It’s hard, sometimes, to get folks to realize that the Monster is – at least according to the law – disabled.
As I emphasize everywhere, and as most of us parents in this situation emphasize, the Monster is for all intents and purposes a “normal” child. He runs, he plays in the water, he can climb structures. He has full use of all of his senses, even if sometimes his voice is more the matter of shrieks and yelling.
And on the other hand, I’m also not going to go out of my way, generally, to have people see him as being disabled. No, he can’t do everything that a “normal” child his own age can do, but he’s getting there, slowly, at his own pace. He’s miles ahead of where he was a few years ago, and he has some emerging skills.
The real problem is that while I know that, most of the folks around us don’t. And, as several people I follow on Twitter have noted lately in interacting in public with others, especially with children who are on the verge of a meltdown… this developmental delay is wholly invisible.
Case in point – our morning ritual. Lately, the Monster has wanted to watch Sesame Street before camp. The problem is that he makes this decision right as it’s time to go outside to wait for his bus. (Sesame Street might, frankly, be a catch-all for whatever else he wants to be doing right that moment.) So, for the last few days, getting him out to the bus stop has largely been an exercise in restraining him through a partial meltdown to get him to the curb, with the best-attempt to get him to calm down before the bus arrives, since I’m not cruel enough to want to punish the kids and staff on the bus with my melting-down child. If I’m not successful before the bus arrives, its arrival usually at least helps to get him under control since he genuinely likes camp.
However, this week, the house across the way from us is having some work done, which means there’s been contractors out of doors as the weather permits. Today they were putting up scaffolding to work on the chimney, which faces us. These contractors don’t know us, so from the looks this morning, I can tell exactly what they were thinking – why is this child screaming, and why can’t his father get him under control.
The real problem isn’t explaining to folks that the child has Autism, or having something so there’s no real look of pity/contempt at what’s going on. The real problem is trying to explain to others what Autism means, how it colors their reactions to, and interactions with, the world, and hoping that said person cares enough to let that understanding affect their outlook. It’s when other people allow themselves to care that Autism will stop being invisible…