When traveling back home today on the bus I had a rather unpleasant, that’s putting it mildly, experience, Tom had a meltdown at the back of the bus but that was not why the journey was unpleasant, the unpleasantness came from one passenger's comments while she watched my son who was visibly distressed and myself trying to console and keep him safe.
She felt it was in her wisdom to shout, she had to over the noise that Tom was making, that I should 'control my child' as he was 'disturbing the other passengers'. When I calmly, I was calm at that point, said that he was autistic and could not help his behaviour, that was when I was told that 'there is no such thing as autism, it's just a label and an excuse for naughty children' This then resulted in a heated argument and a barrage of abuse in which I realised that I was not going to be able to get through to this vile and bigoted woman.
The incident upset me not because she did not understand Tom's behaviour, I would have not understood myself before having Tom, but that she had no empathy about our situation. Here was a mum, she probably assumed young mum as I look younger than my 38 years with two young children, a bag full of shopping and a shoulder bag who was trying to cope with a very distressed child while her other child witnessed what was going on. She offered no help, support or words of comfort, none! She thought it was the appropriate time to challenge my lack of parenting skills and to literally call me a bad mother. She does not know me, or my children or our situation but yet she still felt able to pass judgement. This is what makes me extremely angry.
I was astounded! How can this level of ignorance still remain in our society today? That's the point that I want to get across, that there are still uneducated people out there who still believe that autism does not exist. I tried to explain to this lady but she was just so full of hatred, that's the only way that I can explain it, that she would not listen to me, she was vile. There was no way that I could get her to understand yet alone empathise. Did she not think of the impact that her words and actions would have upon me? Upon my children? Stephen saw and heard everything. When we got off the bus I explained to him that the lady was not very clever and did not understand Tom. I told him that he was much cleverer than the horrible lady to which Stephen replied, 'yes mum, I bet she doesn't know what bioluminescence is? That has to be said, made me smile.
This is the reason why the Netmums, This Is My Child campaign is so very vital, I have experienced, first hand today myth number 1 'behavioural disorders are just a fashionable excuse for bad behaviour or poor parenting'
Attitudes really need to change. This is why I will continue to do what I do. Autism awareness is vital. I pity this lady, I really do. She has absolutely no idea, no idea at all of how life is for my Tom.