What should I say to people who judge my child?

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Oya
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23 Aug 2010, 2:57 am

My AS son is 13 years old and recently I have found that members of the public are less tolerable with him. His behaviour at times can typically be inappropriate eg he is too loud or not behaving in a way that is expected of a 13 year old. I am sure you get the idea. I am so frustrated and angry when people judge my son. As a mother I am very defensive and up until now I have been able to handle the situation without confronting the person but what I really want is to be prepared with something to say that will be affective enough to not cause a conflict between myself and the judgemental person or persons yet feel like I have defended my son and also not embarrass my son in anyway.

Can anyone offer any advice and/or share any similar experiences please as I feel absolutely heart broken in such situations and although my son may not communicate it neuro typical way I can tell that it is affecting him too.



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23 Aug 2010, 3:36 am

Yes I'm sure its affecting him.

I'm no expert but I would just say out straight that he suffers from a disability. Usually people will more readily accept your son, and forgive his eccentricities.



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23 Aug 2010, 3:42 am

Don't say anything. People most likely already know, and you will just embarrass him.


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Oya
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23 Aug 2010, 5:13 am

Thank you for your responses. Yes, but there are some that are too ignorant. To see my son it is not immediately obvious that he has a disability. It is only when you try to have a conversation with him that you may suspect something and that is only if you have knowledge of special needs.

Over the weekend a man sitting on the table behind us kept turning and looking at my son shaking his head in distaste because he was making childish noises. Also we were at the zoo yesterday and a man had spoken to my son quite harshly because he was peeling the bark off the tree. Yes on both occasions I had asked my son prior to the incidences to stop but stopping is not always an easy option for him particularly when he does not understand my reasons why. There have been times recently when in public he has loudly said "thats a stupid thing to do leaving your drink at the bar unattended!" or "thats not very smart climbing on that tree!" On both occasions the people concerned heard him. The thing is if I am not there and he continues this way, someone will get very angry and may cause conflict. We talk about how some things you are only supposed to think about but not say out loud but this is a difficult concept for him too.



I have since spoken to him again about the importance of following my instructions in public in particular and if he is struggling in anyway he should talk to me immediately and together we can find an alternative behaviour.

He enjoys being out and about and we love spending time together as a family out of the home. We will continue to do so as long as my son is enjoying the experience but I need to think of something to say to people who make such hurtful comments that will not embarrass my son and jeopardise his enjoyment of taking part in activities outside of the home.

Each time we are out I am constantly watching him and making sure he is ok but now I feel like I have to watch other people too and defend him from any potential incidences where he may get hurt emotionally from peoples comments . My son is very sensitive and kind. He is a wonderful boy and it breaks my heart that people perceive him differently. I know I have no control over what people think but I do have control over the outcome of how my son is left feeling after people make comments about his differences!!

Should I say he has autism, a disability? Should I apologise for his behaviour? Has anyone had similar experiences and dealt with it successfully and would be happy to share with me?



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23 Aug 2010, 5:34 am

Go up to the person and say quietly, but angrily, "he has autism, it's not his fault"

The desired effect is that the person will start feeling guilty for what they've done, or at least stop because they know you're now judging them for what they're doing.



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23 Aug 2010, 6:09 am

Asp-Z wrote:
Go up to the person and say quietly, but angrily, "he has autism, it's not his fault"

The desired effect is that the person will start feeling guilty for what they've done, or at least stop because they know you're now judging them for what they're doing.


This gets my vote. Don't be afraid to turn the tables on people. You might embarrass them a little, but if it means they're more tolerant next time then you will have done other mothers a favour as well as them.



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23 Aug 2010, 6:31 am

Tell them you love him the way he is.



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23 Aug 2010, 7:19 am

I wish that my mum would have done that, for me. All that she did, was tell me, in a nasty way, that people gave the two of us looks, when we were in public. They say that what you don't know, can't hurt you. Well, it's true. After my mum said that, I told her, that I didn't want to go to the mall with her anymore, because I felt like a freak. What you don't know, can't hurt you, and my mum really did a number, on my self esteem. She finally asked why I didn't want to go out, with her and I told her that I wasn't good enough to be her daughter, and I felt that I was an embarassment, to her. We had a talk, and she apologized. That just comes to show, that whst goes around, comes around.


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23 Aug 2010, 9:23 am

I wouldn't care what strangers think. Only worry about what people think, those you see all the time like your neighbors or your family or teachers. I would just tell them he has a disability called Asperger's.

With AS it's harder to see that we are different and we have a disability. People might think we are just selfish or rude. For you, you can tell because he is your son.

I didn't see anything wrong with the comments your son made.



Oya
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23 Aug 2010, 9:23 am

Thank you all for your responses. Words cannot describe what it means to me. I felt so isolated and sad but since hearing from you all I feel stronger and feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

I will talk to my son too and ask him what he would like me to say as I feel it is important that he has a say in what I reveal about him to total strangers. Also , we could consider too what he could say if he ever finds himself in a similar situation and I am not there.

CockneyRebel, it saddened me to hear your experience but I am glad you were able to eventually communicate to your mum how you felt. I feel it is very important to communicate how you feel otherwise you tend to live life carrying negative emotions and viewing most situations in that way too.



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23 Aug 2010, 10:22 am

This is a very complicated issue. I was exactly like what your description of your son sounds to be. However, there wasn't any diagnosis of Asperger's yet at the time (1970s). I lived with my Grandma while my mother was in the Air Force, and Grandma got me to behave perfectly in public. My mother, however, somehow didn't. Never having met you or your son personally, I can't have any qualified opinions, but I can say that Asperger's; at least in my case, didn't preclude decent behavior in public. If I would act up, my Grandma would sternly but privately shame me, and that worked well. I would stop whatever I was doing; yelling out senseless things, or rattling door knobs, etc. (that was probably more in the pre-age 10 range though). My mother, on the other hand, would just get an embarrassed look, and ignore me, and apologize to bystanders who frowned. With that, I'd escalate whatever misbehavior to further the quest for attention.

With all of that said, I think there's a balance between defending your son against judgement, and defending the judgemental bystanders. If I were a bystander, I'd most likely be contented to hear a polite apology from the parent if it's a brief encounter such as in a grocery line... Or if it's a longer exposure, such as a bus ride or in a restaurant, I'd probably apologize and give a brief explanation such as "special needs child", or whatever is a respectable thing to say.

Third issue, which is a peeve of my own, is people have no right to judge anyone else; no matter the situation. There are people out there, including my step father, who will shoot down anything a person does. If I were to throw a tomato at a lady on a bus bench, he would say I was rude, and I have a terrible throwing arm too. If I save a baby from an overflowing storm sewer, he'd say I was good to do that, but stupid for being out in the rain in the first place. So if the onlooker to your son's behavior is similar to my step father, there's nothing you can do, and I wouldn't waste my breath apologizing or explaining. All you can do to those people is agree without opinion: "You're right... My son is indeed action out, isn't he". That cuts them off and confuses them, and they can't really carry the ball beyond that.

Charles



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23 Aug 2010, 11:23 am

Asp-Z wrote:
Go up to the person and say quietly, but angrily, "he has autism, it's not his fault"

The desired effect is that the person will start feeling guilty for what they've done, or at least stop because they know you're now judging them for what they're doing.


I disagree. By doing this, you will be making the issue about your son, when it is about the man's own inability to tolerate something different that scares him. Since you mention a "table" it is clear he was in a public place. If he wishes to be around only people who do not displease him, he should not venture beyond his own front door.

If the man didn't work at the zoo, then it is none of his business. In both cases, I would likely have replied,

"We are fortunate to live in a world with so many different types of people. We also have freedom in how we interact. I am sorry that this freedom upsets you so much that you feel the need to express disapproval to a child that is not your own. I am perfectly capable of guiding my child through his life, and until you have lived with my son for 13 years, I would appreciate if you would refrain from assuming that responsibility."

This has to be hard for you, Oya. But remember that your need to protect does not need to become a feeling of shame. Your son has much to offer the world.


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23 Aug 2010, 11:50 am

As long as you don't take it out on your child and as long as you don't blame him for "making you look bad" then you're already doing the right thing. There's no point in getting you both any deeper into trouble with other people by confronting them, they wouldn't be taking issue with him in the first place if they were reasonably minded people who make an effort to understand the circumstances of those who are different, so your words, however diplomatic, will still fall on deaf ears. The fact is, there are people in this world who simply have no consideration for others, you can't change that any more than you can change the fact that there are people with autism, all you can do is stick with your child.

A lot of parents try to take the side of other people, against their own children, since they are socially humiliated by their child's behaviour and the response it gets. As long as you put up with that humiliation and mistreatment at the hands of society, alongside your child while he is putting up with it too, then he should be able to understand that you're still batting for his team and that he's not on his own. Sure, if you're going to be "taking one for the team" alongside him anyway then I suppose you might as well give his attackers a piece of your mind, if you're strong enough to take the inevitable backlash and additional refusals to be considerate (that they will throw your way). That might give your child a little extra encouragement to not let them get him down, but these people will never go away without anything short of genocide, so as long as he just knows you're on his side and you're not acting like it's his fault then you're already doing the right thing.

Being honest with him in private might help. Letting him know that his attackers are the ones who are in the wrong, not him, and that there's nothing you can personally do about it because you don't have the power to keep them in line. This will lay the groundwork for ultra secret PLAN C. Become a family of police officers (or other figures of authority with the accompanying status and power) and very few people will still have the courage to ignore your explanations behind his behaviour. You'll get nothing but nods and accepting smiles. :)



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23 Aug 2010, 11:54 am

Oya wrote:
My AS son is 13 years old and recently I have found that members of the public are less tolerable with him. His behaviour at times can typically be inappropriate eg he is too loud or not behaving in a way that is expected of a 13 year old. I am sure you get the idea. I am so frustrated and angry when people judge my son. As a mother I am very defensive and up until now I have been able to handle the situation without confronting the person but what I really want is to be prepared with something to say that will be affective enough to not cause a conflict between myself and the judgemental person or persons yet feel like I have defended my son and also not embarrass my son in anyway.

Can anyone offer any advice and/or share any similar experiences please as I feel absolutely heart broken in such situations and although my son may not communicate it neuro typical way I can tell that it is affecting him too.


There is one thing missing in you're explanation here. What are "those people" saying or doing that you find judgmental?

Is it just your impression. A look? An expression? Or are they actually saying something to you or your son? How you react, or even whether or not reacting at all is even worth it, depends on what they are doing. We get "looks" on occasion too. I just ignore them. The problem with making an issue out of these things, of course, is that while you may feel others need to be "set straight" you also don't want to embarrass your son. But there's another even more important issue. I don't have any idea how you feel about this particular issue, so I'll just explain it by telling you how I feel, and what I do about it.

This is an issue that comes up on these forums frequently. I have considered the possibility that talking to others about my children's Autism might be inadvertently interpreted by my kids as an excuse to behave inappropriately in public. If they here too often things like, "He has Autism and can't help it," they may take that as an "out" to no try harder to stop certain behaviors. Sure, there are times we could approach other people quietly and out of ear shot of the kids, but I'm not so convinced that would be very effective. You can't teach people all the nuances of the spectrum in a short little exchange. Plus, how worth it is it really if we're probably never going to see those people again anyway? We've only got so much energy and time, and I don't know about you, but I don't have enough of either to educate every single person I think is judging my kids. It's one thing if the person is a friend or family member, or a teacher or paraprofessional working with them. They are an important fixture in their lives, and it pays well for them to understand it. Strangers though? To me, it's just not worth it most of the time. I won't speak to them about it unless their speech or actions are intrusive. In that case, I will speak to them, but I don't mention Autism. My kids are too high functioning for anyone to "get" it from a short exchange. Instead, I speak to the issue of how they are handling the situation. I'll tell them, "Hey, look. I'm his father, and I'm right here. I'm handling it. It may not look that way to you, but that's because you don't know what I'm dealing with. There are issues I don't have time to explain to you right now, so please just calm down and let me do my job." If I have to take it further, I'll tell them, "You are not his parent, and you are not mine, so back off." If they are still pushing things, and it's a situation I can't get away from (like they are my neighbors) I get the authorities involved. And yes, all of these things have actually happened to me, up to and including the authorities. Even then, I never had to bring up Autism. Legally, the issue is YOU are the parent. Unless your kid is destroying property, stealing, or assaulting someone, no one else has the right to get involved.

Telling every Tom, Dick and Harry, or Jane, Susan and Alison, you run the risk of gossip and/or your kids getting the wrong message (it's okay to act the way I do because I have Autism), and that may cause them to quite trying to stop improving their behaviors.

I estimate that at least 99% of the time, the easiest and best way to handle most perceived judgment of my kids is to just ignore it.


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23 Aug 2010, 11:59 am

Tell them to go F**k themselves :x


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