I spent some time today outlining the ways autism can be a blessing in disguise. And I mean it. But, autism can also be extremely unfair, and I don’t want to pretend that those thing don’t exist.
It’s not fair the way people respond when they see a child with autism having a meltdown. It’s so easy, when you’re not in the trenches, to assume that said child is spoiled, or undisciplined, or simply a brat. It’s not fair that people stare, and say condescending things like, “Someone obviously needs a nap!” No, “someone” doesn’t. Maybe you do, though. “Someone” is overstimulated, or overwhelmed, or out of his comfort zone. Try to extend a little grace, and lessen up on the judgement, especially since it’s a situation about which you obviously know nothing!
It’s not fair the way parents, especially mothers, are blamed for their child having autism. Maybe if you hadn’t eaten that when you were pregnant… Maybe if you had been more loving… Maybe if you had never let him watch TV… Maybe if you hadn’t let him have those vaccinations… It’s not helpful. And none of those things have ever actually been proven. Again, less judgement and blaming, unless you want the stare of death from a tire, frustrated, overwhelmed mother.
It’s not fair that children with autism don’t quite “get it” socially, whether by their own choice (the loners), or because they’re excluded by their peers because of their difficulties. It’s not fair to see them by themselves on the playground, to know that they ate lunch alone, to see their struggles with making connections and friends.
It’s not fair that my child has to have a different education than his siblings do. This could be a public school vs. homseschool issue, as is the case in our family, or a private school vs. public school issue, or a specialized/residential school vs. public school issue. However it plays out, it’s not fair that not all children in a family can go to school together, because one of them requires special services/teachers/opportunities that are not available at the school that the majority attends.
It’s not fair to have a sibling with autism. No matter how much you love your autistic brother or sister, it can be a challenge to learn how to interact and play with him or her. Why does he get so upset when the littlest thing changes? Why does he get more attention? Why won’t he talk to me or play with me? It’s not easy to grow up next to somebody with so many idiosyncrasies.
It’s not fair to the person with autism, either. Probably most of all. Why should he be the one to be different? Why should he be the one to struggle to speak, to express himself, to engage others, to fit it. It’s not fair to realize that you’re the different one; that there’s something “wrong” with you. To know that everybody else is doing something different from you.
Autism isn’t fair. But, as the old saying goes, “life isn’t fair.” Sometimes it sucks, but it’s something a person, a family, a society, must learn to live with. Autism is on the rise, and until we figure out why, and how to prevent it, we must learn to look past “fair,” and learn how to deal with the struggles of everyday life.