Today is Autism Awareness day. Thank you to Marie Tanton for this guest blog:
“Can’t you keep your child under control?”
“She’s having a strop!”
“Keep the noise down.”
“It’s called ‘parenting’.”
“Why don’t you just give him a good slap? I would!”
Think about how hard it is to be a parent; helping your child to deal with all the trials and challenges of growing up. Learning every single thing about life from scratch – how to communicate, make sense of the world around you, keep yourself clean and presentable, using the toilet, keeping yourself safe, playing with others and making friends.
Now imagine doing all this with a child whose brain works in a different way to most other people’s. They might have sensory issues; things that look, sound and feel perfectly acceptable to one person may cause physical pain to them. Going to somewhere new can be a terrifying experience, with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells, nothing that they recognise, nowhere safe, no escape. They may react to this by shouting, to block out noises, curling up and trying to hide themselves, lashing out from fear. When making friends they may not understand how to listen and respond, they might want to take control of the game, so it doesn’t go outside their comfort zone. They may have delays in toileting, dietary problems, sleep issues, the list goes on…
Of course, everyone has sympathy for the disabled. You see someone in a wheelchair and think “Is the way clear, can I reach something from a high shelf?”, you see a child with Down’s Syndrome and smile sympathetically, while secretly wondering how you’d cope if they were yours, a blind person passes you and you keep their path clear. You go out to dinner and a child lies on the floor, screaming the place down, so you use any one of the quotes from the top of this article because they just shouldn’t be doing that.
Imagine every time you went out you knew there was a possibility of having abuse shouted at you or your child when you are doing more than your best to support them, knowing what they were going through, knowing that they will be dealing with these fears and anxieties for the rest of their lives.
1 in 68 people are thought to be affected by autism, an invisible disability affecting every aspect of their lives. Although people can learn coping strategies, various therapies and specialists can provide support, and there are lots of means of aiding communication, there is no “cure”. So what can you do to help? Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Please take a few minutes to look up the National Autistic Society’s website, learn more about autism, and when you’re out and about don’t jump to conclusions about anyone’s behaviour. All we ask from you is tolerance, respect and understanding. Thank you.