Last week, Sonny fell asleep on the way to the funfair. This did not bode well. However, when we got there it was pretty clear it was going to be a good day. I mean, I was pretty excited. Nothing gets me going more than a good bouncy castle and some candy floss. (Bouncy castle was hard to manage. I completely face-planted and consequently emptied the entire contents of my bag onto the floor. Serves me right though, I was trying to show off.)
I also got the pleasure of watching Sonny get put inside a life size inflatable ball that was floating on water. Effectively a massive hamster wheel. Twice. It was great. (Click here to see).
I had a minor incident involving a parent on the huge inflatable slide. Sonny was climbing up the side ladder, but was struggling, and kept falling down. He thought this was hilarious. But then, other children came up behind him, so he was accidently barged one child as he fell. The child got upset at this and so I said, ‘Sonny come down now, it’s a bit too busy there.’ And was just about to explain to him what had happened and speak to the upset child.
Then the child’s mother came next to me and said, to her child, but very loudly, ‘Get down from there away from that mean boy, the one in the white hoodie, he’s doing it on purpose, he’s laughing so come away from him now.’
INSTANT RAGE descended upon me. I turned around and said as politely as I could manage, ‘he has autism and ADHD, he is NOT doing it on purpose.’ She flummoxed and said, ‘oh I didn’t know…’ and then Sonny had come down so I took him off to get his shoes on, while I tried to control myself
Afterwards I felt bad, because it must have looked like Sonny did barge the other child on purpose because he was laughing. But he didn’t understand what he had done wrong. And she genuinely didn’t know he has autism, and how could she have? He doesn’t wear a sign saying, I have autism so excuse any anti-social behaviour. I would never use his autism as an excuse anyway, and I feel like situations such as this one is a good way of learning about empathy and how to engage with other children in an appropriate way.
So if I hadn’t of been so angry, and if she hadn’t of said the word, ‘mean’ I would have explained to Sonny and gone over to the other child and asked Sonny to say, ‘sorry’ but meanwhile talking about it being an accident etc. And Sonny would have learned something and I could have spoken to the mother about autism and it would have been a good experience for all. But because I was so enraged by the whole saga I had to leave, to avoid getting upset and saying something offensive!
So I was both annoyed at the lady for making me angry and annoyed at myself for getting angry. Grr.
The thought of someone saying Sonny (or any child in fact, with or without autism) was ‘mean’ really got to me. All the different ways in which Sonny shows his kindness and affection is unconventional but is no less than any child without autism. I know she wasn’t aware he had autism, but that just really upset me!
Lesson learned- people will misunderstand. It’s my job not to take it personally when they do, but to use those moments as ways of engaging others in conversations about autism. So I’ll take a leaf out of Sonny’s book. I’ll be stronger.
He fell asleep on the way back too. He didn’t even wake up for my duet of a Spice Girls Medley with this guy on the tube.