Every single day, I see this... people see my daughter acting in ways they do not approve, give us dirty looks, and don't stop to think that, beyond the meltdown, maybe there is something else going on.
And I know, many people think there's no excuse... but until you have been in the shoes of a parent with a special needs child, you really have no idea their day-to-day life and struggle is truly like.
This is what I see from my child when you give her dirty looks... this is the confusion she faces, the judgment she does not understand, and the sadness when she is treated like she's stupid. She's not. I've seen her do puzzles and games that my 4 year old struggles with. She just thinks differently.
And yes, she is high functioning and is incredibly fortunate, others are not so lucky... but it doesn't mean anyone should treat these kids any differently. They deserve respect. So now, I give you...
From Chloe's Eyes... the Views of an Autistic Child.
My name is Chloe, and I am almost 2. I like to play puzzles and jump on my trampoline, and play with my kitty. I love my big sister and my Mommy and Daddy, and I really love to watch Team UmiZoomi! There are so many ways that people treat me differently every day, and I don't like it. I can tell when people do it, and it hurts my feelings.
8 Dirty Looks At My Mommy
I like to go out with Mommy, but when we go out, people give us dirty looks... I don't know why... I try and be a good girl, but I don't think like other kids do. I don't communicate well, and I sometimes don't listen or hear when Mommy calls me the first time, so she has to raise her voice or clap to get my attention.
People think she's yelling at me, but she's really not, if she doesn't do that, I sometimes don't notice her calling me. And it seems like no matter what she does, you don't like it... she can raise her voice, and someone says, "You're so mean, raising your voice to that sweet baby...", but if she didn't speak up and just let me keep doing whatever, someone would say, "You're just letting that hellion do whatever...".
Both times, my Mommy is called a bad mommy, and that's just wrong... it makes my Mommy sad, and that makes me sad too...
7 I Don't Like Certain Foods
When we go out to eat, Mommy brings me snacks, just in case there's something I won't eat... You see, I have something called Sensory Processing Disorder, and some sensations and textures set me off, and I can't control it. Usually, it's smooshy foods that have a super gooey, mushy texture, like really creamy mashed 'tatoes, frosting, ice cream, and things like that.
The texture of them physically distresses me, and sometimes I choke on them. Mommy thinks ahead and brings me my favorite cereal and snacks, but people still say things like, "You should make her eat something here, bringing snacks is rude." or even say to me, "You're spoiled, little miss... you need to be eating what everyone else has."
If everyone else gets to have what they want when we go out, why can't I? I'm not spoiled, I can't take certain textures... When my Mommy explains that to people, they give her looks or say that's an excuse... but I promise it's not...
Mommy's just trying to make this an enjoyable meal for everyone... and keep everyone happy... that includes me, her, my Daddy and sister, and even you. She's thinking of you and your enjoyment too...
6 I Don't Talk Well...And I Like My Space
I see my speech therapist Jess twice a week, and we're really trying hard to teach me new words and new ways of expressing myself, but I have difficulty still. My Mommy knows how to sign with me, but people get mad and think I'm being snotty when I don't talk back to them... I'm not.
I just don't communicate well with people, and I get very uncomfortable around new people. Sometimes I shriek at them, when I get scared or nervous... I can't help it, it's because I have no other way of asking people to back up! I don't always want someone in my face when we go out... I like my personal space too! I'm not being intentionally rude, you are just making me uncomfortable.
And please, when my Mommy tries to explain for me, please don't shush her or tell her that, "Let the sweet little one talk for herself!". She's not hovering or anything, she's trying to make our interactions more productive, so I can communicate with you in the way I know how, and my Mommy can translate what you may not understand.
5 I Get Fixated, And I Play Puzzles To Calm Down
My developmental pediatrician says my brain sees things in a different way than you do... so what would frustrate you, sometimes can make me intrigued. For example, I love puzzles! I'm very good at them, and they help keep me calm and keep me intrigued and entertained while Mommy gets our shopping done for the week.
You see, long trips to the store get me really frustrated and really bored... and we know that crying kids makes people unhappy, so my Mommy comes prepared with my puzzle apps. I'm really smart and I love doing my apps!
But, sometimes people try and take my Mommy's phone from me and tell her that my nose shouldn't be glued in a phone... they tell her I'm going to end up addicted to it... I just like my puzzles because they help me focus and think and stay calm.
When you take things from me without notice, I get upset and don't understand why... so I shriek. And then you get more mad. It's called a fixation, it's where I get overly attached to something and having it taken away gets me more upset than most. Sometimes people tell my Mommy to shut her stupid kid up... and it makes me sad. I cry when people yell at my Mommy when I can't control myself.
4 Certain Clothes Make Me Upset
I can't handle hats or things on my head, even water. It's part of my sensory processing disorder. So I don't wear them, and when Mommy tries to make me wear them I have meltdowns. I'm in therapy with my awesome Occupational Therapist Allie to get better at tolerating things on my head, but it's a process, and we're just not there yet.
So lecturing my Mommy about, "Why isn't that precious baby wearing a hat?? It's so cold out!" isn't going to help. She worries too. She tries very hard to get me to wear hats and hoods, but I can't tolerate them on my head.
And it makes me scared when you come up to me, if I don't know you, and you put your hands on me or put my hat on my head for me... I will swat and swing because I am frightened of strangers!
I usually need my sister to help me calm down when that happens, but the mean things you say after that, when you invaded my personal space, makes me sad. I am Autistic, but I understand you better than you think.
3 I Am Smarter Than You Think!
When people hear the words Autistic, they think 'stupid' most of the time... that's not true. I'm not stupid! In fact, I'm very, very smart! I do complicated puzzles, and I enjoy to do some pretend play!
I recognize and can recreate patterns with crayons and markers, and I am very talented at coloring and drawing circles. The point is, I am capable of doing things that you underestimate my ability to do.
I can and do have the capability to listen, and understand yes and no... I just have to learn right from wrong.
When you say things like, "I'm surprised you talk to her like that, she doesn't understand you." or "She's very clever, all things considered." It's kind of hurtful. I just think differently than you do.
2 My Meltdowns Aren't All My Fault
Sometimes, I have meltdowns... you call them tantrums, but I call them losing control, and I genuinely cannot help it. It usually means something has triggered me or there's been some kind of stimming behavior going on that makes me lose control of my emotions or reactions, and I already have problems expressing myself as it is.
Sometimes I resort to biting myself, pulling my hair, scratching my arms, slamming my head... and I can't help it. It's the only way I can cope. Mommy tries to hold me, but that sometimes makes it worse, and she hates it as much as you do. She can't stand to see me hurt myself like that.
Telling her to "Do something before she hurts herself!" isn't going to help, because she already is... if she pulls my hands away, I may have an even longer meltdown or make my reactions more violent.
Sometimes, and my therapist has told us this, I need to just get my meltdown out and calm myself down, and then we can move on. It's not my fault, it's not my Mommy's fault, and it's not your fault. It's no one's fault. It's what we do to get by every day.
1 I Have A Lot Of Love To Give!
Despite all of my quirks, one thing is definitely true: I have a whole lot of love to share with the world! I love kitties, I love my family, I even love my specialists and my therapists! And I can have love for you, a complete stranger, as long as you give me a chance and do things at my comfort level.
I will jibber jabber your ear off, I'll babble at you all day, and I may even give you a hug, but you just can't force it. Calling me a brat because I don't move at your level is just mean... I like to make new friends, but my new friends have to understand that I move at my own pace, and that I do this for my comfort and yours too.
Just give me a chance to prove it, and I'll show you just how much love my heart has to give!
And just remember, please... I don't want you to tell me you're sorry. Why are you sorry? I'm not. I'm just me. I'm Chloe Marie, I'm almost 2, and I have Autism. That's just who I am, and I wouldn't change it for all the world.
And while sometimes our days are harder than yours, and our nights are sometimes sleepless, that's ok. I am worth it. I am not one to be treated differently or treated like I'm stupid just because I have Autism... I deserve your respect, and if nothing else, I deserve the same chances as any other kid does. All I ask, is for a chance.