Having a child on the spectrum comes with more than its fair share of difficulties. However, I find that our current difficulty is the most heartbreaking so far.
Inclusion is something that I believe many parents worry about for their child, especially when their children take the step from Nursery School to Primary School. Yet when you have a child with autism, the worry transforms to fear. Will he make friends? Will people be kind to him? Will any of the children even begin to understand him? These questions have plagued my mind since August, when the reality of School had finally kicked in and they aren’t getting any quieter, but the answers seem to be getting clearer every day. So here is a moment, just a moment of how our neurotypical world treats those on the spectrum.
Damian is 5 years old with ASD. He had delayed speech when he was younger and couldn’t string together even a short sentence until he was 4 years old. He has been involved in S.A.L.T. (Speech and Language Therapy) for over a year now, and although his speech has gotten a lot better, he still on occasion will confuse words, enunciate incorrectly and sometimes will fail to make comprehensible sentences. This will often occur along-side moments of extreme emotional responses, for example if he is too excited or if he is filled with rage. Having these problems can not only make it difficult to understand him at times, but can also make him a ‘target’ in our neurotypical world.
Damian’s neurotypical friends will frequently mock and laugh at him if they notice he has enunciated a word incorrectly or called something by the wrong name. In these situations Damian knows that they are laughing at him, however, he fails to understand why they are doing so. He’ll demand that they stop laughing while clearly becoming anxious, and if they don’t then he becomes angry and will lash out, resulting in a meltdown. For Damian, this is a daily battle and the thought of him going through it all alone terrifies me. I feel disheartened at the cruelty shown by his peers and angry at their parents for not teaching their children to respect others.
All I can do is prepare him for the world as it is. By making sure he knows that there will be people who won’t accept him for who he is, and that there will be those who won’t show kindness towards him. I will also make sure he knows that there are plenty of people in the world that will love and accept him for exactly who he his, and that there are other cihldren that are exactly like him. I will show him that there are people in the world who will help build him up and how to avoid those who try to tear him down. Because his life is not worth less than theirs.