Sorry About That. My Child Really Is Special.

Have I ever mentioned that I am a speech-language pathologist? Before I got married, I worked with preschoolers with special needs. I had ideas about discipline: Keep the mental age in mind. Structure, repetition, and consistency are a must. Use different types of cues—visual, tactile, verbal.

I still think these are the core to good discipline. Clear, concrete and repetitive learning helps my severely autistic child navigate her world. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some days I’m tired. Other days I’m at my wits’ end.

I’m not alone either. My autism support group often discusses this issue. We feel judged in public because our children do inappropriate things. Just yesterday my daughter sat on a little boy at a water park. She didn’t even acknowledge him. While she cried and chirped in her robot-speak, I had to drag her through the giant wave pool. I felt like a lumbering elephant lugging a sack of protesting and squirming rocks. People were staring at me. I’m sure some of them wondered what was wrong with my daughter. Was it my parenting? Did she just need a good swat? Was I one of “those” parents who spoils their children?

I know most of you have your own story of embarrassment or public shame. Some people are bold enough to ask questions; some want to help. Some say derogatory things. I used to explain that my daughter was autistic, and then I’d explain why she was stripping naked and rolling around on the floor. But some days I’m too tired. And I wonder if I even should? I don’t know.

This is even more poignant for those of you who might not have “neuro-typical” children, if you will allow the phrase. When I have both my girls with me, people can see that one of my children is behaving appropriately and is not out of control. So I am not accused of being a “bad” parent, as some of my friends have been.

What’s the solution? I wish there was a clear-cut answer. Pray for wisdom daily. That’s where I get my strength. As for what other people think—should I worry about it? My guess is that most people just want to understand. And the ones who don’t? Pray for them too. Someday they may understand all too well what you are going through.