. I’m glad things are better now. Your son sounds like a wonderful young man, then and now and you sound like a great mom…then and always!

  60. I don’t know who you are or where you are from but you moved me to tears, I hope that you find many more compassionate people in your walk of life,

  61. I cant even imagine the pain and frustration you are feeling and how this world challenges your optimism and patience. I pray that you keep your strength and resolve because this post brought tears to my eyes and has encouraged so many already. You are doing a beautiful job, as a mom, an ambassador, an edifier, and a human being. Thank you for sharing this amazing story. <3 You are amazing!

  62. What a beautiful post! I completely understand…been there welled up with anger too at the judgment that often gets expressed by people who just don’t get it. It sounds like you might be feeling less optimistic today, but this post was an encouragement! I hope you experience more people who “get it.” Hang in there!

  63. I’ll never forget taking my son to a home and garden show. It wasn’t a smart thing to do, but I was new at being a mom of a kid with autism. We were at the concession stand getting when he suddenly threw himself onto the floor in full melt down. I looked up and saw a row of faces standing across my entire line of vision. I looked up and down the row and asked, “Haven’t any of you ever seen a meltdown?” Later, when I walked out of the area, rejected hotdog in hand, my son still lamenting, a couple walked past me. The man said, “Somebody’s not happy!” looking at my son. His companion retorted, “Well, of course he isn’t! Look who has all the food!” None of us handled that situation as well as we could have. Still, it shows how people can take stock and sum things up when they have no idea what they’re talking about. I’m so glad this instance turned out well and that you can look back on it with hope. I cling to one good memory of being at a birthday party. There was another huge meltdown, people rolling their eyes, our walking in and out of the room trying to calm down. Another mother walked up and simply hugged me. I thanked her, made quick goodbyes and left, but that one wordless gesture gave me the hope I needed for a while. People may want us to stay home and out of sight, but we can’t and we shouldn’t.

  64. Love this post. I would like to repost on my blog if that is ok with you. I was writing a post the other day that this will highlight perfectly. Your story is intense and so real. Just as we need that special soul to reach out to us, we also need to BE that special soul for someone else if possible. We are in this together. Xoxo

  65. Thankyou for sharing. I live in Australia and I think together we can promote awareness for our children’s sake all over the world. We are blessed to have strong people like you who will in turn help children like mine. By speaking about understanding, tolerance and acceptance.

  66. I cannot begin to tell you how much this story has made me think. I have worked for a Developmental Pediatrician who specializes in Autism. I cried when I read this. I pray that I will never treat someone in your shoes with a snide remark or roll my eyes. I think you are a terrific mom and I am sure you do a wonderful job with both your children. Remember God gives special needs children to very special parents.

  67. As they say: “it gets better” Because eventually you will be walking around with a 5′ 7″ teenager with a moustache and goatee beard and no one will dare comment. Until you bring him into the ladies bathroom that is…
    xx

  68. Amazing post. Could identify with it so much. Tears in eyes reading this but also incredibly touched by your words and incredible insight. I myself had the pleasure of sitting holding my son as he had a meltdown in the local toy shop. That was my wake up call that others just dont matter at these times. My sons safety and comfort was more important. It was liberating and I can still see the shock on the store security man’s face as myself and my son (who was calm by this stage) walked out and said a cheerful goodbye! You have a true gift for words.. Thanks for sharing x

  69. Mamas, you all need Superwoman capes. I don’t have a child on the spectrum, but several in my circles do. Please know that there really are those of us out here in the world that see you, see your amazing kids, and care about what your day looks like. Look for the open arms and the smiles….we’re waiting for you, in Target, in Walmart, in the grocery store. We’re here…I promise. Hang in there. You are doing wonderful things.

  70. Maybe you should make up shirts that say Autism Ambassador. Lol. I don’t have children with Autism, I have two children with severe ADHD and I have ADHD as well. I can relate to everything you have said. Yelling and running around in stores, all of it. I would like to give you something to giggle about.
    My daughter was about 3 and my aunt, in let ,Mom, and myself were shopping for food for my brother’s wedding. We all took turns pushing her in the cart. My mom was pushing her and I needed to go to another part of the store for something I had forgotten. I walk around the corner of the aisle and she starts calling my name. I just keep walking. I reach the other side of Superstore and I can hear my daughter as clear as a bell, yelling for me.
    I get back to her, she gives me a big hug and tells me she missed me. People up and down the aisle were laughing at her antics. They came up to tell what a beautiful child I have, she charmed them all!!
    We get up to the checkout line and she gets grumpy, my uncle is pushing her now. He taps the bottom of her foot and she yells Don’t beat me! My uncle just looks at her and says he was just getting the grumpies out! She looked at him, thinking about it, and says ok, do the other foot. He does and she does is laugh.
    I am never embarrassed at what they do good or bad, I just try to control the aftermath. All I think when I see, the eyerolls and sneers, is I feel sorry for you, you don’t have children so full of love.
    My daughter is now 18 and my son is 12.

  71. Wonderful post. And with all the difficulties we go through as parents of spectrum kids, one of the great gifts I find is that the people who go out of their way to be kind or helpful are the ones that will truly linger in our memories, pushing aside the memories of the fleeting eyerolls and negative comments. After Hurricane Katrina, I took my three girls (NT) and my little boy to the drugstore to buy “backpack supplies for Katrina victims”, my son went into full metldown mode and even pulled over the security gate as I carried him out over my shoulder, his twin holding my other hand. At first, I felt too embarrassed to go back to the store. But once I did, the clerk asked me in the kindest tone how my son was doing. I almost cried right then. I became a regular customer. The meltdowns have all but subsided, but when I do see a eyeroll or sideway glance, I know I won’t remember that person’s face 5 minutes from then. But I will always remember the friendly clerk at my new favorite shop.

  72. That was an amazing article. You did what any parent would have done, special needs or not! I have gone through that same situation as you did at Target, except my son and I were in Walmart. And let me tell you, as busy as Walmart gets on a Saturday afternoon, you could hear a pin drop. I can so totally relate. But… Yes your are right, there are a lot of NASTY PEOPLE out there. As parents of these angels, we are so better then them. You are an amazing MOM, so don’t let these folks get to you. They are ignorant. Yes Education is the best to inform these “DO some with that Child of YOURS” people. But sometimes, with those type of incidents and them witnessing your struggles in public, it will hit them later. It always does. I have witness that before. So hang in there! God gave you that child because you get that special LOVE that a “NORMAL” (what is that anyways???) person couldn’t handle. Just saying. Good Luck with your BLOG! GOD Bless you … You can email me anytime! BIG HUG! Your article made me cry… So you are touching peoples hearts.

  73. You won’t like to hear this but here goes. Polite society has certain rules. One of these is that we do not, in a public place, have a meltdown. If one cannot control ones urges to meltdown, then one doesn’t belong on public. Get a sitter and keep your kid at home, or immediately remove him from the store, but the fact that you have a genetically defective offspring should not under any circumstances be the problem of the rest of society.

    1. You won’t like what I am about to tell you. You are indeed a jackass. Why? Let’s see, your comment is full of ignorance. FULL OF IT. How about we take every child that has a meltdown or awkward social behaviors, put them on Island, so they don’t offend people like you. How about we do that? Would that help you in your daily life? You need a dose of Reality, Buddy. I bet you weren’t the perfect angel you seem to think you are, when you were a child. Children learn about the world through behavior. Some that have Autism or development delay have a harder time trying to figure out the world. And funny, its not their fault. Get over yourself. Maybe people like you shouldn’t go out in public.

      1. You, sir, are the defective one and I hope to God that you never reproduce. Your ignorance and hatred need to be stomped out at the source.

    2. Are you for real???? Do you realize that “genetically defective” children are increasing at an alarming rate and the world better get used to it? We will not just keep them at home. What does that teach them? Nothing. Does it suck to have to take them out in public so they can learn to adapt? Yeah. Does it infuriate me to no end that people like you stare, shake your head, and then make offensive comments about society’s “rules” when you are in the privacy of your own home? Hell Yeah! You have NO IDEA what it is like raising a child with special needs. Meltdowns happen all the time, whether in public or not. Who the hell are you to say who does and “doesn’t belong in public”??? You need to get some empathy.

    3. Is one of the rules of “polite” society that as long as you’re behind a computer screen, you can be as rude and ignorant as you want? That doesn’t seem very polite to me. Perhaps your disgust at anything different than you is a genetic defect.

    4. It seems to me, Bowie, you are THE last person to be teaching or preaching the rules of “polite society”. Genetically defective offspring?? F*ck you. How is that for polite?

    5. Let me tell you something about “polite society” – it has had a lot of dumbass rules over the years. Former greatest hits include “separate public facilities for different races,” “women are the property of men,” and “children should be seen and not heard”. Current popular rules include gems like, “all bodies should be the same size,” and ” all children should be able to learn exactly the same way.” In other words, your “polite society” is full of shit a lot of the time, and requires constant evolving so we can continue to progressed as civilized humans. Those of us who have begun to advance are already aware that people with disabilities are actually human beings with rights, and that a meltdown is far more difficult and painful for the person experiencing it than the “polite society” looking on. Still, I have no doubt that you’ll one day understand personally, since your comment has bought you a first class ticket on the karma bus. Good luck with that.

    6. Dear “Bowie”,
      Your mother should have had an abortion.
      “Polite society” is accepting of all kinds of humanity, however different they are.
      You, however, are exactly what is wrong with the world.
      Go troll elsewhere and perhaps go crawl back under your bridge so the rest of polite society doesn’t have to deal with you.
      Love,
      GFY

    7. Bowie,
      I agree with Andrea (and a LEGION of others who’s wrath will soon be unleashed upon you once this post makes it’s way onto everyone’s FB, Twitter, tumblr, etc.).
      You might be the biggest ass I have ever come across online or IRL.
      Your complete disregard for the feelings of others is probably the reason I can only imagine you are alone in life.
      I pray you do not have children.
      Your lack of sensitivity is astounding.
      Do you think these amazing, wonderful children or their parents choose how they are born? No. They are blessed with it. YES, I said it. BLESSED to be what you call “genetically defective.”
      WE around them are blessed to be able to watch their triumphs and to help them through their struggles.

      I think YOU have the genetic defect.

    8. Bowie …. Your post reminds me of someone’s views …. who?? oh yes, I remember – HILTER!

      “Nazi propaganda in the form of posters, news-reels and cinema films portrayed disabled people as “useless eaters” and people who had “lives unworthy of living”. The propaganda stressed the high cost of supporting disabled people, and suggested that there was something unhealthy or even unnatural about society paying for this.” – BBC

      As a contributing member of society, I find YOUR views ‘problematic’. While they may not be a genetic defect, I’m guess an environment focussed on HATE and self-loathing has been your existence. I wonder where such hate comes from – I almost feel sorry for you. Such an ugly existence – hiding behind a computer screen to take shots at the disabled.

      Please get some therapy for yourself – STALKING and HATING this disabled is a BIG RED FLAG – YOU got issues!!

    9. Bowie,

      You are the genetic defect in our society!! People like you should not be given the gift of life as you are just a waste of space on this earth. People with Autism aren’t the problem, it’s people like you who are the most ignorant members of society and don’t know what true love is. Just because you were never loved in your life and don’t have any friends, don’t take it out on the innocent ones, figure out how you can change yourself because it’s not to late to learn how to accept others, then others will accept you. Apparently your parents never taught you how to love or never showed you love. It’s too bad that you’re one of the most miserable people in the world while the rest of us are loving our children with Autism and enjoying their freedom to be free in public wherever and whenever they feel like it! Oh, and by the way, “polite society” has a rule to respect others with disabilities.

    10. Since when has there been a “polite society?” I cannot find the right words to comment to you right now. I am just disgusted by your comment. My son has Asperger’s and I have Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. I guess that makes me genetically “defective,” as you stated. Hmmm, you DNA must be flawless. If there is such a thing as a “polite society,” you would not be a member, let alone the club president. Please, open your mind. This world is full of people different from you. That’s what makes it exciting. We face challenges every day. I feel sad for you if you have had no obstacle to conquer. Because, it is the greatest feeling in the world.

    11. Oh, Bowie. I feel sad for you. Off on your high horse, living by some unsanctioned set of rules you think exist. I’m here to burst your bubble. There are no rules. There’s just the rest of humanity trying to get groceries and feed our kids without being judged by the likes of people like you. My son is not special needs. He doesn’t have autism and is generally healthy by all accounts. I’m lucky (and grateful). But guess what? He sometimes has meltdowns in public. In fact, just yesterday at the park he decided to test me and started to demand that No! He did not want me to throw away his plate! Why? I have no friggin clue. as a mother, it was my job to teach him the proper way to behave – but that took a while. So he cried and screamed while I did my best to handle the situation. And it sucks. It sucks enough without me having to worry that jackholes like you might be near by judging me and my child. I hope you never leave your home.

    12. You’re an idiot. Perhaps you should stay home, because the rest of society shouldn’t have to deal with an ignoramus such as yourself.

    13. I am truly disturbed by the “Bowie” comment. I have never in my life had the same feelings as Bowie concerning “genetically defective offspring.” What does that even mean? I have a crooked pinky. It’s not normal, but I take it everywhere with me and so did my mother. Unfortunately for you, Bowie, you are genetically defective in your heart. Where did you get the rules for Polite Society? Did you even stop to think that the polite thing to do was to offer some help and encouragement for this young mother? I would like to know what you do for fun in your life. Do you laugh, do you smile, do you cry, do you get mad, do you get depressed, do you say nice things to others, do you help your neighbors whether they need it or not, do you criticize others for doing so, do you sing in the shower, do you stop to smell the roses, do you capture the song of the robin, do you breathe fresh air, do you live life, do you even know what that is, do you know that life is not perfect? Let me explain to you this young mother’s journey. One day she found out she was pregnant. It was like finding out she won an all expense trip to Hawaii. She started to plan her trip. It was so exciting. She bought all of the necessities, the hawaiian shirts, the tanning lotion, the leis, the bikinis, the hat, sunglasses, sunscreen. She boarded the plane so excited for the landing. The plane lands and guess what? She lands in Alaska. She is not prepared for Alaska. But what does she do? She adapts. She buys new clothes, coats, gloves, ski gear, snow mobiles and four wheelers and has the vacation of a lifetime!. You, Bowie need to take a vacation to reality. There are not two people the same that are ever going to walk into Target or anywhere else that are normal and perfect. Nobody is perfect. Certainly not you.

    14. Bowie,

      The fact that YOU are genetically defective is not, under any circumstances, the problem of the rest of society. Clearly, you were born without the compassionate gene. You know, that gene that makes you a human being and not a monster? Yeah. That one.

    15. Ignorant. Short-sighted. Selfish. Greedy. Self-centered. Completely self-absorbed. Yes. We wouldn’t want you inconvenienced. Wouldn’t want to shake up your narrow minded view of how the world *should be. You are the problem with humanity today. Do us all a favor and be sure NOT to reproduce. We don’t need any more bigots and genecidal maniacs in the world.

    16. Bowie, I am thanking God today that my son only has autism instead of being a hate filled, intolerant, waste of space like you. I will say a prayer for you today that your heart will be softened and you will be convicted about this horrible attitude that you are permeating the earth with. People like you truly frighten me.

    17. Bowie, the responses to your insensitive and ignorant comment pretty much sum up every thought that ran through my mind as I read your tripe. Perhaps in the Victorian Age, when “polite society” was nothing but a bunch of snobs who thought they were better than everyone else, would your ridiculous rule apply, but “society” has evolved since then. Unfortunately, there are individuals who missed the boat of tolerance and kindness.

      I would suggest to you that because you are unable to tolerate the diversity of humanity, you stay home. Luckily, for you, the internet has made it possible for those of your ilk to stay behind locked doors and shaded windows. In fact, we insist.

    18. Bowie,
      I debated for a while whether to respond. Why? Because I find it highly unlikely that my post (or any of these posts in response to yours for that matter) will make a difference in changing your heart.

      I have several thoughts that I don’t know if I will be able to adequately convey to you.

      Honestly, I was reading along, and at first I felt you were entitled to your opinion about “polite society” (uh–albeit in a TARGET) and meltdowns in public (all kids have them, mine just has them more frequently due to her autism)… and then I got to the part about your recommendation that I stay home or get a babysitter and I thought, well, huh–that’s pretty ignorant (meaning–“not knowing”). And then you used the words “genetically defective”.

      You chose these words carefully, and with the intent to be hurtful. That is NEVER okay. It is simply never okay to say something with the intent to hurt someone.

      And that is why I decided to say something. You are, quite simply, wrong. You are wrong to be hurtful, you are wrong that it is not something that society needs to acknowledge (it most definitely is, and growing at an alarming rate) and you may even be wrong that it is caused by a genetic defect (I’ve seen many conflicting studies as to autism’s cause).

      Again, I know that my pointing this out to you, and a million other posts in response to what you said probably won’t make a difference in your life.

      So I will leave you with this: may you be blessed with knowing and LOVING someone with autism some day soon. Only then will you truly understand. Peace.

    19. Genetically defective?–We are created in the image of God…ALL of us (yes, even you!)!!

      “…control ones urges to meltdown…” I feel the urge to indulge in a hot fudge sundae…or some retail therapy….I have yet to meet anyone with the overwhelming desire to throw themselves down kicking and screaming in the middle of the dairy aisle because their system is overloaded with whatever it is that may be going on around them. Picking out which tie to wear with what suit, what to have for breakfast, and which route to take to work are all choices; meltdowns, public or otherwise, are not!

      I too am one of these “genetically defective” individuals and *gasp* my parents took me out in public. Not only was I seen at church, school, and the grocery store, I graduated from high school and went on to get a BA. I’m married with children of my own! I work in retail which means I get to deal with that public that you don’t seem to think we should be out in. We are the not the rest of society’s problem, my friend. You are!

    20. Bowie,

      I wonder – how many children have you raised? OR are you just some idiot living in your parents basement with access to a laptop. Sadly, we will never know for sure.

      Anyhooo -the Internet is a really big place – if you don’t agree with this blog – DON’T read it. Find an nice porn site; go order some Pajama Jeans; watch some reality TV reruns; or whatever folks like you do for fun. Leave the heavy conversations for the rest of us.

      Thanks.

    21. @Bowie – I believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I am still in shock and terribly distraught regarding your comment. In a “polite society”, people would not use the term “genetically defective” and offspring in the same sentence. I happen to know the woman who wrote this article. Not only is she a humanitarian, an advocate of decency but she also happens to be an excellent parent. G-D makes no mistakes. Children are not meant to be perfect. Children who have special needs are unique and should be embraced, finding the gifts they have to offer. They should not be hidden away so that others are more comfortable. Whatever happened to TOLERANCE, RESPECT and helping each other! Based on your response, I totally understand why our society and country are in the emotionally turbulent state we are in today. In a POLITE SOCIETY, if you have nothing nice to say you really should remain SILENT!

  74. I have a son that is prone to some pretty epic meltdowns in public places ( he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety at 3). One time when he was young a woman made some rather pointed comments about his behaviour and offered suggestions as to what I should do differently. I nodded my head and mumbled something socially acceptable back to her and went back to collecting my kid and moving on. As I was about walking away she commented to her friend that some parents should not bring some kids out in public. Didn’t I know there were socially acceptable ways to behave in public? I turned to her and kindly told her I appreciated her concern and yes, in fact, I was aware of socially acceptable public behaviour and that I would be more than willing to offer her some suggestions and strategies for her to practice the next time she went out in public and had a hard time being kind.

  75. Dear Bowie, I am truly sorry for you. Whether your comment was to hurt, infuriate or get a rise out of people; OR if you actually believe what you said to be true…It shows how very shallow you think, how little you care, and how crushing ignorance can be. There’s still time to learn more about what causes meltdowns and how polite society can help…if you’d like to.
    Having a meltdown at home is no better than in public. There is a reason for meltdowns. There is a reason to NOT give up when confronted with comments like yours. There is a reason to try and try again and again and again. Sometimes learning new behaviors takes practice. You can’t practice appropriate community behavior without braving the community at large. To me, you are scarier than a meltdown and make polite society look more defective than ever.

  76. What if your kid was 50 other things outside “genetically defective” including “born perfect”. Karma has a divine way of handling smug ignorance.

  77. Bowie,

    Certain rules? Polite society? Get a grip. We do not shut away sweet souls like Andrew or strong and caring women like Jo. We shut away the criminal. Jo and Andrew are on the side of the Angels, and they are changing the world for the better. Polite society has certain rules? You bet it does. To paraphrase Herbert Humphrey: “The moral test of society is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” Now, that’s a rule worth embracing.

  78. As with everyone else, I have my own thoughts of Bowie……….
    For the past 6 years out of the 8 in my son’s life, I have had numerous experiences of being on the floor of Target, JCPenney’s, Walmart, (insert any public place here), and have had people make comments, even at a church dinner where I was pastor. “Pastor, if you want I can take him outside for a few minutes and correct that” *REALLY?* My point is, Bowie, you are the person that used to bring me to tears in any of those places with your ignorant remarks, your side eyes, your hand gestures…..but I have learned a skill my son needs more from me in those moments he can’t control: to know that you are not my focus. Right now, I can respond to you, but in my life, you don’t exist. You don’t matter, you aren’t here. Thank God for that. My son is here. He is beautiful and smart and compassionate. He is autistic and he rocks. Sometimes he screams and cries. He is more of a person than you will ever be. You might say something here, but you are cowardly. I doubt you would ever do so in public with one of us, so really, you don’t exist.

  79. I stand by what I said. If your kid has a meltdown, you yank them out of the store immediately. Autistic or not, you’re the adult, you’re bigger, it’s your problem to deal with it. I’m sick of bad parenting being blamed on “the spectrum”, particularly made-up diseases like assburgers. Godwin me all you want, but nobody wants to see that stuff in public. If you can’t make your kid listen to you then either you’re a bad parent or your kid is uncontrollable and should be institutionalized. Quit ruining things for the rest of us because you can’t control your kid.

    1. Bowie, can you please explain to the rest of us why you troll? It is becoming obvious (at least to me) that your sentiments are not real, and that you’re simply saying the most hurtful things you can drum up for attention. If your sentiments WERE real, you surely would have been eliminated from our “polite society” by now, due to saying the wrong thing to the wrong person (aka your ignorance, if it was legitimate, would have gotten your ass beat or killed.) So enlighten us, why are you here? Why do you say incendiary things, meant purely to hurt complete strangers? What’s in it for you? I honestly want to know.

      1. I’m not trolling. I’m just trying t represent the opinion of what I believe is the majority. The choir here is singing to itself, I’m presenting as dissenting opinion. But you apparently thing I oughtn’t to express it. And I’m, somehow, the nazi.

        1. Speak for yourself not anyone else. You are entitled to your opinion. No one does like to see a melt down in the store or anywhere, but that doesn’t mean they have something against people with special needs. Children have meltdowns all the time, regardless if they have special needs. Adults do also, they can behave rudely, fight over items, not have the empathy or compassion to understand reality. I have even seen a few throw downs about who knows what by “sane” adults. People need to teach their children how to deal with all situations. Removing a child doesn’t teach them anything. Sorry if you didn’t like the fit my daughter threw at the mall, I didn’t really either, but by giving in to her or removing her, she wouldn’t learn that it wouldn’t work. Her brother with special needs, his needs were different. I had to let him take the time to be consoled, to get out his anger that he can’t express as he wants. And I had to sit down on the floor, and listen to what his needs were, not anyone who saw us.

    2. Bowie,
      I think you might have assburgers; you might want to get that checked out. As has already been stated, polite society dictates that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You persist in being obnoxious, but nobody wants to see your crap here. If we can’t get you to listen, I guess we should try to get you off the Internet. Quit ruining things for the rest of us because you can’t control your behavior.

    3. Aw, I think it’s cute that you consider life so black and white. I also think it’s cute that you’re stooping to such low levels as purposely misspelling words to make them offensive, and to suggesting that a kid who doesn’t listen to his parents should be institutionalized — all while saying you’re not trolling. You are basically the very definition of trolling. Bravo for standing by what you said. It does take a special kind of moron to stand up for such idiotic, old-fashioned beliefs like “kids should be seen and not heard” and “just spank the crap outta them until they are so devalued and demeaned that they have no confidence, independence or self worth and eventually spend hours and hours in therapy trying to fix relationships they’ve ruined because of how their parents treated them so poorly.” Best of luck to you and your children!

  80. @Bowie,

    You think things are being “ruined” for you and the rest of society by parents whose kids have meltdowns? Wow. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your desire for decorum and tranquility doesn’t actually trump other people’s need for groceries. Even if it were possible for parents of special needs kids to get a sitter every time they need to go out in public, it would be a really bad idea for the reasons already pointed out by others here. But it isn’t generally possible anyway. Therapy, educational tools, special diets and doctors bills take up what you imagine to be money that should be spent protecting your tender sensibilities from the fact that sometimes life is just really hard.

    Oh, and yeah, watch your back. Karma can really be a bitch.

  81. Dear Jo
    Thank you for this beautiful story. My heart sank and sang reading this. I am sorry there are some so terrible people in the world and felt that it is ok to be so horrible. Please keep sharing and advocating for our amazing children and for the amazing parents who look after them. This was the first blog i have read of yours and i am sold in following you.
    Much love to you.

  82. @ Bowie:

    I do not doubt that you are the majority. Western society is filled with prejudices. We are chock full of double standards. Stuffed to the brim with hate. However, just because you are the majority, does /not/ make you right. You might voice the opinion that many hold, but that does not automatically leave you free from introspection. Why not take a look through history and see how ‘popular opinion’ has been wrong. Segregation was once supported by the majority.

    It upsets me to see some comments go so far as to say you should have been aborted. This whole article was meant to be a statement against such harsh words. Teaching through kindness. That message was lost through a tide of hate and fear. Fear that no matter how hard we, advocates try, it will never get better. No one will grasp the message. All they will see is ‘genetic defects’.

    Polite Society tells us a lot, Howie. It tells us that we shouldn’t be callous or un-empathetic to others (hence ‘polite’). It seems that you forgot that. Polite society tells us we should treat others how we want to be treated. You seem to have forgotten this too. I doubt you would want to be told your offspring or you yourself are genetically defective.

    I’ll sum this up: You are not free from introspection. You might be the majority, but you are so far from being a ‘good’ thought it isn’t even funny. You are not the representative of polite society that you seemingly think you are.

    P.S. – Never tell someone that their child ought to be institutionalized. It’s extremely offensive. That is surely something Polite Society would NEVER do.

  83. Dearest Bowie,
    I will not bash you for your opinion. What I will do is tell you that I once agreed with you. I was the eye rolling girl who said “If that were my kid….” And always thought that a good spankin would fix that misbehavior right up. I would never allow my children to disrespect me, much less throw a temper tantrum in a public place and disrupt the state of mind of my fellow shoppers. I would not be made to look like a bad parent. Ever. I was running the show. I was the adult and I was the parent. My child was going to listen to me because I was the boss.
    Then, I got blessed with a child who couldn’t follow my instructions no matter how big my threat was. I tried to take her in public but she would scream and upset people just like you Bowie. I get it. I understand your way of thinking because selfishly, I used to think the same way. I will not take my screamer in public because it is not the best thing for her, me, or you at this time. But we will get there. And we will have fits and she will cause a scene and offend any other Bowie out there who not only doesn’t understand Autism and thinks its an excuse, but people who are lacking empathy. Empathy is the lost feeling that has been buried under hate, intolerance, selfishness, greed, and love. I too spoke the words you did. And God blessed me with not only one child with Autism, but three. But hey, I just have bad genes. I am almost positive Your gene pool must be impeccable. I pray for your future children and grandchildren. I also pray that you never have to chew on a mouth full of rocks as I had to.
    Love empathetically,
    Tristan

  84. I’m on the spectrum in a complex way: I’m a 24-person multiple and one of my personalities is a high-functioning autistic genius (not savant) named LJ.

    I’m 53. When LJ is “out front” (the one the world sees), for the most part she’s treated directly with a lot of kindness. I know some of that is the wonderful Friends who take care of her when we need to be out in the world — they’re very protective and make it clear that they’re creating a safe space in public for her.

    And I think that’s *part* of what invites more kindness than judgement: this is NOT their 24/7 job, as yours is. I’m clearly dressed as a fully-functioning adult (I’m a yuppie! ;-D), so people feel safe approaching me and my Friends because they know they’re not stepping on parental toes. My Friends aren’t tired (TRANSLATION: *exhausted*) the way you must be with all of the details of being fully responsible — at almost unfathomable levels — for your beloved child. So they have the energy, and give off a vibe, that invites questions and smiles and dampens negativity… And I choose to believe that those “image” pieces DO play a part in the consistent graciousness LJ and I experience.

    I ALSO choose to believe, however, that an even bigger part is that folks like you are paving the way for the lessening of xenophobia and judgement. That every time some wonderful parent like you takes a deep breath and chooses graciousness over growling, you’re actually affecting DOZENS of folks who will hear about your encounters from the people who see the magnitude of the love you’re bringing to a difficult situation (both to your children AND to the strangers who encounter you.) I choose to believe that you’re a badass love warrior who’s on a mission from Spirit to carve room in the world for us Different Ones…

    And I’m here to thank you.

    I’m sharing this because of what you said about having a hard time right now. I want to tell you directly that love warriors like YOU make it safe for LJ — she knows it and *I* know it. It’s moments like your Target-time courage story that pave the way — one open-souled, heartbreakingly tired, stunningly hopeful pavestone of vulnerability at a time — for folks like your son and me to have an easier time out in the world.

    So this is my salute to you. I feel reverence in the face of your courage. Please hold this post — and my being able to live openly in the world with my conditions — as an homage to YOUR strength, YOUR eloquence, YOUR honesty, and the power that love for your son has bolstered in you to the point where you — and others like you — are able truly change the world irrevocably for the better. It’s an HONOUR to live in the safer, more loving world you have coaxed, with deep abiding graciousness, into existence… and that you continue to coax into more pervasive existence with your persistent love.

    I’m living into your vision, Milady. I pray for you… and for there to be more folks like you. And, again, thank you for fighting The Good Fight.

    Mostly, I just wanted you to know that you, your children, and your huge heart MATTER to folks you don’t even know…

    My Story. Stickin’ to it.
    Julie Woods
    The Urban Bliss Shaman™
    UBShaman.com

  85. I really needed to read this today. I am always a bit taken back by the way God gives me gentle reminders of what my mission is. I have had this sickening feeling far too many times these days, and often find myself annoyed and angry. Your message was simply: to pose the problem with the same amount of compassion that you want your child to be treated with. Anger births anger, and compassion births compassion. May I follow your example.

  86. How you have helped me to come to terms with many issues that have been added to my “Golden Years”. We were blessed with a “Special Child” born with a heart defect and at the age of 13 months had a massive stroke and the result was he lived to the age of 19 but was medically a 3 month old child. Yes, I had persons stare at him with a disgusted look but fell to see his beautiful and innocent smile or the joy in those big brown eyes.

    That was many years ago and today I am faced with another situation. The love of my life and best friend for 53 years has been diagnosed with mild dementia and already I see the looks when we are shopping and he may become confused at checkout or out to eat dinner and has forgotten he ordered baked potato instead of fries and ask where his fries are.

    Today, thanks to you, I will use this as a way to help others understand more about this horrifying disease as I learn through the days ahead.

    Over the years I have been blessed to be able to help other families who have received a special child and now you and others will do the same.

    God Bless You for your wonderful story

  87. This is such a good post. I was probably guilty of this myself before, but once my husband and I started working with special needs adults and children, we now look at these situations – such as you described – with compassion. We just didn’t understand.

    When we first started volunteering, in an effort to make us understand what a person on the spectrum must deal with on a daily basis, we were given glasses smeared with Vaseline in the center of the lens. Someone stood right by our ears and clapped continuously. Then the leader said, “What if this is what you had to wade through all of your life to hear what people are trying to say to you or to see what is right in front of you.” It was difficult to concentrate on what she was saying because of the distraction of the noise right by our ears. It was difficult to see her, because we only had peripheral vision. I’m not sure how long I would last under those conditions without a meltdown.

    Your little boy is a brave warrior just to try. And you are a precious hero to love him so desperately and try to educate a clueless world.

    Blessings to you and your family. There are plenty of us out here pulling for you and your boy. 🙂

  88. Quite the tale! I’m glad that that person turned back in her ways to apologize to you. By your own grace under pressure, perhaps you may have gained another envoy, if not ambassador for autism. We live in a small community in south central BC, Canada. Our autistic son had an issue with me getting a generic brand of cracker off of the shelf at the supermarket. Gabriel wanted the name brand and right then and there he had a meltdown. A small croud gathered as this took place. I grabbed my still screaming son’s hand and pushed through the crowd saying “No point in staring, My son has autism!!” People can be so ignorant!

  89. It isn’t just a message for autism, it’s a wonderful message for everyone. There are many different reasons people are quick to judge, and reacting negatively is such an easy thing to do. But you’re right, taking the high road and being the better example would make our world such a better place. I am so glad you have reached so many people with your simple, but powerful message.

  90. Hello,

    According to my Mom, I had those kind of days too, completely losing it in the store and her wanting to completely lose it too. I have a form of Aspergers now, but the docs think it was regular Autism when I was little.

    Mom found that those heavy duty headphones my Dad would wear on the ship (he was in the Navy) and a pair of shades helped.

    The headphones blocked all the noise and the shades blocked the flicker of the fluorescent lights. I can still see that flicker today when a fluorescent light isn’t working properly or about to go out and it hurts. Friends who have kids with Autism or Aspergers have noticed this helps their kids too. I always thought it made me look pretty cool. 🙂

    I hope this idea helps next time you are in Walmart or Target.

    Take Care,

    Tybois

  91. Your blog came at a perfect time…and yes, like many that wrote before, tears rolling down my face as I write this. Great, great blog! And wonderful comments and sharing from people that have also gone through similar situations.

    Recently our neighbor that lives directly behind us had a neighborhood party, inviting all the families around us with children, except for us. The party started at about 8:15PM (our kids go to bed by 8:45, so we were kind of stuck) and was literally in our back yard, as the houses have no fences and the swingsets are about 8 feet apart. I had crying kids, especially my two NT kids, as they know and understand that we were not invited because of their ASD high functioning brother. What makes this difficult is we have a pretty good relationship with the family that had the party – we attend the same church, at one point had them in our home for a 8 week bible study, have had them over for dinner and potlucks in the past….the mom was even over visiting outside for about 30 minutes, 3 days before the party.

    I’ve been praying for the right words and timing to talk with the neighbor. She’s been hiding in her house (usually outside a lot) and we’re going to have a three part conversation 1) Have I or the rest of our family done anything to harm you (I suspect the answer will be no, but we want to start there – 2) Call out the elephant in the room. talk about our son’s issues with sensory integration disorder, PDDNOS, and PANDAS and how this is our world. When we go to parties we always have one of us on Luke duty and 3) talk about how not inviting us because of our son – yes I’m going to call it out there- hurts everyone. But really causes her kids to be in a bubble and not learn how to deal with difficult things. When you’re safe at home with your parents, helping you, you can learn to be more successful – instead of being kept in a safe little bubble with only limited access to the world, and only access to perfect people.

    Yes- still feeling a bit snarky about the situation, but I’m getting there, getting to the point that I’ll be able to have a pleasant conversation – praying for wisdom and the opportunity to talk.

  92. As the mother of two sons with autism, ages 19 and 23, I have been on a roller coaster concerning the reactions of members of the public to my kids. At this point, I just smile and move on, if I notice at all. I can’t change the world, but I can help my children and that is what I choose to do. If someone says something direct to me or complains, I only say, “this is autism, it’s all around us” and move on. Sometimes I go so far as to tell such a person, that my children have a right to be in public, just as they do, and if their behavior causes a blip of irritation on their screen, they should go home. That’s as nasty as I get. It isn’t worth it, because most of the time people who would make such a comment aren’t going to get it. I don’t feel it’s my job to educate them.

  93. Hi – I just read this from a FB post of a friend and it has gotten me thinking. I admit I am one of those people – when I go in a store and hear kids misbehaving, my first thought is – that child needs some discipline. Being autistic never even enters my mind and I apologize for that and being judgmental. My question is – how can you tell if a child is truly in need of parental discipline or has autism? I would like to be more understanding of parents who are dealing with special needs children.

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