(Please welcome with me Renee Kiernan, blogging about the realities of living with autism today. Welcome Renee!)
How one parent chooses to deal with people staring at her son with autism, guest post by Renee Kiernan
Do you ever get that feeling that you have no idea what is happening?
Those awkward moments when you are compelled to stare, mutter, or get out your phone to put the entire scene on YouTube?
This happened to me recently. I was with my kids, and my son was capturing all the stares.
Let me back up a bit.
My son has autism.
For him, social situations and communication can be difficult, as well as unpredictable changes, loud noises, light touch, etc. If you have met one child with autism…you have met only one child with autism! Each child is impacted differently, and to varying degrees.
My son is verbal, which we are incredibly thankful, but there are other areas for him that he finds more challenging.
Usually, we only attend the Children’s Museum on ‘Autism Friendly Nights’ because they dim the lights and sounds, and it is less crowded.
But we recently decided to try the Children’s Museum on a different day. So last Sunday afternoon, we took my son and daughter.
Immediately, when we pulled into the parking lot, my son started telling me about the ‘dinosaurs upstairs’ and how he really wanted to see them. My several attempts to explain that the dinosaurs were no longer upstairs, that there was something else really cool instead (the Wizard of Oz), were unheeded.
We decided to head upstairs first, to show him that the dinosaurs were gone. We toured Wizard of Oz at lightning speed, my son searching for dinosaurs around every corner. We went to the Mouse Trap next, a clear favorite in the past! But the siren sounds proved too much. So we opted for the Art Room, which my daughter was clearly excited about.
As my daughter sat down to paint, I heard bongos banging, children chasing each other—and then it happened.
The meltdown occurred.
As the staring started, my son grew even more anxious and uncomfortable. He was trying so hard to regulate his emotions! I tried to find a secluded place for him, but again, there were stares. I found a quiet hallway and gave him ‘big squeezes’, which often help him quiet down.
After several minutes, he was calm. We decided it would be best if we left, and tried another day (Read Autism Nights).
I know hard it is to not stare when a child throws a tantrum, and I under-stand how easy it is to ‘whisper’ comments about how you would parent differently. I have heard others say if can’t control my kid, I shouldn’t take him out in public.
But speaking parent-to-parent, when is he going to learn?
Secluded in our home?
For my family, we have decided that his success will require practice. And we are committed to giving him those opportunities.
Last Sunday, we chose to celebrate his twenty minutes at the Children’s Museum.
And we promise to go out again, despite the stares.
Renee Kiernan developed a desire to write when her son was diagnosed with autism three years ago. She’s a mom to four, and wife to one. She works for a non-profit, educating and advocating for those with special needs in her community. She spends her time listening to what others’ can’t say aloud. Find out more about Renee and her work at http://neprp.com/.
(Thank you Renee, for this insightful, heartfelt, needed blog post!)