Sunday, December 4, 2016
Why Do Others Make Fun Of People With Autism?
"Mom," Tommy said the other day. "Why do people sometimes call people with autism retarded?"
I closed my eyes for a few seconds. I cannot stand the r-word. It makes me cringe. It squeezes my heart. If that word could be banned forever I'd be thrilled.
And now my son was asking why people with autism were called the word. He has autism. So it was only natural that he'd ask.
"People who say that have ugly hearts," I answered honestly. "They aren't kind. They don't get it."
Tommy thought for a few seconds. "Why do people make fun of us? Like, why do people mimic this?" Tommy made a show of waving his arms all over the place. Sometimes people with autism flap. Tommy flaps, but he's learned to do it in private. But not everyone does it in private.
"Have kids...been mean to you at school?" Why else would he ask? Were there teenagers mocking him? My immediate thought was to march to the school and grab all those monsters by the ears. I don't know why. I also pictured myself doing a fantastic impression of Shirley Maclaine in Terms Of Endearment when her daughter needs the shot. Only I'd be screaming at everyone to be kind.
"No," Tommy replied and I let out a sigh of relief. "I check out YouTube videos. Sometimes people make fun of autism." He shrugged like it was no big deal, but I knew it was a big deal to him. He has autism. He doesn't want people to think he's the r-word. He doesn't want others to mimic his behaviors that help calm him down and center his world.
"Well, like I said, those people are cruel. Don't pay any attention to them."
Tommy nodded. "Plus," he said matter-of-factly, "I'm probably much smarter than all those people. I think everyone with autism are smarter than those people."
"You're right, Tommy. You're so right."