Halfway through American Airlines Flight 101 from Heathrow to JFK, the flight attendant asked my son Ian if he wanted another drink shortly after our microwave-cooled meatball dinners like Frisbees had been ejected. He played his Tetris game on the backseat video console without answering or looking in their direction.
Having missed most of this replacement, I looked around in time and heard the flight attendant shouting, "Well, how rude is that?" She stared at me.
I recited the textbook answer I give when Ian does something that inadvertently upsets strangers: "My son has autism, so we try to understand."
My son has Asperger's Syndrome and his autism is relative mild, where his main difficulties are social skills. In such cases, he sometimes reacts only slowly when he is involved in a video game or an iPhone app. In other cases, his obsessive-compulsive disorder may annoy people or he may be too dull. As I have learned, there are many ways to upset strangers. And because nothing indicates his differences in his physical appearance or manners, the annoyed strangers immediately assume that he is a bad child until I utter it.
But this time my textbook explanation was not good enough for this flight attendant. who has doubled
"Why did not you answer for him?", She wanted to know.
"Because I have not seen you."
Grumpy to my husband sitting next to my son, she said, "Well, why did not he say anything?"
I said, "Look, we're doing the best we can."
She continued to disparage our parenting, and I repeated, "We do the best we can."
Not knowing what he had done wrong, Ian began to apologize randomly, hoping that one of them would persevere: "I'm sorry, I wrote wrong!" Uhhhh. It does I'm going to control my autisms! "
No one likes being publicly humiliated for their parenting or making fun of their children, but what really made my waterwork so special was that my son's gob compared to 19659013] After the flight attendant had crept back to the back of the plane, I started crying ugly, sitting between my husband and my older son, unable to run to the restroom to catch me Nobody likes to be publicly humiliated for his parents or mocking his children, but what really set my waterworks was that my son's gob compared to his m, what he achieved was so small.
Maybe this flight attendant had a bad day. Perhaps the airline is overworking its employees and does not properly train its employees in relation to customer relationships – there was another American Airlines incident that summoned a Texas doctor to wear more clothes on a return flight from Jamaica. But this incident was not an isolated incident for us. For some reason, I have a textbook answer about my son's autism. Strangers constantly judge us for the innocent and uncontrollable obsessive-compulsive disorder and unfiltered language of my son.
Autism is largely an invisible disability. Some versions of autism are more obvious. For example, some people beat their hands and need lots of adult support. The disability of my son manifests itself in social ignorance. He is too honest, too cumbersome or too compulsive. Despite years of therapy and almost all-day attention from me, he still makes these social gaffes. Because he does not wear a large sign on his forehead indicating his disability, strangers quickly assume false assumptions and unfairly judge him and our parents.
It even happened in the church.
Years ago when Ian was 6 or 7 years old Our priest walked past our bench and waved an incense holder. Ian covered his nose and shouted, "Jesus stinks!" The church ladies did not find that very funny.
Although the world has developed greater understanding of other forms of diversity, we still have a long way to go before accepting neurological diversity.
In order to increase the acceptance of people with neurological differences and to provide more support for their families, a sound education about autism must first be provided. Students should be educated about this neurological difference in every health class in the country. In 1 out of 40 children in America with an autism diagnosis – most of them have no cognitive difficulties and are taught at regular public schools – autism must be a mandatory part of every teacher's education. And these lessons have to be repeated by groups in the church and at work. Companies that interact with the public frequently, such as the aviation industry, need to train their employees. People need to recognize that autistic people come in all shapes and sizes and that many people have autistic traits and that it is possible to relate positively to people with autism.
Because my son does not carry a big sign on his strangers announcing his disability, they quickly misjudge and misjudge him and our parents.
And we must stop judging parents when their toddlers cry in the back of the plane or when teens forget to say "thank you". Strangers, such as the flight attendant we met, believe so quickly that an autistic child is a "bad kid" with "bad parents" because these stereotypes are so prevalent. Maybe the kids are tired or hungry or upset about something serious and maybe their parents are overwhelmed. Maybe they are autistic. As we become a more tolerant society that values all sorts of families, strange families like mine will benefit.
About 30 minutes after our altercation, the flight attendant returned to our ranks. She apologized to me and said, "It was a learning experience" for her. I nodded. I'm glad that she has considered her actions, but I just can not educate everyone alone. Schools, businesses, communities and churches must offer this education. And everyone just has to rest on their parents' judgment in general – most of us do the best we can. Until then, families like mine continue to be attacked and mocked, and people with autism are marginalized without work or travel opportunities.
The following week, I drove my son to his first day computer camp. After setting him at a picnic table, I took the head of the camp aside and said, "My son has Asperger, he's a bit quirky, I hope that's okay." She smiled and said, "We're called welcome all children to our camp. "Perhaps the change is slow and the leader of the camp was awakened.
Laura McKenna is a freelance New Jersey writer specializing in parenting For more information about them, visit their website.
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