I have not updated in a while but I was thinking about the times I've told someone my son has Asperger's and how they have reacted.
I've had people say, "I am so sorry!"
Sorry? If you've said this before don't feel bad. It comes from a good place in your heart.... I hope. Saying you are sorry is like saying "poor you to be stuck with that kid" or "poor kid he will never be all right." But I am not sorry. He is the same boy whether or not there is a diagnosis attached to him. Don't be sorry. Be understanding.
I've had people say, "Really? Are you sure?"
Ummm....yea... I am sure. This reaction usually comes from people who have not spent much time with Nathan. They have seen him on his good days and on his best behavior. This comment does not offend me, It reminds me that four years of Social Groups, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy are working. But some do get offended by this statement. I've heard parents say it sounds like you are doubting what they know and they wish you could see the hard days, the tantrums, the stubbornness, the gagging at smells, the loud sounds, the shutting down moments....... Yes....we are sure.
I've had people say, "My kid does those things too. It's normal for boys."
This statement probably also comes from a good place in your heart and hopefully an honest place. Hopefully you are trying to connect and be sympathetic and kind. It does not offend me. In fact it's nice to hear that my kid is "normal." But I can tell you others find it offensive. Why? You are implying that maybe it's a misdiagnosis, over diagnosis, or just not that bad. So just be careful with that one. Maybe say, "My child does some things similar to that at times." Or just nod because maybe the mom needs to vent to you for a bit and just wants a listening ear.
I've had people say, "What is Asperger's?"
This is not at all offensive and should not be to anyone. My opinion is just because you have had to become an expert on a topic such as autism and Asperger's does not mean the rest of the world has had to. So educate yourself and be prepared to educate others in a kind way.
I've had people give me the look.
You know what I mean. That look that says, "Why is your son acting that way?" "Isn't he too old to be doing that?" "Why can't you control your kid?" "He needs better discipline." Yea....that look. When Nathan was four he talked like an adult. He spouted off the Presidents names, first, middle, and last like a party trick and people loved it. He talked about soil erosion and history. So people thought he should act like an adult too. So when he acted like a four year sometimes acts then people give you the look. Because of his obsessive personality he would do things that would make people look. I don't mind people looking but not if they are giving "the look." You know what I mean.
I've had people be downright rude.
"How old is your son?"
"He is eight."
"Really?" said in the most nastiest way you can imagine.
This happened when Nathan was at the park having a fit on his bike. He was crying because he couldn't keep up with the other kids. And this woman was wanting me to tell him to "stop" or "be a man" or "don't be a cry baby" or something. According to her my son was not acting his age. According to her my son wasn't doing or behaving the way she thought he should. Now, there are plenty of times when I have dealt with this and will explain to the person, "He has Aspergers. It's hard for him." But if you are being mean and nasty and thinking your two girls with their perfectly done hair eating cherries like candy are the epitome of your perfect parenting style and my son crying on his bike is not... then you get no explanation. I'd rather go comfort and encourage my son than waste my time trying to change your mind. Sorry. Rude? Maybe? Or just the truth.....
I've had people step away.
I was talking with a woman in Target close to Christmas. She was looking at Imaginext toys. Nathan's favorite. He was not with me. Shopping alone! A mini vacation! :) She looked confused as she browsed the toys. I asked if I could help. She told me what her son wanted, a castle with a orange door. I said, "It's this castle. I know them all. My son loves these."
"How old is your son?" she asked me cheerfully as she grabbed the castle from the shelf.
"He is eight."
"What else does he play with?" she asked.
"Not too much else. He loves Imaginext toys."
She smiled. "Really? But like what other toys? I need ideas for my son."
I shrugged. I was enjoying my conversation with her. She was so friendly and so I thought I'll just open up a bit. "He pretty much plays with Imaginext and maybe a few action figures. He has Aspergers so his interest are limited."
Her face changed then and I am not lying when I say she took a step back as if she might catch a disease. "Oh," she said and then grabbed her cart and hurried away! I was shocked! Her whole face went from friendly to scared in a matter of minutes like just being near me might infect her.
And I've had people be kind to me and Nathan and their children be kind.
So what is the right reaction?
If you don't know then ask questions. How did you know? How was he diagnosed? How does he do in school?
If you don't know what to say then maybe keep quiet or ask the mom or dad how they are doing. Some days are rough!
If you want to comfort then comfort but most of us don't need comfort. We want you to just understand and help your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews understand and to be taught kindness.
Ask how you can help?
Sometimes we have a lot of appointments and places and therapies and it can help to watch other kids or to even offer to go with the mom or dad to some of the appointments.
Be a friend. Sometimes we have to be hard on our kids or always on them to try and prevent meltdowns.
Warn us. People with Aspergers like a plan and they liked to know what will happen. So let us in on details for a play date before it occurs so we can prep.
Treat our children like normal children. Just have a little extra patience and kindness.
Be a friend. Encourage your children to be a friend.