The following is a guest post by Norma McTyppie, an allism parent whose passions include writing, drawing comics of her allistic son, and doing everything she can to love and support an “excessively odd” child.
I knew my son Baybeigh was different from the moment he was born. When I first heard a doctor whisper the word “allism” into a newspaper at the far end of the airport terminal where I sat with my family, I was terrified.
I bought book after book on allism and tried to understand what had stolen my child from me. But none of the allistic children in the books were like my low-functioning son. Most of those children managed to learn how to sit still; some even appeared to have realistic interests in appropriate topics like train schedules. My son had none of those things. He was a whirling ball of questions and random shrieking, nonstop.
I spent days, weeks, months, years worrying about allism. And then I realized: if I can’t help my child, I can at least help the normal everyday people of the world who must endure his affliction. So I put together this list.
10 Things Special Needs Allism Parents Wish You Knew About Their Challenging Special Needs Difficulties Children With Allism:
1. You don’t have to feel awkward around my son. You do need to treat him a little differently to make up for the fact that he’s hopelessly undersensitive to sensory stimuli or that he never shuts up even in his sleep, but you don’t have to be weirded out.
2. Not all allism is the same. My son has a kind you can never imagine, especially if you are an allistic adult.
3. People seem to think that because my son isn’t like that one Muppet on TV, that he must not be allistic. I assure you, he has ruined my life as thoroughly as any allistic Muppet ever could.
4. These kids love. It’s hard to see beneath the shrieking, the lack of Theory of Mind, and the constant demands that they see the world exactly the way you do, but they do. They need love, too, even if they aren’t capable of expressing or understanding it the way normal people do.
5. Knowing one child with allism doesn’t mean anything, really–but it’s better than being an adult with allism, which means you know nothing about the struggles we allism parents face.
6. Kids with special needs are special. Needy. Needful. Special. It may not be obvious all the time, because their minds work defectively. Just keep repeating it and eventually you’ll feel like you didn’t give birth to a failure, even though you did.
7. If my son is making strange noises, feel free to stare. These kids are pretty oblivious to social opprobrium, but if you’re rude enough, he’ll figure out he’s not supposed to do that, and you will have helped him be more normal and fight the scourge that is allism.
8. If you see my son in a grocery store, he may be trying to ride on the back of the cart, pointing openly at things or people, or complaining loudly because he wants a different new shiny thing in every aisle. I will not scold him, so please do not look at me as if I should. He can’t help how his body receives stimuli. He is trying to cope with his surroundings, which are often too full of new stimuli for the allistic hyperexcitability to bear.
9. For onlookers who think I am not addressing my child’s odd behaviors: I ask for a little empathy. Allism is hard to live with. I can’t possibly suffer any more than I already do, so please save your criticism for adults with allism who try to tell me I’m doing parenting wrong.
10. Please accept our children with allism. Someone needs to.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is that organizations like Tone It Down Taupe really need your money. If you send it to them, someday we can all dream of a world where we don’t have to deal with allism anymore.