I’m not a controversial writer. I don’t like to write about topics just to get people here that wouldn’t normally be interested in my blog’s focus. This topic today is something I’ve had in the back of my head many times, and each time, I squash it and move on but today, it’s time.
I really believe in allowing your passions to take flight. If you have a strong belief in something, you should use it. Research it. Learn it. Enjoy it. And then share it with others.
My passion — aside from raising my children and following my blog/social media dreams to fruition — is autism awareness. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s autism acceptance.
While my blog isn’t about autism, and I rarely even talk about parenting on here, I feel like I’m ignoring something important and not using my blog as I could be in this one regard, all so I don’t get controversial, yet is that the right choice?
So today, I’m going to go off-topic and discuss something that’s going on in my world right now.
As you know, I have a 13-year-old son with autism. He’s verbal, he’s smart, he goes to a regular school and is in a regular class…but he’s still autistic. He still has social issues and tries so hard to fit in with his unique perspective, obsessions and mannerisms. And it’s working, but it wasn’t always easy. For years, people would stare at us in public, make comments about him in a stage whisper (in case I didn’t know my child was having a meltdown) and sometimes, straight to him or me. Now and then, they’d even touch him. People just couldn’t mind their own business, and while that isn’t happening to him anymore, I still see the “I’m going to mind your business for you” mentality occurring all over the place.
Case in point: Chili’s was having a give back day today, giving 10% of proceeds from customers who brought in a flyer, to the National Autism Association. Cool, right? Except some people didn’t think so. From the vitriolic comments on the Facebook page, it seems the majority of those complaining didn’t have a dog in this show. They are unaffected by autism. It’s fine to share your opinion, but in this case, it was literally being done to take candy from babies. Money from the bank of an association that gives back to families with autism. They aren’t shutting down an organization they don’t believe in — which would have been real change, albeit BAD change — just giving them a minor setback and therefore, no real action other than to make their ridiculous point, because they can.
Families who deal with autism have it rough. I’m not saying we have it any rougher than those dealing with other medical issues, as there are worse. I’m not going to cry and moan over here, as I’m blessed with my amazing little man, but I am going to say that insurance doesn’t cover but the bare minimum, the schools argue and don’t want to provide it and they also run out of time and money. And people are mean; people won’t let their kids play with ours or they allow their child to be outright mean or bully. We’re told “why should our schools spend so much money on your child” and then we hear it again from the insurance providers. If our children were in wheelchairs or had “real” medical issues, there wouldn’t be an issue but daily, we’re punted from organization to organization and not getting any help because no one wants to spend the money. Where does that leave us? Struggling to pay for services that are unrealistically expensive while trying to provide the necessary care and supervision these kids take. There’s a reason that 80% of marriages of special needs parents don’t survive, and it’s not because they don’t love each other.
When people who can’t mind their own business speak up, they’re saying “My way is better than your way.” It happens when you let your child have a soda and some other parent tells you that sodas are bad. Why can’t you just mind your own business? It happens when you tell your child to keep his voice down and a stranger says “but aren’t you blessed to have him?” (Yes, thanks, through all the infertility issues, I’m well aware of how lucky I am, so I hope that makes you feel better.) It happens when your child plops down in a Target and rocks, with his hands on his ears, because the humming of the lights are too loud for him to cope at 830am. (Thanks, stranger, for telling me I should pull his butt off the ground and spank it, and if it was your child, he wouldn’t be doing that. You’ve found the cure for autism!) It happens when I let my non-autistic daughter dye her hair blue for autism awareness month and someone else’s mom whom I don’t know tells me that I shouldn’t let her be ‘wild.’ It happens when my infant’s head leans to the side, by her choice, in a stroller and a stranger — a non-mom, in fact — tells me it’s not good for her neck. (Thanks, but she’s doing it herself, she’s older than she looks and she’s my fourth child, I’ve not killed any yet.) It happens when your child covers his ears in a pediatrician’s waiting room because the baby banging blocks hurts his head, and the mom says “You really need to learn that babies make noise.” (I handed her an autism card that was coincidentally just sitting on the counter; I didn’t mean to embarrass her, and I felt bad that her face turned red, but my son’s reactions were/are mine to deal with, I was standing there writing a co-pay check and I hope she learned that all isn’t what it seems, especially when your only child is 11 mths old. To her credit, she did apologize.) The time I told my child no, I couldn’t take him to the skate park and the old man yelled at me for not giving him a break. (He didn’t realize I was on my way back to work because I needed the medical benefits to pay for that appointment we’d just had.) I could go on but we’ve all been there, done that.
In short, people need to learn some restraint. When I’m at a park and I see someone else’s children misbehaving, it’s not my job to tell that mom how to make them behave. The exception? If they’re hurting my child or speaking to him badly or there’s a bloody eyeball hanging out. Otherwise, they have the right to parent their child as THEY see it, not me. It’s THEIR child.
So when I see people complaining to Chili’s about their give back day, I wonder: what purpose does it serve? It’s okay to disagree, but can’t you disagree without hurting someone else or poking your nose in where it doesn’t belong? The world needs varying opinions, but that means we have to allow for others to have them, too, even if we don’t agree. I’m not talking about human rights — we should all have them, 100% of the time, in every aspect — but just basic respect for differing perspectives. Can’t you just mind your own business?
I’m not going into my feelings about the fact that Chili’s cancelled their give back event; I never brand-bash and won’t start now. I don’t know what went on there, just that I feel the wrong decision was made in the end. I just hope that the people who had a part in complaining about it really know what they did. The NAA does a lot for our kids, and us, and they don’t call and ask me for my money like other organizations do. Their belief that vaccines can be a contributing factor is but ONE part of their very long list of statements, yet the rest were ignored. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water, and I guess that’s easy to do if your baby isn’t in the bath. (And I am not putting Chili’s on my list of places to eat at any time soon.)
Mine’s in the bath, and I’m sad. 1-in-68 kids are in that tub, and we’re all struggling for help we can’t afford.
So next time you see a child have a meltdown, don’t correct the parent. Mind your own business…or offer to help. The next time you see a mom let her child drink coffee, zip your lip. That child may just be allowed some caffeine to help their severe ADHD. (True medical story, though not mine.) Next time you see a mom breastfeed an older child, hold your tongue. (Seriously, who cares, yet I have a friend who hears this all the time!) See a kid say the word “crap” to its sibling? Look away. (True story here. My child said it and wow, three people spoke up. I told them all to call my son’s behavioral therapist who said “Pick one bad word, not a true vulgarity, but one word he can say when he’s upset. We all have one, why not him?” One mom then actually walked off and used the “f” word..in front of kids. Hypocritical much?) See a mom letting her kid eat chocolate in the morning, back away. (It’s not going to kill the child, really.) It’s not your business. We can’t go around inflicting our beliefs on others. Have your beliefs, uphold them and stand behind them, but realize, they are yours, and everyone’s entitled to their own. Unless there is imminent danger, such as ‘get off the tracks, a train is coming!’ or another similar thing, it’s not your place. We all want freedom, and to have that, we have to extend it to others.
Some people say it takes a village, and I’m not sure I subscribe to that. It’s great when we hold doors open for each other and scoop up a dropped item for a stranger, but leave the parenting decisions and the donation choices to those involved. Don’t want to give to a certain donation? Don’t, but don’t take away that choice for someone else. We need to be kind to one another, and I think everything else will fall into place.
The Chili’s controversy was not because of autism. The controversy was because that particular autism group still believes vaccines cause autism, which has been disproven many times over. I support autism groups and research that are looking for legitimate treatments and answers, not groups that spout hokum.
Hi, Heather — I’m aware of the whole drama but I respectfully won’t go any further as that wasn’t the point of the post. I fully support NAA and am saddened by the whole situation. Have a good afternoon!
Christy Garrett Uplifting Families
Thank you for sharing this, I am happy to see that companies are willing to give back and fund research. I know that some companies are bias and only support certain causes but Autism seems to be a growing problem. I personally don’t understand it other than it causes problems for children.
Thanks, Christy! I really thought a lot about it before I mentioned it, but I felt like it’s the elephant in my room…every room…and because I feel like my blog is a reflection of my life, I wanted to mention it. My son’s the reason we got into the healthy/natural living lifestyle in the first place. I understand not everyone will agree with my viewpoints, but I’m thankful for the freedom to make choices and hope we can all respect each other regardless. I’m not sure why certain things make people feel so threatened — I never tell anyone what to do or judge, but the whole thing is a topic where people feel like they have to defend themselves while putting me and others who feel similarly down. So unnecessary — society fights daily for acceptance for everyone, but you mention these couple of topics and suddenly, that changes. I won’t get controversial about it though, I really think, as I’ve said before, that we need to use social media for good 🙂
Dianna @ Oy Vey a Day
I just read about the Chili’s controversy last night. My thoughts upon reading about it were 1) I would not go to Chili’s to support NAA, however, I would (and have) happily donate to an autism organization that doesn’t encourage non-vaccination (Autism Speaks and others), 2) People have every right to express their opinions, however… I think it should be done in a respectful way, and it was not by many protestors (note, I’m talking about expressing their opinion on an organization’s philosophy… not on how a parent of an autistic child parents that child, and 3) Chili’s had every right to cancel, but I’m not sure I think they should have.
I do agree with you that people should keep their mouths shut about a lot of things – especially how other people parent their children. However, I am shocked – and I mean SHOCKED by how many people don’t parent their children at all. That doesn’t mean it is my job to swoop in and save the day by telling that parent how to parent, but I really wish some folks would get a wakeup call.
We had my son evaluated for autism a while back, and the experts told me he is not on the spectrum. However, he does have social issues and some sensory processing problems. He does have issues with impulse control and cannot sit still. He wears a plastic wristband for chewing, because chewing helps him deal with his sensory issues, and I would rather he chew on the wristband instead of his clothing (we constantly hear people telling us that he shouldn’t chew on the wristband… even doctors who don’t realize it is designed to be chewed on). On top of that, he has a hip condition that makes it dangerous to run or jump… when we are at the playground, I am constantly reminding him not to run or jump – I cannot tell you how many times I get looks/comments about how 4 year olds are supposed to run and jump (and honestly, I agree – it breaks my heart that he can’t).
I just remind myself that all of these people mean well, and promptly ignore them. On the other hand, over the years, I’ve gotten some decent advice from strangers.
Dianna, thank you for replying! I’m sorry to hear about the playground situations with your son. Been there, done that! My son was born with a hip issue and to this day, at 13, still runs differently and sees sports medicine for knee/leg issues that they really can’t do anything for other than strengthening exercises. He did adaptive PE when he was younger but now that he’s older, we had to get a doctor’s note to get the P.E. teacher to understand he wasn’t being lazy when once every month or two he was unable to keep up. Have you tried occupational therapy for the chewing things? Little dude was a huge chewer, sucker and licker…oh the shirts we went through! He’d suck on them so much that the necklines were all stretched out. We finally got him a chewy necklace and he’d keep smaller chewies in his pocket, glovebox, my purse, you name it. O.T. helped a lot with the sensory issues. You’re right, a lot of people do mean well, but on a bad day, it’s hard to discern and sometimes the last thing you want is ANYone to approach. After a while, my defenses would go up and I’d have to really force myself to listen; 90% of what we’d hear was negative, and I’d want to stay home with him, which didn’t teach him anything but was a lot easier. In the end, I realized that the only way he’d learn was to go out, in small doses, and I’d develop a thicker skin and a few responses to the unsolicited advice. 😉 Most were nice, but a couple of times, I’d retreat into immaturity and make a crazy face or ask them if they are an autism expert because I could really use help….I never yelled or did anything too bad, but argh, sometimes I wanted to! 😉