So we’ve looked at a couple houses now. We’ve found one we like a lot, on a one-acre lot just south of Guthrie.
We’ve been taking the kids with us to look at stuff (mostly because we have to, and partly because we like to hear what they think too) and therefore Bede has been getting put in situations where he is expected to behave in certain ways: walk at the side of or very close to an adult, be relatively quiet, wear clothes, don’t touch.
Mostly he does not behave in those ways. He has about 3 to 5 minutes (I am being generous) of relatively compliant behavior before he becomes a puddle of yell on the floor, or a bolt of boy lightning charging for a fence. The houses with actual people still living in them are hard, because he isn’t permitted to examine the belongings of the owners to his satisfaction, nor is he allowed to run amok through the house. However he has kept his clothes on, which is great!
Anyway, he has a a hard time. If I am able to give him my full attention he does okay, even good, but I have 5 other children. Sean and my mother are there as well to tend to the other 5 but they still sometimes need me, so it gets kinda tense. Which is the point of my title: the look.
I think most parents are familiar with the look. You all have kids who behave in ways that others judge as bad in public, and at some point someone has glared at you disapprovingly. I’m used to that look, I’ve gotten it for years (I try never to give it, however.) And I’m pretty okay with it. If my job in life is to give someone else a reason to feel better about themselves, well, so be it. Not my problem.
But when Bede goes farther than a nonautistic child would, then I get the OTHER look.
The pity look.
I hate that look. Sometimes we get it with no introduction, but we usually get it when I say “He’s autistic. This is tough for him.” Then their look goes from anger to “Oh, you poor woman!” laced with “Thank God I’m not you!”
We do not want your pity. We want your understanding.
If you are faced with meeting an autistic child in distress, please don’t look sorry for the parents. You can express sympathy for the child in question, who is having a difficult moment, but please don’t look sorry for the parent. And don’t tell us we’re strong, or that you couldn’t do it, or whatever.
We’re just doing what anyone would do. Parenting our kids.
I guess a lot of this was spiked by the Good Morning America segment on autism acceptance. Diane Sawyer ends it with a bit of untrue treacle: “isn’t it [autism acceptance] a beautiful way of expressing heartbreak?”
No it is not. Acceptance is the other side of heartbreak, Diane. Acceptance is HOPE.