Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sometimes Its Not About Autism, Sometimes People Are Just Asshats

American society is a vast amalgam of varied cultures and ethnicities. We are a melting pot of people from all over the world. We come together for one thing, and that is freedom. (Yes, there is the odd terrorist or spy among the immigrant ranks, but that is not the overwhelming majority of those who come to this country so, don’t start any crap. Also I don’t want to hear about illegal aliens. No matter what you think should happen with immigration reform remember, these people come, risking their lives by crossing scorching deserts, hidden in the back of vans or in shipping containers to seek out a better future for their families. The majority of them are not drug dealers, they are just unbelievably poor. Read and comment here if you want to discuss this issue.) BTW, since its Fourth of July watch this before continuing:

hat tip @SNAPPIN_MIN

The question becomes how do our children truly fit into the picture of American society and what does the future hold for them? We can look objectively at the way society on an individual basis interacts with our children. We can pinpoint at anytime the odd, asshat who is mean and cruel to our children. But do we allow it to overshadow the mostly good that we encounter in our world?

Because no one intervenes to help you when your child has a meltdown in the supermarket, does it mean that they are condescending or does it mean that they do not know what to do? Does it mean that they do not want their head bit off when they offer help, which has happened on quite a number of occasions to me?

When you talk to the school and they deny your child a service is it personal or is it because your child doesn’t fit into the regulations? Does your child get red flagged and do they watch them anyway? Does your school give your child that extra time, even though it is not part of any plan just because they need it? Does the school understand your child’s needs beyond their IEP and tries to help out if they can?

When you take your child to a restaurant does the hostess notice, as their behavior gets better and comment on how well they are doing? Does the professor (teacher) congratulate your child on his/her progress in behavior and actually chide your child when they didn’t do so well on a midterm? Do they understand that your child’s innate intelligence and behavior have nothing to do with each other? Does your child feel welcome in their classroom and look forward to school despite the anxiety it causes them? Does the professor take time out of their day to meet with you and your child to ease his transition into a new class? Do they do that at your school? Do they understand what it means to teach all children and accept all kinds of learners into their sphere of education?

Do you take your child to volunteer and the people around them are happy and welcoming? Are they given tasks that are commensurate with their intellect while also being made responsible for activities that will challenge them? Is no one afraid of your child and they are accepting of them for who they are?

When you take your child to the supermarket and give them a list and have them practice asking for the meats at the deli counter does no one blink an eye? In fact, do the grandparents smile as you walk by and give you a thumbs up? Does it seem that everyone is happy to see a parent taking a hand in teaching their children?

Much is written on this site about how our children are not accepted and not welcome in so much of the world and in our society. I catalogue events and trials and tribulations almost on a daily basis of what my boys go through wherever they go. I realized too that not everything that happens in life to the boys is truly because of their autism. Sometimes it really is just life.

The problem I think is that when you have a child with a disability you begin after awhile to think that that is all everyone sees and that is all everyone reacts to when it comes to your child. You tend to see the world through the prism of disability and nothing more. You also stop on many occasions and forget that the person on the opposite side of the conversation or interaction may have their own problems that they cannot handle and what just happened between everyone has nothing to do with your child, but everything to do with the other person. Now of course, that doesn’t mean you let people be mean or hurtful to your child or don’t stand up for your child or anyone you love under any circumstances, but not everything truly is about your world. Perhaps our children are not as unwelcome as we think they are, it may just appear that way because we are looking for some slight or derisive comment because that is so common at times.

I have argued so often on this site that we cannot let our children use their disabilities as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. That society has rules and regulations and norms that they must learn to abide by if they are to have a successful life. I still hold to that and will always hold to that philosophy. However, I wonder when interacting with people do we forget that others step outside these norms as well as our children and that it has nothing to do with aspergers and autism. Sometimes people are really just having a bad day. Everything isn’t about our children. I think it is time to think outside ourselves.

Brilliant-computer-sis just had a little talk with me about how I have been so very self-involved lately with everything that has been happening with the boys. I had failed to see the world around me and to understand that other people have problems and that everything isn’t related to autism and how the world treats my children. That people in general just have problems and that especially in today’s economic times, people are terrified. You know sometimes it’s good to have a sister who will give you that kick in the butt and tell you are being an idiot.

Not sure what I am going to do with that knowledge right now. I suppose I will listen more when others talk and not dismiss problems that I think are not problems. When someone talks to me about fear and want and hope and change, I will not dismiss their anxiety so easily. I will understand that you do not need to have a child with a disability or a life-threatening illness to be afraid of tomorrow. I will understand that people’s problems are varied. (OK, yes I will dismiss the moron who thinks that it is a travesty that they can’t go to the South of France for the summer because of the economy, but for the most part those people just aren’t individuals you would want to be friends with anyway. Or the one who is so upset because they can’t drive a Mercedes anymore and have to settle for a Honda Pilot. There are limits to understanding and to what is actually a problem too.)

I will count my blessings and review my life and see how far my boys have come and try to figure out a place for them for tomorrow. I will work on not being so blind to the world around me and to understanding that everything isn’t about autism, even if that is the focus of my world.

In the meantime, I withdrew HSB from the driving school. We went to the orientation and HSB having sensory issues and transition issues I sat and scratched his back the entire time. The orientation was given by a very old man, definitely a retired gentleman trying to supplement his social security income with some extra money. I happen to have a father who has to do that right now too. Well HSB was very on target and participated in the question and answer period, event though you could hear him complaining under his breath about how long winded the older man was. Now it wasn’t his best moment, my son, but you can be assured that it was also not his worst.

Anyway when we went to get his schedule of classes at the front of the room, the old man turned to us, in front of about 40 of HSB’s classmates and their parents, and yelled at me that he saw me scratching his back during the session and how did I expect him to drive a car. Truthfully a little taken aback, I just responded to him that I was going to call him on the number listed on the sheet and we could discuss it. Then I walked out with HSB in tow.

OK, I did call him and you can bet he didn’t call back. I called and left messages with the driving school’s receptionist and he didn’t call back. My initial instinct was maybe that the man saw something about HSB that he felt wasn’t appropriate or that he wasn’t ready to get behind the wheel of a car. Driving is not a joke and just because we think HSB is ready doesn’t necessarily mean a driving instructor wouldn’t see things differently. (This is where the autism in your world comes into play. Did this have to do with HSB’s disability or not?) At first I dismissed the inappropriateness of the old man’s outburst because I thought maybe there was something there.

But after awhile when I wasn’t called back, I began to realize that he didn’t see anything about HSB, that the old man was just an asshat and decided to pick on my son because HSB complained that the man talked too much. Or he didn’t like it when some mothers who were asking him if they should go into the orientation session, because they didn’t want their children to “hate them,” I responded that I was going in and didn’t care if my child “hated me.” Perhaps he decided that he was king of the driving school and that it was up to him to decide what we parents should do. Interestingly he made a huge point about how the only problem he has ever had with people in my neighborhood as far as driving instruction was concerned, is that some people believe their children didn’t have to attend class, that they could just offer double the amount of the course and “buy” a certificate. I realized that the old coot’s outburst had nothing to do with HSB’s autism, but had everything to do with this jealous old fart trying to put me in my place. Well, f**ck that. (Time to get my BITCH on baby.)

I called and spoke to the receptionist. She tried to explain to me that he probably didn’t get my messages. That that was why I wasn’t called back. Oh no, I responded, I left three messages on the answering machine and with two receptionists. So I am going to leave another one. I told her what happened. That I was withdrawing my son from the program and that I demanded my money back. She kept repeating that I was withdrawing him as if the other information didn’t matter, but I know it did. She also told me that my refund would have to come from the high school since I signed HSB up through the school. Fine I said, so I called the continuing education office at the high school and left a message. You can bet they called me back right away.

Now the ladies that run the continuing education office are parents in my town who work part-time. It is not their fault that this old idiot was well an idiot. But you can bet I put in a complaint against him. The director on the other side of the phone was beside herself, constantly asking if HSB was OK. Can you imagine how mortifying it was for him? Whether it truly was or not, he never let on, but for any average teen it would have been devastating. I told her that he was fine now, and understands that he will be taking private lessons. She even gave me the name of an instructor that taught her sons how to drive after the dad realized he couldn’t’ really do the “dad teach the son how to drive thing really well.” (I’m expecting that eventual result too, but you never know. HSB likes his father and hubby has a huge amount of patience.)

The truth is, if that old coot got fired, tough. (Hubby said trying to get him fired in this economy was mean, but I didn’t ask for him to be fired I just told them what happened. It’s not my fault that he decided that he was king of car instruction and hates people who have more money than he does, little do they all know.) If he didn’t lose his job, that’s fine too, but a complaint was made and maybe he will think about being nasty to people who are responsible for his livelihood.

The interesting thing about the driving course is that there are two reasons children take this course. The first as far as the students are concerned, is that it allows them to have a senior license at 17, which means they can drive after 9pm and have more than one unrelated person in the car with them. Whoopee. I can’t tell you how unimportant it is for me to have HSB driving in the cold dark of winter on ice and snow after 9pm. If it’s important to him, too bad. Sometimes, you really don’t need to worry that your children will “hate you”, as long as they are alive to hate you who cares? Then of course there is the all important insurance discount. Which I called my agent to find out about and she told me that after he gets his license he can take a one-day defensive driving course and get the same discount. So all is not lost and better yet, HSB will not be driving late at night on ice and snow, until well after he is 18.

So as I said, not everything that happens in your world to your child and you is related to autism. It could be that the person you are dealing with is an old jealous idiot who has some kind of bug up his ass. Yet, that doesn’t mean that you don’t take him down a peg or two, after all autism or not, YOU and YOURS are still entitled to respect.

Until next time,

Have a happy and safe Independence Day,