Apparently this week is autism awareness week. For those of us who have children with autism, every week is autism awareness week - every week, every day, every hour, every minute, every second. There's no escape, and for some the reality is very hard to take.
Some parents are so conscious of the unusual and unpredictable behaviour of their offspring; they refuse to take them out in public. Instead, they elect to hide away in the safety and seclusion of their own four walls, unable to face the stares, the whisperings and the downright rude remarks.
I know. I've been there, done that and worn the tee-shirt.
The big problem with autism, apart from the fact it is different for every one with the disability, is that it is invisible. There is usually nothing for the outside world to see. Our children look "normal".
When an autistic child misbehaves in public it is generally seen as a failure on the part of the parents to control him or her. The child is obviously "naughty", spoiled rotten and clearly in need of a firm hand. At least that's the way it appears.
However, perception and reality are two different things.
Autistic children do everything for a reason. When my son was small he used to hit and kick me all the time. He would have terrible tantrums, throw himself on the floor screaming and I never knew why. I only knew he wasn’t being deliberately naughty. He was just frustrated because he had no way of communicating.
Just imagine how you would feel if you suffered a stroke or some other condition which left you so you couldn't speak, read or write. You were also unable to point, or look at the things you actually wanted. Also, you didn't know the difference between Yes and No, so even if someone did ask you an appropriately worded question , you wouldn't be able to answer.
How would you communicate? How would you tell the world what you wanted if you couldn't actually see or get it?
Just think about that the next time you see some poor harassed parent with a seemingly spoiled and naughty child. Don't judge. Those poor people will be doing the best they can in a VERY difficult situation and the last thing they need is for people to stare and criticise.
Thankfully my son has learned to communicate and I am no longer his punch bag. Never once have I hit him but many people have told me I should have given him a good smack round the backside. "That will sort him out", they said.
One woman even offered to lend me her walking stick to beat him with when he was misbehaving in a shop, but children learn by example. What sort of example would a smack give? Anyway I knew he wasn't really naughty.
Autism is a growing problem. It's not going away and at some point you will come across some autistic children and some very worried and anxious parents. Please don't make their lives any harder by making rash judgments.
Many autistic children are hypersensitive. They see, hear, and feel far more than we do, and things like shopping can be painful and frightening experiences for them. Autism is a very complex disability.
So the next time you're out and see a parent struggling with a "naughty child", just stop and think for moment. Things aren't always as they seem!
For an EASY to read, FUNNY and FASCINATING, TRUE STORY about AUTISM
to help explain the condition to friends, family, neighbours, teachers and just about anyone else on the planet.