If I could see through his eyes what would I see? Would I feel the pain he feels every day? Would I see the world busy and overwhelming? Would I become anxious at the thought of going to a movie because it is too dark, too loud? Would I feel his frustration that every piece of clothing he puts on makes him feel like he wants to crawl out of his skin because it is so uncomfortable? Would I see the world becoming mad at me for not being able to do what they think I should? Would I become so angry all I can do is hit myself? Would I see how people stare at me? Would I feel like an outcast?
I wonder, what it must it must feel like every day for my son. I wish I could take his place and let him live without autism. As mothers of children with autism we hear one thing that frustrates us to no end, “Your child doesn’t look autistic.” There is no look to autism. There are different levels of autism. Every parent of a child with autism has different struggles because there are several levels of severity. I cannot even fathom what it must be like to care for a child severely affected by autism, I can speak only from my own experience. I will say that it is one of the most exhausting, stressful, draining, humbling, rewarding, and beautiful experiences in life. Yet still, I see my son frustrated, angry, and struggling every day. If only I could take his pain from him I would, I can’t. All I can do for him is my best. A part of that is what I am doing now. If I can help just a few people understand, reach a few hearts, move some to show a bit more compassion, a little more empathy I am doing what I can.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), it makes noises too loud, clothes too itchy, nothing feels comfortable. Imagine a a school bell as loud as a fire alarm, a cotton shirt that feels like wool, or denim jeans that feel like a scrubbing brush on your skin; this isn’t a picky child, this is a child with SPD. Every time a new movie comes out my son gets so excited but then realizes he has to wait until after it goes to the movie theater then it will be on DVD. The movie theater is too much, the mere mention of going to see a movie brings on feelings of anxiety and disappointment because he doesn’t want to go knowing it is too loud and he won’t like it or he doesn’t want to be in the dark in a strange place. Again, he must wait. The dreaded grocery store, I am an adult and I don’t like trips to the grocery store but for my son, it is loud, there are so many people he feels anxious, it takes too long, people bump into him, he doesn’t want to wait, it is beyond hard, and it almost feels like torture. No, this is not a bratty child, this is a child with autism; for kids with autism the colors in the store, the price tags on the shelves, all of this information can be extremely overwhelming. Should you see a child struggling please, don’t assume they are a brat throwing a tantrum, they may be having a meltdown, which is very different. In a meltdown a child will hurt themselves as they have lost all control, it is not a bargaining chip to see if they can get what they want, once a meltdown starts there is no way to bribe a child into stopping, they have hit their limit and cannot handle anymore. As a mother it gets to me when I see people stare at my son for how he sometimes acts; my son is being himself, genuine, not censoring his actions as we all do because after all society expects certain behavior, does it not? It tears me apart inside when he hurts himself out of frustration or aggravation (meltdown). A comment was made that was one of the most hurtful I have ever heard. Someone told my son, “If you don’t behave, you are going to end up in anger management.” I wanted to lash out but knew that would do my son no good. My son is not losing his temper, he is struggling to learn to control it. These kids walk a tight rope every day and their parents walk right there behind them. If you see a child who, shows no physical traits of an impairment, but is maybe acting a little different and a mom or dad who looks a bit more than exhausted, remember this, a simple smile may do more than you realize.
Mental health is still taboo and until the world opens its eyes to increase knowledge and awareness these parents and their children that are growing into adults will have to struggle to deal with something they should not have to go through alone. Until we as a society make a change, this taboo will continue. Understanding and empathy is what we need. So I ask of you, don’t let this stay taboo. When you see a child, adult, or even a parent struggling think of how it may look through their eyes. If autism has taught us anything it has taught us this, these children fit no mold, they never will. They will always be perfectly unique.
Copyright © 2015 Enjoying The Chaos.