Every once in a while, I get the opportunity to view the parenting of an autistic child from another perspective. It is always interesting to me to watch and observe, and I inevitably compare their parenting style with mine. I think parents do that whether their child has any disabilities or not.
This morning, I had an appointment for routine blood work. I made the appointment over a week ago, since I wanted to find a time that worked best with my schedule. The center that I go to accepts both walk-ins and appointments. Inevitably, this leads to comments about why someone else is being called back before them, because they arrived first etc etc. As soon as I got there, I noticed that there was one individual who was being especially loud. It was a very small room and difficult not to overhear what was being said.
The gentleman was describing in great detail how his severely autistic granddaughter was on the way. He was very vocal about insisting anyone with appointments having to wait until his granddaughter was taken care of because she can’t wait. The gentleman sitting next to him asked if he had an appointment. The man said no. He proceeded to get up and walk over to the sign-in list and scrutinize how many people were there as walk-ins and how many were there as appointments. He made comments like, “I don’t know who these people are with appointments, but they’re going to have to wait in my case.”
When the young lady and her mother came into the waiting room, I immediately understood the severity of this young woman’s autism. She was very agitated, and was repeating phrases over and over again in quite a loud voice. Everyone there was respectful and quiet as this family dealt with setting up the child’s paperwork so she could be seen. When the family was called back to the registration area, the grandfather continued to speak loudly, declaring that all people with appointments would have to wait until his granddaughter was seen. I thought back to the many times I’d taken my son, when he was younger and much more difficult to handle in social situations, to appointments. It was always very stressful until we were back home. I made sure whenever possible, to call ahead and find out the issues we might face at different locations so I could try to plan ahead. Was there a TV? My son would watch that and be quiet. No TV? I would bring a busy bag. You have to plan and not insist that the world change according to when you show up. It’s just a fact of life with (all) children.
However, I must tell the truth. I thought to myself, Why does he deserve any preferential treatment over my appointment? It wasn’t a selfish thought in my opinion. I was fasting, and feeling a bit shaky, so I was eager to finish and get back home to have some breakfast. The family was asked to sit back down in the waiting room. The grandfather was much displeased about this and was vocal when I was called back. I heard him say, “That’s not right. I was here before her!” I didn’t respond, because it really wasn’t my issue and his granddaughter, the patient arrived about 15 minutes after me. I went back, got my blood work done, and left for home.
It would’ve been easy for me to have made a snappy comment, rolled my eyes, or some other type of reaction, but I know how they feel from the other side. Someone did whisper to me that they didn’t understand why he had to be so miserable and inconsiderate to everyone around us. I just shrugged my shoulders and went back to my reading. Sometimes when you are so overwhelmed with stress and worry, it can come out the wrong way to people around you. While he may have seemed inconsiderate and was not being very nice to others around him, you could tell he was feeling overwhelmed about his granddaughters autism.
Now that my children are getting older, I sometimes have a much better handle on their behaviors (most of the time anyway!) There are plenty of times when their disabilities can be challenging. Many children on the autistic spectrum, including my own, have other issues beyond “just” autism. For my son, anxiety, depression, and crippling social difficulties are something that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. People have often been rude to me, judged me, and made nasty comments to me about my parenting. If you’re going to survive this, there is no other advice I can give than to let it roll off your back. You don’t need the additional stress. My daughters’ issues involve sensory challenges, learning disabilities, and severe deficits with executive functions. In any given day, I can be juggling many different issues, or none at all; it depends.
As I’ve said before in previous posts, if you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism. As society opens up to better integration for people of all abilities, there are always going to be people who are upset, confused, offended or uneducated about the people around them. While in most situations the best choice is to just remain quiet, sometimes people will speak out and not be kind. Everyone talks about awareness and understanding and having patience when it comes to people with disabilities, but it needs to be practiced more. Heck, we all could use a little bit more kindness and patience in this world; but that’s a post for another day.
I’d like to think that that grandfather was able to get his granddaughter seen without too much difficulty, and I know for certain that she wanted to eat breakfast because she asked about it many times. I totally got her; I was hungry too.