As the parent of an autistic child I must admit it takes a certain amount of courage to take my son Harrison into a store, restaurant or other public place. Will the experience be successful, or will he make some sort of scene?
Actually these days it’s rare when Harrison does not cause some sort of disruption in a store, but I keep on trying anyway. There’s always the hope that through these repeated efforts he’ll learn to behave in public. And avoiding these situations means I would have to limit my life to something akin to house arrest.
Monday I had to make a trip inside the Big R store in Pueblo to buy some horse feed. We put the sacks in the cart and everything was going well until Harrison fixated on the device you slide the plastic money through. Long story made short, he didn’t want to leave, and when the checkout lady asked him if he wanted to put the pen back into the clip he went into a tantrum, screaming, kicking and throwing himself on the floor.
Harrison, by the way, doesn’t care what other people think. I have to admit I’ve grown rather desensitized to this sort of thing myself, though I guess I still find it somewhat embarrassing.
When I tried to help Harrison up by his hands he went into limp protester mode with his body, but simultaneously began to climb the counter with his legs and feet. All the while shrieking. It was a ridiculous situation.
The checkout lady kept saying she was sorry, and I just nodded her apologies away. She had no idea how many times I’ve been through this drill. Eventually I was able to get Harrison out the door and to the car.
While it’s clear my son has a disability, when I have him with me I am, in a way, disabled as well. At nearly 6, he’s getting too big to ride in the grocery cart.
I recently discussed these episodes with a friend, saying Harrison’s behavior in public sometimes makes me uncomfortable. He said not to worry about what other people think, that people can tell I am dealing with a special-needs child.
Still, another autism father I know will not take his son into a public place. He’s concerned that if his son gets out of control someone will actually misinterpret the situation and call the authorities.
Thus far, I’ve had only some odd looks from folks, but his concern does give me an idea.
Maybe we parents of autistic children should wear badges — or some other type of identifying talismans — when we bring our children into public places. This could be backed by a good public information campaign, something better than the banal “Autism Speaks,” which nobody gets anyway. Then people might have a better idea of who we are and what we are trying to do — which is go about our lives just like parents of neurotypical children.
Other things of interest:
• Tina Brown was quoted on conservative radio (NPR), something to the effect: “If all these editors are getting laid off, why don’t we send them to Washington to edit the health-care bill.”
• This recipe for Paprika Tomatoes with Poached Eggs is really good.
• What’s in a label? Aspergers is now autism. Why? Because the shrinks say so.