Sunday, April 15, 2012

Autistic Child is Disruptive in Cafe - How Will Patrons React? Autism Acceptance or Intolerance

Hello Aspierations Friends,

I'd like you to watch a quick video today if you haven't seen it previously.

Autistic Child is Disruptive in Cafe - How Will Patrons React?

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My husband came across the following video earlier today and shared it with me. Admittedly both of us were rather emotional regarding the content since:

a) We have 2 children on the autism spectrum and
b) Each one at one point or another or even simultaneously (!!) have been disruptive in restaurants before and
c) We have experienced both compassion and a lack thereof from fellow patrons.

Although it wasn't a restaurant situation, one of my saddest memories of lack of compassion came during a Christmas Eve service a couple years ago when my kiddo was going through a bit of sensory overload. I won't go into the details here now but suffice to say that if people don't show acceptance and compassion in a church on Christmas Eve of all places, then there is really a lot of work to be done!  It was really hard for us to go back after that but we realize now that the incident, although very humiliating and unpleasant did help strengthen our character and resolve and compassion for others.  Sometimes when people show the example of the absolute wrong thing to do, it is so much easier to find conviction and strength in oneself to advocate for what is right. Interestingly enough, it also taught me a lesson about forgiveness. It is so much easier to be open to God's word and his calling for my life when I release the excess baggage.

But before I digress any further, let me pull myself back to the video above. In case you haven't seen it yet, I won't give the ending away.

My first impression was that the story was mostly a positive one and in a month dedicated to Autism Awareness and Acceptance, stories like these that people can watch fairly easily give food for thought to the general public even if the scenes played were not representative of every family's life impacted by the autism spectrum. There could have easily been other scenarios or other endings and as one who thoroughly enjoyed studying Social Psychology in college, I would have liked to see more variations.  Inevitably, if you play enough scenarios, you're going to get different kinds of results to present, however I am satisfied with the ones they chose to show. I only watched the clip above so maybe in the actual TV show on ABC there were more. If you saw it, please let me know.

As every child on the autism spectrum presents differently, it would be remiss to generalize the type of behavior the boy was showing in the restaurant to all children on the autism spectrum, however I have known enough autism parents and have had enough experience with my own children in restaurants to note that scenarios like this in many variations and degrees of severity do happen to families impacted by autism regularly. Try grocery stores or shopping malls, airports or planes. Thank goodness for the movie theaters around the country that now offer Sensory Friendly viewings. I hope more kinds of businesses will follow suit.

Autism Empowerment, the non-profit 501(c)(3), that my husband and I founded last year is dedicated toward creating programs, services and support that people can plug into in the here and now to create a positive, collaborative autism community that Accepts, Enriches, Inspires and Empowers individuals on the spectrum as well as their families to reach their highest potential.  By building and supporting positive communities of individuals, families, schools, businesses and community partners that foster acceptance, encouragement and love, we can reduce isolation that individuals and families feel and create opportunities for people to let their lights shine with the confidence of knowing that they don't have to be lonely and in the dark.  (Like our message? Please share! We want to spread the word, so let your voices be heard!)

Out of curiosity, I checked the comments on the ABC website underneath the video to read what people would say. As seems to be standard fare, there is no way to please everyone, especially if they are in a position in their lives where it seems like they are looking for opportunities to be displeased.

For example, the title of the video was "Autistic Child is Disruptive in Cafe - How Will Patrons React?"  I knew that some would immediately be offended about the word "autistic". Personally, I prefer person first language for the most part but I'm not going to let a word itself offend me.  Usually if I feel offended by something, it is the tone and intent of the word(s) being used and not the word itself.

When I write my blogs, I realize that when I say Aspie or person with autism or whatever I choose to say that as well-intentioned and compassionate and accepting as I am trying to be when I convey my messages, there will be some who will disagree with my choice of verbiage or not understand my intent.  We each come to the table with a unique set of life experiences. Our paths may be strikingly similar or distinctively different. They will always be unique and so we can never expect for any man or woman to truly get everything we say all the time. Heck, even we are often regularly at battle with ourselves over some thing or another.

So that all being said, if you watched the video in its entirety or just the clip above like I did, please feel free to share what you think.  I allow for anonymous posting on my blog but please don't take that as an invitation to forget your manners.  :-)

Until next time, Aspierations friends!

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