Saturday, April 28, 2012

When you're autistic, you can't have misunderstandings

Was having a pretty good day today despite the unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach that something bad was going to happen. I've been feeling "off" for a few days and today the feeling was a bit stronger. When I've had these feelings before, I've ended up in a car accident or with a family member in jail. I should've listened to my gut and stayed ho
me.

14-year-old girl with autism. Svenska: 14-årig...
14-year-old girl with autism.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Instead, I took the kids to Barnes & Noble at Waterford Lakes as we often do when we're bored and don't have much money to spend. We were there for less than an hour when David rushes to me to tell me they are kicking him out of the store. When I turn around, there's the manager of the store (must be a new one or a weekend one because I've not seen her before and I know most of the staff there, we've spent more time at that store than we have anywhere else in the city) telling me she's received complaints from 2 people saying David was peeking under the stalls at them. We've had this discussion with David before, how his actions can be misinterpreted by people but he just doesn't always "get it". He likes to talk to people in the bathroom, for example, and we've had to remind him that we don't talk to strangers much less strangers in a personal place like the bathroom. He'd stopped that and I was feeling better about letting him go to the bathroom on his own. (I was sending him in with his brother or his father even at his 15 years of age.)

NLEx May 30 Autistic Teens
NLEx May 30 Autistic Teens (Photo credit: DivaLea)
Today, he says he put his DS on the ground while he was in the stall and was bending down to pick it up. Now, I know he could've been curious and snuck a peek while he was doing it and while most teen boys may use that as a malicious way to get a peek at someone, David's so naive and simple-minded that he doesn't do anything like that with malicious intent.

I was furious when the manager confronted me and told me he was banned from the store and she was going to have to call the cops on him but I just grabbed my teens and my bag, told her "he's a 15-year-old, autistic boy who didn't know what he was doing" and stood up. Her reply? "Ok, well I guess I won't call the cops then." Some guy ended up following us out of the store and I wanted to turn around and ask who he was but I was so livid, I couldn't do anything but leave. David kept talking and trying to apologize as we left the store and I ended up snapping at him to shut up while we were leaving. I hated myself for that. He was scared and he didn't understand what was going on other than the threat of someone taking him away to jail for something he didn't quite understand he did wrong and banning him from a place he loves.

It's made me wonder how many other parents have faced the same struggles with their special needs kids and chose to just quietly leave than cause a commotion that would otherwise make their kids even more anxious than they already are during those circumstances. I should've fought with the manager. Fought for my son who people look at with either pity or disdain but I was so angry and embarrassed for him that I chose to walk away. Even as I tossed and turned in bed tonight (I'm writing this at 2:37 AM EST) I kept thinking that I should've done something. But shoulda, woulda, coulda has no place after the fact.

The truth of the matter of is, he's 15 years old in body but he's only 8 or 9 years old in mind but no one looks at your mind when they judge you. They look at your outward appearance and cast judgment about your character based on that alone. I keep saying I want my children to understand that the world is unfair but still theirs to live in and enjoy but when moments like today happen, I wonder if this unfair world can be a safe place for anyone deemed "different".

I'm just grateful that in a world where Trayvon Martin can be deemed threatening and therefore cause for someone to shoot him that my son, with his dark complexion, large head and facial features many associate with the word "retarded" wasn't in a place where someone could kill him for a misunderstanding.

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