" Walk into a grocery store with a child with Autism and you will feel the full impact of these words.
Public places are an extreme challenge.
My darling son is eleven and was diagnosed at age 2 with Classical Autism.
When I say darling, I am referring to all our eventful trips out the front door and all the fits that ensued.
Now don't get me wrong, I love my son dearly, but as any parent can testify, there are moments that you wonder if a full on straight jacket isn't call for.
Parents of children with Autism have a tougher road to go.
Even as they head into their teen years, an Autism fit still looks like a 3 year old tantrum.
The looks, the stares, and comments from the general public do not help the situation.
Friends tell you it is not that bad.
Books say just let it go.
I say educate the masses, but of course I think of all the right things to say in the car on the way home.
About five years ago, we were in the checkout at the grocery store when my son had an extreme meltdown.
He wanted a movie and I didn't buy him one.
This rejection was met with screaming and crying.
He started to choke himself.
When I tried to stop him, he pinched and dug his fingernails into my arm hard enough to draw blood.
I pulled away and he began to hit himself in the head with his fist.
All of this was going on as I am putting groceries on the conveyor belt and paying the cashier.
To top it off the lady behind me asks if I could possible make him scream any louder.
At this point, I was madder at the lady behind me more than anything else.
Could she not see I was struggling? Could she not see I was already extremely embarrassed? I knew at that point three things had to drastically change.
) My son - I could not allow this behavior to continue.
He was becoming a danger to himself and others.
After years of struggling, the first part of the answer was so simple.
Scheduling and advance visual notice.
Normally, as parents we plan our day or make decisions and tell our kids on the way.
But with children with Autism, it helps to give let them know ahead of time, plus any adders.
So now I write in a notebook "Grocery Store".
Then I show it to him and tell him "We are going to the grocery store.
No you are not getting a toy.
" Children with Autism are habit driven.
This is important help this process work, but also if you deviate and buy a toy, then they will expect a toy every time.
For younger children or children unable to read, there is a wonderful picture schedule board that is very helpful and portable.
You can take it with you and it helps with last minute schedule changes.
) Myself - I had to change.
First, I had to get tougher.
I had to demand that my child not act like that.
If it is not acceptable for any other child, then it is not acceptable for him.
As parents, we learn to choose our battles and yield to convenience.
If it is difficult to take our child shopping, we go when he/she is not with us.
Or don't go to the places that set them off - like the movie theater.
And yes we have been asked to leave before.
Second, I had to not worry about other people's perceptions.
Let them walk a mile in my shoes and see what life is like.
I had to stop making excuses for him and just parent him.
) Others Awareness - Early on, when people would ask me questions about Autism, I was uncomfortable to talk about it.
I felt preachy or like I was complaining too much.
I could not understand why people were interested in knowing the ins and outs of Autism.
Now I tell everyone.
Maybe if the word gets around, people will be more patient of others.
If we, as parents, stop blaming ourselves for our children and start understand the why, we can begin to unravel the how.