I stand in a crowded grocery store, waiting for the cashier to scan my items.
Carter is here.
He does his best, but the bright lights, the sound of the scanner, the buttons on the cash register, a squeaky cart, the chatter, automatic doors, now a baby is crying….it is sensory overload for him, and it’s too much !
Sometimes I can see he’s struggling, and I praise his efforts before an outburst occurs.
But not today.
He vocalizes a loud stim and hand flaps to counteract the noise that surrounds him.
It doesn’t go unnoticed.
It never does.
I’ve found it’s best that I don’t make eye contact with anyone when *it* happens.
I focus my eyes on Carter, and with no words exchanged, I can tell by looking at him that he already feels bad.
He did try.
I know he did….but it is so hard for him !
I remind Carter to have a quiet voice and calm hands.
I ask him if he wants a hug. Sometimes the pressure of a tight hug, helps to release the build up he is feeling inside.
I imagine it would feel like you are standing at a rock concert.
The music is pounding, people are screaming, your ears are ringing.
It hurts, but you can’t leave.
It’s that noise that makes your skin crawl, like nails on a chalkboard, only there is no chalkboard, it’s just your life, and you are surrounded by it all.the.time.
My heart sinks heavily as I try to contain the resentment I feel, towards the people around me.
Autism is an “invisible” disability.
The kids on the spectrum look the same as everyone else.
So naturally, people will stare.
They’re trying to analyze the situation, the child, I get it.
But it doesn’t make me any less angry.
It’s the “Mama bear” instinct times one hundred.
This is our day-to-day.
At the grocery store.
The Doctor’s office.
Autism is a life long disorder.
Like most kids with ASD, this will always be a struggle for him.
Sensory processing and Autism go hand in hand, so even with years of therapy, he may never be able to adapt to his surroundings.
We put forth so much effort trying to change these kids on the spectrum, to make them adapt, when in fact, they may never be capable of change. And it’s not their fault, they are doing the best that they can, it’s just that for many, it is an impossible feat.
But we can change !
How you ask ? Stop staring, for one.
Have compassion. Children on the spectrum are not misbehaving, they are truly struggling with their surroundings.
A struggle beyond anything us “neurotypicals” can understand.
Every day is hard for them.
So please remember that the next time you see a child in a grocery store, or a Doctor’s office, or a library, that is having a difficult time.
They are coping the best that they can, and so are their parents.