While waiting in line at Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, I overheard a conversation behind me. Some guy was complaining about his sister’s kid, who has autistic.
He didn’t believe in that crap, he said, because that whole autism thing is just a politically correct way of saying her kid’s a brat, and it’s probably because his sister is too lazy a parent to give him the beating that would straighten him out.
That’s when the young man at the front of the line sent me to a cash register, so I didn’t get a chance to respond. But this guy’s statement has been bugging me ever since so I’ll take the time to deal with it now.
Our son is on the autism spectrum. We have it easy because he’s very high functioning. He’s only mildly affected: his cognitive/mental and physical attributes are all typical, but he does have trouble with social and emotional cues as so many autistic children do.
We’re also lucky we live in New York and our state cares about its citizens, so they’re getting us lots of help. We have therapists visit in the weekday mornings, and he goes to a class to help him every weekday afternoon.
Having said that, arranging all this was a nightmare. It took my wife and I acting as a team to make it happen. It wasn’t a smooth process at all. When therapists visit, that’s not time off for us either. We’re involved in what’s going on there as well.
When Liam goes to his classes, that leaves me a little time to take care of my day-to-day life stuff: cleaning, running errands, doing assignments, and prepping dinner, although normally I just want to take a nap. But this is the time to get the necessities taken care of because everything else is all Liam, all the time.
And again, I’m saying this realizing that we’re very lucky parents.
All of our hard work is paying off. Liam is doing great. He’s making huge progress and will enjoy the same childhood and schooling as a typical child because he was diagnosed early enough. Not to mention my wife, Robin, and I sacrificed a hell of a lot and worked our asses off to help get him where he is.
And no, autism isn’t caused by vaccines. Do not listen to Jenny McCarthy for medical advice.
No, autistic children aren’t brats. No, their parents aren’t lazy. Parent shaming is never cool, especially if you don’t have the first idea of what you’re talking about. Writing off an autistic child, especially one that is part of your family, as “just a brat,” and your sister as a “lazy parent” is crass and pointedly cruel at best.
The callous ignorance of this guy’s statements is astounding. And complaining something is “politically correct” is just code for saying you don’t want to treat others respectfully, anyway. So what I got from this dude was that his nephew is a brat, his sister is a crappy parent, he has no idea what autism is or what it means, and autism is just some big cover-up meant to force him into acting respectfully toward others when he doesn’t want to. Everything about his statements was insulting. He was very lucky I was called away just at that moment.
Because even after taking lots of time to think this through, how to delicately and intelligently put my response to his asinine comments, I’d still go with my first impulse. That would be:
“If you ever say to my face that my son needs a beating to straighten him out, I will apply your own logical fallacy back unto you, and break your damn jaw.”
Just so you know the context in case I ever DO say that.
Chris Catanese says
Great post. Similarly, please don’t call your child a brat if they have adhd. Instead of having me tested, my mom used the more typical 1970s treatment and tried to beat it out of me. I was diagnosed at 25 and have been learning more and more about it over the last few years. Over the years when I’ve seen my older son who is almost 9 exhibit some of the same characteristics as me as well as some characteristics of those on the autism spectrum (almost no eye contact, never does group things in class like hand claps or responses) my (now) ex-wife would get very defensive and say, “We would know by now if he has autism. The doctor would have told us.” I finally convinced her to have a doctor other than our pediatrician look at him–we have an appointment next week.
Kevin Levites says
Excellent post. I’m an autistic adult, and I wish my parents had been as enlightened as you seem to be toward your kid.
My parents disowned me over my autism, because if I’m smart enough to remember whole pages in a book, and if I’m smart enough to multiply large numbers in my head, then I’m smart enough to figure out how to interract with people socially. Since I don’t know how to be social, it’s because I didn’t try to learn how.
And so on.
Or . . . some people with Asperger’s have a narrowly focused, special interest, like trains or dinosaurs. If I made “being normal” my special interest, then I would be normal.
So, I choose to be autistic. It’s like an alcoholic that won’t stop drinking.
I’m very happy that your son has a father like you, and that you seem open-minded and loving enough to accept your kid for who he is.
All my best.
Skeptical Betty says
At the risk of totally pissing you off, ….help! What the hell IS autism and what is the spectrum? My best friend has a daughter she claims is autistic, has sensory processing disorder, epilepsy, etc. She has her on a bunch of meds that dont help, and gets a fat disability check for it. I have spent A LOT of time with them, and all i can see is a spoiled, bratty, undisciplined, obese, lazy, physically abusive child that has been left on the couch with the internet to raise her, and the situation is getting out of control for them both. What am i missing? How can you tell? And how do i help???