Monday, April 21, 2008

Public Autism Tantrums - Parents Scorned and Accused By Those Who Do Not Know

Yesterday I sat with Conor in the family car while his mother and brother briefly popped into a local grocery store. Conor wanted to stay in the car but after a while, and despite being asked again if he wanted to go in the store with Dad, he began screaming ......... very loudly. I was able to get the screaming to stop in fairly short order but not before a lady walking nearby turned and looked back in our direction - twice.

It was a very mild public reaction in the scheme of things and we have been very lucky with Conor but others I know in New Brunswick have not always been so fortunate receiving visits, and investigations, by child welfare social workers. Negative public reactions, and child welfare investigations by those who do not understand the realities of autism are facts of life for many parents and carers for autistic children.

Talking about such negative realities invites sneering and snide commentary from some who promote autism as a "culture" or a joy. These are everyday realities for the parents and carers of many autistic children who find no comfort in the inane works of Gernsbacher, Mottron and Dawson or the unrealistic dramatizations of autism by CNN obsession, and former Simons Rock college for gifted students attendee, Amanda Baggs. Most parents care too much for their autistic children to pretend that their children's autism is anything but what it is ... a neurological disorder that impairs and restricts the lives of their children. The public meltdowns of their children and the societal reaction that often results are endured courageously by these parents ... because they love their children, they care for them ... and they are responsible for doing the best they can to help their children experience and enjoy life to the fullest.

In When child has autism, excursions are challenge the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review offers an informed and helpful portrayal of the challenges faced by families of some autistic children who must deal with their children's public tantrums and the consequences that sometimes result. The Tribune-Review article tells the story of Catherine Hughes whose son Christian improved dramatically after receiving behavioral intervention. Along the way though Ms Hughes endured criticism by a pediatrician who described her son as "hyper" and declared that she did not know how to control him. On the day of an appointment Ms Hughes had obtained for her son with a specialist he suffered a meltdown in a restaurant where an employee accused her of child abuse. Three police cars quickly arrived and Ms Hughes spent four days in jail before spending thousands of dollars in legal fees to get the charges dropped, clear her name and regain custody of her children.

The Tribune-Review feature offers some helpful suggestions for parents seeking to manage their children's public excursions to reduce the likelihood of tantrums and suggestions on how to handle public reaction. Features like this create real autism awareness and help the autistic children and their families who live with the sometimes harsh realities of autism.

1 comment:

The Whiz Kid Forte said...

As an autistic myself, I have experienced episodes of tantrums in high school and I am sensitive to touch (only with strangers or students I really didn't know), but I grew out of it. I often got tossled by many students who don't have autism who tells me to either "shut the (expletive noun) up" or "take a (expletive gerund used as adjective) chill pill."

I am now in college, taking online classes from home. This really helps me, and I wouldn't feel the stigmatization that accompanies my outbursts.