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.