Take a moment to digest the title of this blog post…
Now imagine you’re at a busy supermarket, and as you approach aisle 5 you can’t help but notice a woman and her child. The child with his hands over his ears screaming, and the woman who appeared to be his mother, pleading him to stay calm. The boy reaches out of the cart where he is sitting and begins to aggressively swing his hands at his mother. The mother responds by wrapping her arms around him and says “it’s going to be okay.” You go on your way to complete your shopping as if the incident in aisle 5 had never happened.
Finally at the checkout line, you begin to load your food on to the conveyer belt. Suddenly, you hear in the line next you the familiar cry of the boy from aisle 5. You peek over and watch as his mother struggles to keep him from climbing out of the cart, dodging his hands from hitting her, all while she pays the cashier. Again you mind your business, pay for your groceries and make way for the exit.
While leaving the supermarket the woman and child were stopped at the exit by another shopper. As you pass, you hear the shopper say to the Mother “You shouldn’t let him do that to you.” The Mother smiled and responded “My sons autistic, have a nice day.”
Okay, so, we’ve all seen a child throw a public tantrum. Have you ever rolled your eyes, or starred out of judgement of that parent? Saw a child acting out and said under your breath “if I was that child’s parent…” Or my personal favorite, have you ever approached the parent and told them how to raise their child? If you answered no to the above questions, congratulations, you’ve found acceptance. Be proud of it and hold on to acceptance, it exists but sometimes rare to see.
The reality is, the boy from aisle 5 is my son and I am his mother helping him through an autism meltdown. “Oh a meltdown, that’s the same as a tantrum.” FALSE. A tantrum usually seen in children, is when the child acts out to overwhelm the parent and in return gains control or gets their way in the situation. A meltdown can happen at any age, the child or adult becomes overwhelmed and loses control of their behavior and sometimes there is no gain.
The next time you see a parent struggle with their child at a supermarket, autistic or not, meltdown or tantrum, think before you act. Instead of staring, why not ask the parent if they need any help. My skin is not as thick as the world thinks that it is. Sometimes your stares and whispers don’t bounce right off me, sometimes they pierce my heart.
My child has autism, and he can’t always control his behavior. My child also did not choose to have autism, no one can. Most people without autism can control their behavior, and some choose to not find acceptance. Take the blog post title and imagine if the opposite were true. Here’s my slice of awareness pie, take it or leave it – if you haven’t found acceptance, FIND IT because it’s a beautiful thing.