Wednesday, 6 November 2013

If there are any Williams present please raise your right hand!

Today I read a post which had been posted on facebook. It was an innocent post, supposed to make you laugh about a granddad in the supermarket with his toddler grandson. The grandson was having a tantrum, asking for sweets, throwing items across the shop and the granddad calmly and patiently repeated to William that they would soon be out the shop.

Once outside a fellow shopper congratulated the grandad on his patience and tolerance with William's bad behaviour. "Oh that's not William" he replies 'I'm William".He described his grandson in more colourful language and said that he was in fact called Kevin.

To many of us who have had young children the scene is comical, at least with hindsight. But for parents with children on the Autistic children this is not just a passing phase and many have to deal with it on a day to day basis.

What struck me was that the author of the piece referred to the grand child as 'badly behaved'. How many parents of Autistic children  have been subject to this misconception and been at the sharp end of judgemental attitudes from passers by who know nothing about us!

For parents of Autistic children have learned not to prejudge. The apparently 'bad' parent or grandparent may be having to deal with an Autistic child who through severe sensory overload is no longer able to cope with the lights and noises in the supermarket- the buzzing lights, the ringing tills, the tanoid and of course the dreaded fire alarm.

I have been in that place where my son has lain down in the supermarket aisle with his hands on his ears , unable to move or to speak, people circling round with their trolleys and me thinking "How on earth do I get out of here?"

I have been in that place when the fire alarms have gone off when I have been at the till and I've had to explain that I won't be able to return to the store after we have been evacuated as I promised my son we would pop into the store fore 15 minutes and now that 15 minutes has expired.

I have been in that place where my son has laid down by the freezers and customers have whispered and nudged one another as I paid at the tills.

So please spare a thought for parents of children with unseen disabilities- they may be having a bad day and just need a smile or a word of encouragement. Don't assume they can't discipline- they are doing their very best.

I have seen the best and worst of people. There was the man who stomped up to me outside the supermarket to tell me my son was being badly behaved. When I explained he had Aspergers the man replied, "Even Autistic children know how to behave". He clearly was not an expert on Autism.

Then there was the man, who on seeing me in the car park, sitting on a kerb waiting for my son to self calm asked if there was anything to do to help. I thanked him, explained there was nothing to do but wait and he smiled and left me alone.

Sadly there is still a long way to go before people understand Autism. They are not dealing with it on a day to day basis. They are not hearing the voices of parents heart broken because they can't get help for their child and they are not immediately thinking when they read an article like this that it's not funny to many people having to deal with this from day to day.

So to any Williams out there I salute you, you are doing a sterling job when you grit your teeth, breath deeply and get out the supermarket unscathed! And for those of you who turn round and do it again the following week- you deserve a medal!

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