Whether it is family, friends or even strangers people can get quite uncomfortable when they find out that you have a child under the autism spectrum. They do not know what to say. I suppose it is normal, I mean think about it…Who in the world is ready to utter a word right after someone says: “My son/daughter is autistic”.
Ha, if you think that’s shocking I feel like grabbing a camera and recording people’s reaction when I say: “My three children are autistic”. You mean three? Like number 3? Tres? Yup, THREE. By the look of their faces, you can tell they are trying to contemplate what the heck they can say in a situation like that. Should they tell you congratulations? (Seriously?) My deepest condolences? (Um, no) Or the infamous “Oh, okay” followed by the sound of crickets chirping and then quickly changing the subject about the increase of price of KFC.
Well, for the past 15 years I heard many things that well (And not so well)-intentioned people tell you when they find out about our boys. I said well-intentioned people because I know they are trying to be nice. A few others are just trying to get your money. Now, understand where I am coming from. I have said some of these things myself before becoming a mom so I know why people choose to say those things but you also need to understand that I have been hearing them over and over for more than a decade! So cut me some slack will you?
1. God sends special children for special parents. Well, to be honest I just see myself as a regular mom and my husband as a regular dad trying to perform a formidable task. Most of the time this task is way too heavy to carry over our shoulders but really, there is nothing inherently “special” about us. We just happened to have 3 children with special needs, living in a place with hardly any resources to help them and trying very hard not to become insane in the process. Most of the time is a cycle of failing and trying again, failing and trying again. We are certainly not superheroes.
2. Upon hearing one of my children trying to speak: Awww, he is speaking Spanish. Did you ever watch Dora The Explorer? How in the world a child mumbling some words that you AND *I* are not able to understand suddenly becomes Spanish? I know some of the words might sound strange to you but come on, Spanish…you know hola, taco, etc? At least, choose a more exotic language!
3. They do not look autistic. Really? And how exactly do autistic children look like? *crickets chirping*. Hmph.
4. Did you ever watch the movie RainMan? Of course I did! When I was a teenager I watched this film but not for the reason you think, I thought Tom Cruise was a really good looking guy. AND by the way, what some neuro-typical folks do not know is that the character of Rainman is just ONE model of someone with autism. Not every autistic person is like him.
5. God will never give you more than you can bear. Well, if God is behind all of this, he is really pushing it.
6. Them: I really need a favor. Could you please help me plan XYZ? (Birthday party, vacation, etc)
Me: I won’t mind but I have 3 autistic children to see about (*tells long story here about limited time, meltdowns, etc*)
Them: Oh no, wow, I am very sorry to hear!…Sooo….are you going to help me or not?
Seriously? I just told you I have 3 children under the spectrum! Having time to even use the bathroom in peace is a luxury!
7. Are you sure they are autistic? No, I am not. I like to play doctor in my non-existent free time and diagnose my own children. Plus I just enjoy telling others they have special needs (*sarcasm*!) Are you seriously asking me this?
8. I saw this movie where they show this autistic child who is a genius! So inspiring! An autistic genius is called a savant and yes there are a few out there and the media tries to highlight this type of autism a lot even though the vast majority of autistic people are not savants (Or at least they haven’t discovered that they are).
Unfortunately, the reality that they do not show you is that within the spectrum there are children (Of ANY age) who are unable to speak or do anything for themselves (Very low-functioning) and their amazing, dedicated parents have to feed them, bathe them, change them, take care of their monthly cycle, etc. These parents are what I call, parents of the year. Hats off to you Moms and Dads. You do a wonderful job.
9. Oh, you do not have it so bad. Your oldest can talk, etc. Just because some children are high-functioning does not mean life is no longer stressful. It certainly does not make children free of issues. High Functioning autistic children can do very well academically but they also endure constant criticism, bullying and rejection by their peers and even by adults. They battle depression, mood swings, understanding their role as children, and the constant need to fit in and understand their own complex mind so no, it is not a walk in the park.
10. Him/her: *After hearing your story* Oh, I can help you. I have many tips that can help your boys. I have a…(*insert educational related background here*)
Me: Really? Thanks! Please tell me!
Him/her: Okay…first you need to pay (*put X exorbitant amount of dollars here*) and then pay and then pay…. There we go again. So I have to pay you to talk with me (Even though you could well read the very thorough and recent evaluation my children had), then I have to pay you to talk to my sons to SEE…just to SEE if you could “help” so basically if you think you are unable to “help”, you ended up pocketing all my money without moving a finger. Money that took me years to save. Wow, thanks for the help!…NOT!
In the scenario that you can indeed “help” then I have to pay you to make your own evaluation and then I have to pay you again and again and again for the next following visits. Interesting definition of “help” you have.
There you have it. My top 10 ten things that people tell me when they hear I have three autistic children.