(Ethan on one of our little family walks.)
Ethan & I were in a queue at our local supermarket, our shopping trip as usual had gone relatively well. Then the time came for Ethan to hand over the box of strawberry ice cream cones; that had been occupying him whilst I, double checked the list & unloaded everything onto the conveyor belt.
Ethan like many children with autism has a tendency to become fixated by certain items & toys, this box was one of them.
I braced myself for what I knew was coming next. I quietly & patiently tried to explain to Ethan that he had to give the box to the cashier, and that he would get it back. At that time we didn’t have a diagnosis for Ethan, therefore we didn’t have all of the tools that we do now, to help Ethan understand the situation clearer. All I could do was take the box from Ethan and give it back to him mid meltdown.
This situation would usually end up going one of two ways. Ethan would either be too distressed during his meltdown to notice that he had been given back the box, or he would become his usual bouncing & smiling self, reunited with his box once more.
During that time, an older lady had appeared behind us in the queue. I suddenly felt very self-conscious of her, I prepared myself mentally with what I was going to say in response to her.
“Oh dear, she laughs, you’re spoilt aren’t you? You’ll get it back in the minute.”
I heard the words leave her mouth & enter my ears, who was she to think that was ok to say to someone she knew absolutely nothing about. I take a second, a deep breath and turn on my feet to face her.
“Ethan, is autistic, he doesn’t understand certain situations in the same way that other children & adults do. He is the most loving, gentle hearted & kind child you could wish to meet. He isn’t spoilt, he’s just different. Don’t judge him, you don’t know him or us.”
I turned back to Ethan who by that point was happy, he had his box back.
For now, Ethan is totally oblivious to the comments or judgements that are made by strangers around him. I feel compelled as his mother & protecter to shield him from strangers’ rude & negative comments, especially on days like the one mentioned above. I will carry on doing so, until he is capable to do this himself.
Do I still get self-conscious now? Of course, as parents, it comes with the territory. Is my response different? Yes! I have learnt to let rude peoples’ comments go over my head.
Don’t get me wrong, some days I have to try really hard, not to let someone else’s comments bother me or affect how the rest of our day goes.I know my son, I know how his mind thinks & works. Complete strangers thoughts are irrelavant to our family. As the age old saying goes “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, say nothing at all.”
Think before you speak, no two families are the same, everyone’s journey is different.
Don’t judge us, on our unique journey through life. We appreciate understanding faces & unlimited smiles. As the saying goes “It takes 10 muscles to smile but 100 to frown.”