Today, I came across a casualty of ‘Autism is evil.’ campaigns. My oldest, who is more affected by Autism, was invited to a birthday party of his classmates. It’s a huge step forward that parents and kids alike are able to invite him knowing his differences. He even was withdrawn, sprawling and very noticeably upset within 5 minutes of coming in, but my little guy just wanted to stay. We stayed.
Parents avoided our gaze, for the most part. Not those that have come to know our family, but some of the others. I tried to keep him away from others because he was flailing and I didn’t want anyone, including him, to get hurt. Every so often, he would rejoin his classmates/friends for a little while.
The older brother of the birthday girl (here forward pseudonym ‘John’ will be used) was very interested and kept trying to talk to myself and my kiddo. He reassured me. He reassured my boy. After a little while, I decided to go ahead and tell him that Daniel has Autism. We haven’t put a word to it with the boys yet because within our household, they are pretty ‘typical’. John said in an instant, ‘I thought so after he came inside the house.’
John went on to explain the horrible things that Autism does. He was describing a boy he knew at school. And by the sounds of it, the boy he was describing was non-verbal and possibly violent. He didn’t seem to feel the same way about his classmate as he did about my son. After a little while, I told him I have a lot of the same problems, but with age have overcome them.
He was instantly confused, I think. He started asking me questions about how I overcame it. What was it like to be Autistic? How did you overcome it? I tried to explain that large crowds still are difficult, and that for some issues I have to take medicine. But this little boy, no older than 11-12, had never heard of being able to help some of the disabling aspects of Autism. In an instant explaining I had Autistic characteristics, it was like his world changed. I was there, with my Autistic son, being Autistic myself.
The part about this that is most complicated, how do we change the perception of these kids? When adults, parents, are showing them the ‘bad’ parts of Autism, that is what they’re learning. We may be combating the parents, but I think we also need to help these NT kids understand Autism isn’t a bad thing. We will be fighting against this message for generations to come because they don’t hear anything else.