Monday, January 23, 2012

ASSume you know.

It's the age old saying about "assuming" something of someone, but it really is unjust to assume anything about anyone or judge anyone for anything. You never know what someone is going through or why they're doing what they're doing… or why their kid is acting the way they are. We've all done it. We've all judged that parent in the grocery store with the screaming kid. No, most of us don't think our kids are perfect, but we will, or have thought, "well what that parent needs to do is…." It's REALLY easy to do if you don't have kids, and it's pretty easy to do even if you do. Here's the kicker. What if that child in the grocery store hears the fluorescent lights buzzing so loudly that they can't focus? What if you heard the squeaky wheel of the grocery cart, the overhead announcements, people talking and the other whiney kids all at the same loud level. Now imagine that you can't really express the fact that all of that annoys you. It just flat out drives you crazy because you don't know any different. So if i'm a person with Autism and i'm in the store and all of that happens…. what i'm likely to do is just throw a fit. maybe because it's similar to babies who get their energy and frustrations out by crying. Maybe they've learned that they leave that environment more quickly. Maybe it's just to get someone's attention to say, "oh my God people, make this stop!"

Wyatt had basketball this past weekend. Tara works on Sundays, so off Wyatt, Rye and I go to the game. The gym is noisy, but the first game there last week, Rye found his little sanctuary, up at the top of the bleachers, with my phone playing Angry Birds and away from anyone who might annoy him. Today, the guy running the program asked for parent volunteers to help coach. I've done it before, enjoyed doing it, so i offered up my hand in helping nine six year olds with the game of basketball. I kept an eye on Rye, he came down and was shooting baskets and was running around the gym, but seemed fine, entertained and relatively well-behaved.

At halftime, i was throwing out high fives to my players, told them to go get a drink and come back ready to play the second half. About that time this woman approaches me, points her finger at me and asks if i'm the dad of "that" (pointing to Rye) boy. I said yes. She then said, "well, he's climbing all over the bleachers, going to the top, which I've told him he's not supposed to do, he's not listening and he's basically, well, being… rude." Now I'm really a pretty mild mannered person. I don't snap or yell at people. But the tone of this woman set me off. I said in a very loud voice because I also saw the glimmer of support this woman was getting from other people, "well, you know what? he has autism and i can't coach my other kid's team and keep an eye on him 100% of the time. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is and I'm doing the best that I can." Her eyes got big and she got "the look." "Oh, I'm sorry, i didn't know," she said. I said, "No, you didn't."

At this point i see steam coming out of Rye's ears. He's mad as can be at this bossy woman telling him he can't climb to the top of the bleachers, which was perfectly fine by me the week before. (it's the old, "you do it that way once, you do it that way every time" routine) I take Rye out of the gym, he's having a full on melt down. He's screaming "I want to leave, I never want to come back here." I'm trying to get him to play the stupid Angry Birds game on my phone so I can just go coach the second half of Wyatt's game. But it's obvious that's not going to happen. Complete scene with kicking and screaming and crying and yelling. I do take him back into the gym because I felt like he couldn't just get off without revisiting the issue. Then i let him go out into the hallway, he grabs my phone and settles down a bit. In the meantime, another dad has jumped in and is helping, I apologize to the main coach and find my place on the sidelines as the one assisting with substitutions.

I'm not sure what that woman was thinking the rest of the game. I'm not sure what anyone was thinking, and honestly, I don't care. The point is, she assumed my kid was just a bad kid who doesn't like to listen, and that I was a bad parent who couldn't control him. In effect, that's true. But it goes a little deeper than that. There are bratty kids who don't listen and throw fits because they know eventually they'll get what they want. But since our journey through Autism Hell has begun, I don't solely think, or assume, that that's the case. Maybe that child throwing a fit and having an obnoxious and embarrassing fit in public doesn't know how to process their anger, their frustration, or the four million irritants in their environment that are driving them crazy. Sunday i proved i can be an ass, but not by assuming.

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