Sunday, June 15th, 2014
Why You Shouldn’t Judge: My Son is Not a Monster. He’s Autistic.
My Son is Not a Monster. He's Autistic. via flickr
Since the day that our neighborhood pool opened Keagan has been there all day everyday. He goes up before they open to help the lifeguards set up, he swims and plays pool with other kids his age and chats it up with the staff. He only seems to come home for food. I’ve never seen him so happy and self sufficient and I was marveling just the other night about how “normal” he seems. He has kids he considers friends for the first time all year.
Unfortunately, yesterday he had a big hiccup. We are thankful that a friend was at the pool and came to get us to avoid the police being called. When asked what happened Keagan can only say, “I’m not totally sure, it happened so fast and I just sort of snapped.”
This is pretty accurate, his therapist has described his fits as him “leaving his body.” We were able to get him out of the pool and home with lots of sobbing and remorse before he finally cried himself to sleep. As a parent of a child who has these spanning swings, it is very distressing to see him lash out and to self sabotage something that is so important to him.
As a mother who has to face the accusations and whispers, it is incredibly embarrassing and heart wrenching. I feel so incredibly full of shame and helplessness. I am so angry at myself for not seeing this coming, for believing that we’d stay here on this “high.” I’m angry that I am ashamed to claim my own child at times. I’m angry that I let the looks and whispers get to me. If you are a part of our community, know someone who is a part of our community or even if you’re just a parent out there somewhere, please take the time to think about the feelings of a family with a special needs child. I absolutely do not discredit your fear or discomfort when you witness a meltdown but please please please know that behind each meltdown is a child who is simply trying his very best every day and parents who are doing the same.
Please realize that the fact that your child was born perfectly normal and healthy is a blessing. No one asks to be born with a brain wired this way; it could have been your child too. And please take a moment to talk to your children about differences, tolerance and forgiveness. Instead of perpetuating a problem by gossip, speculation and finger pointing please talk to us about your concerns. Learn about how you can be helpful in a moment of crisis. Learn that we are normal people just like you, only we’re dealing with a very visible difficulty with our child.
My son is not a monster, he knows he made a mistake and he is remorseful and heartbroken too. Because he has such difficulty writing for long periods of time he asked me to transcribe this letter for him and deliver it to the pool today. We may be banned from our community pool and we may be shunned in our neighborhood but we hope that at least a few people will read this with an open heart.
© 2014, Tiphini Axtell. All rights reserved.
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