Picture this: I am standing on the train platform with my six-year old son, Angel. It is cold. Too cold for November. Angel is munching on Doritos as we wait for the next train. All of a sudden, he turns around and looks at one of the ads on the platform wall and yells: “BLUE”! The lady sitting next to him jumps. She is startled. I understand. But, what she does next, I do not understand.
She gets up and walks away. I mean, she walks as far away from us as her feet could carry her. All the way to the end of the train platform. My heart sinks. I am bothered. Does she just have a low tolerance for noise? We are on a New York City subway platform for God’s sake.
Maybe I was being overly sensitive but I am always on high alert when traveling with Angel. This is not the first time he has blurted out a letter or number or color that he noticed on a sign or an ad. This is not the first time that someone has changed their seat on the train because of something Angel did. This is not the first time someone has demonstrated that they would rather stand for a 45-minute train ride than sit next to my son.
Angel has autism but autism is not contagious. You will not catch autism it if you sit next to him. You will not catch autism if he yells out the letter “A” next to you on the train. You will not catch autism…. Wow! I should not even have to say this.
I wonder what will happen when Angel is 15 or 20 or 25. What happens when teenage or adult Angel does not demonstrate social behavior that fits into societal norms? I won’t always be there to give the side eye or the glare. Is this how people will treat my child because he is different? People fear what they do not know. People fear what they do not understand. I have no more words.
BMWK – How do you react to people in public who are mean spirited and intolerant toward your child with autism?
Check back every other Tuesday for additional articles from Kpana Kpoto as she shares her experiences and what she learns as she raises her son that has been diagnosed with Autism.
Kymmee J says
I will never understand how people can be so mean. My son is also on the spectrum. He has mild/high functioning Asperger’s. He also has sensory issues, ADHD & OCD. We have been very blessed to live in an area where most people are understanding or at least not rude. The school district that we reside within is excellent & are great at making sure kids like my son don’t fall through the cracks. He is mainstream in school & always has been. Is wicked smart, but socially he struggles a bit. With consistency, the help of great doctors & an awesome school community, he has thrived & understands his areas of weakness & is always seeking ways to challenge himself & step outside of his comfort zone. He is a high school junior now & though he’s more of a loner than a social butterfly, he has formed friendships & his friends always have his back. I wish every child & parent with a child on the spectrum could have & experience what we have It breaks my heart when I read things like this; it’s just so wrong.
Kpana Kpoto says
It sounds like your son is having a great experience with the right supports at school and in his community. This is what most parents (me included) hope for. Thanks so much for sharing. We don’t often get to hear of things are going right.
I work in a NYC Without Walls/Community Based program for adults with developmental disabilities in NYC and I have to deal with this all the time. From my daily experiences, I want to say the most cruel population are children between the ages of 5-17. Adults on public transportation are more sensitive once they realize that the person who just did something awkward has a disability…but kids…kids point, laugh, mock etc. and it is very hard to remain professional when having to defend/redirect my guys.
Kpana Kpoto says
I can only imagine, Collin. It is unfortunate that these kids we probably not talk to be accepting of other even when they may be different. That on top of peer pressure is not a good combo. Most of our experiences with people being intolerant have been with adults but your comment shows that a change is needed from the youngest child to the oldest adult.
Nichole Ware-Cantey says
I have a 14 year old daughter who has high functioning Asperger’s. As a small child she was very impulsive, loud and oppositional but extremely bright. Many times people would move away and stare and it used to bother me. Over time, I noticed that she was completely comfortable with herself, articulate, beautiful, loveable, determined and extremely decisive and that made her unique. I no longer cared about the stares of others, instead I began to feel sorry for those who were missing out on what a wonderful blessing and gift it is to have a daughter like mine! So let them run away because they aren’t worthy of our children’s awesomeness! IJS
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