April was Autism Awareness Month and having lived and worked for over 20 years in this field I wanted to pass on some pointers for people who have no experience or education when they come in contact with these special individuals.
Autism is out there and parents of autistic children are doing the best they can just as parents try to do whether dealing with exceptional challenges or not.
As parents we not only face the ongoing challenges of raising these special children but also in educating the public and often the school system so that our children will be treated with respect.
In counseling and advocating for families dealing with autism, I have found one of the most common struggles is the ignorance of others who think they could or would do better or that parents of children with autism must be “doing something wrong” because their kids are different.
For a parent dealing with a child with autism spectrum disorder the ignorance of these behaviours from people in the community only serve to make them more humiliated, exhausted and stressed as they try to deal with a difficult situation while an uninformed person in their community passes judgment on them in the form of “advice”.
If you see a child having a meltdown in a public place, remind yourself that you likely don’t have all the facts and unless you have specific training and first-hand experience with autistic children, you should keep your comments to yourself. You are only making it worse for the parent and the child and you are the only one who comes off looking foolish in the process.
Editor’s note: Shannon Kelly-Keough is the mother of twin daughters who are deaf and have autism spectrum disorder. She has more than 20 years experience in dealing with autism, including many published works, and has advocated for multiple families to help them educate their communities.