Monday, September 21, 2009

We Don't Want Your Pity

AJ and I were at my chiropractor appointment a while ago.  While waiting to go in, there was the normal waiting room chit chat.  Just strangers making small talk.  A man came in with a stroller of triplets.  Of course, everyone was cooing over them, and talking to them.  They were seriously cute.  But, AJ is not a fan of babies.  Mostly because they are unpredictably noisy, but also, because I pay attention to them, which takes my attention away from him, however momentarily.
Anyway, that ramped him up.  We got called in for my adjustment, just in the nick of time really.  We almost escaped a meltdown, getting away from the horror-inducing infants.  And, some woman touched his head and said how great his hair is.  CRAP!!!!!  He was already losing it.  And she TOUCHED HIS HEAD and TALKED ABOUT HIS HAIR.  These innocent sounding events are major triggers to AJ.  He hates unwanted touch, and he hates anyone talking about his hair.
But, he very calmly said, "I don't like to be touched."  Apparently, this was the height of rudeness to this woman, who said in return, "Well, exxxxcccuuuussssseeeee meeeeeeeeeeee!"  I turned to her and calmly said "My son is autistic, and unwanted touch is painful to him." 
I wanted to educate her, to let her know not to assume he was just a snotty kid, with an attitude problem.  Instead, what she said was "Oh, the poor child.  And how terrible for you.  What a horrible thing to deal with!!  Horrible!!"  I tried to tell her it wasn't horrible, that I was just letting her know what was going on, that we didn't want her pity.  But,  the doc was waiting, and more importantly, AJ was waiting.  He'd had enough, and at that point, so had I.
So, how do we educate without it looing like we want pity.  We really, really don't .  I don't want people thinking my kid is an ill-mannered brat, but, I don't want the reaction I got either.  Maybe I just shouldn't care, but somehow, most of the time, I do.


Ivy said...

I like that you wanted to educate the woman. I wish that she were open to being educated. However, I don't think him telling a complete stranger that he doesn't like to be touched should elicit such a juvenile response from her either. I don't know too many kids who like to be touched from someone they don't know, autistic or not. She didn't have to get snotty or ugly at the end. It isn't you -- it's her.

Autism and family said...

Yeah. That's what I thought. He was polite about it. And considering how stressed he was, I thought he did a great job. She was kinda snotty just in general, though. I don't think anything I said would have gotten through to her.

Jo, Tamer of Monkeys and Keeper of the Crayons said...

Hi there,
First of all, my blood nearly boiled when I read your post. What nerve that woman had! First of all, your son, autism or not, is entitled to his personal space. Don't we teach our children that it's not OK for a person to touch them in a way that they don't like? Secondly, she should have known better than to touch someone she didn't even know. That, in my opinion, was extremely rude of her.
Anyway, I'm the mother of a little boy who happens to be a pediatric stroke survivor. He has hemiparesis, or mild weakness on one side of his body. His diagnosis isn't obvious when people meet him, so I have had to go through our story with people a time or two. When people tell me they are sorry or say how terrible it is, I don't get offended. It really boils down to ignorance. When someone says they are sorry, I simply smile with a surprised look on my face and say, "Really? Why would you be sorry?" They (usually) take the hint. Raising a child with special needs isn't bad, just different in some ways.

Autism and family said...

Thanks. I'm always amazed how many people think it's OK to touch kids. They don't do the same to adults. My son has curly hair, so people comment on it alot. But, touching it has always driven him (and me) crazy. It's unbelievable. We have always taught him to say "I don't like to be touched". He used to take a swing at people who touched him. I thought he did a great job with that rude woman. Apparently Miss Pissy Pants (that's what my son called her later) didn't think so. Oh well.
Thanks for your comment. I'm going to go check out your blog now.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Education is great. What she thinks of you or your son is irrevelant, but I know it can sting.

To the pity look she doled out you might look her in the eye and say, "He is such a blessing."

Then reach out and rumple the crap out of HER hair.

Autism and family said...

"...reach out and rumple the crap out of HER hair..."
That made me laugh REALLY hard. Thanks.