Dear Friend Whom My Autistic Child Just Rebuffed

callumtackleI know.  I saw.  You, friendly person that you are, walked up to my autistic child in public and tried to say hello.  And he got really, really upset with you.  I saw your concern.  Felt your embarrassment.  Knew you never meant to upset him.

When I see you, you ask about him.  When you’ve met him before, you always make a point of speaking directly to him – even when it seems he’s not paying attention.  You’ve even had really positive interactions with him in the past.  You did everything right.  You didn’t go rushing up or speak too loud to him.  You didn’t put your hands on him without being welcomed to do so by him.  You follow me on Facebook, read about the cute things he does, and celebrate his successes.  You’re a good friend and a great cheerleader.  I appreciate you.

And because of that, I don’t want your apology for “upsetting” him.  That’s because you didn’t.  It’s likely several things did, but it wasn’t you.  He was just overwhelmed a bit by the world – new sounds, sights, and experiences.  He was busy trying to process all of those when you happened to innocently walk up and try to interact.  For whatever reason, that’s when his pot boiled over.

He wasn’t judging you, disliking you, or even declaring how he feels about you in the future.  He was simply over capacity and expressed it the only way he knows how to – with a big fat “no more right now.”  Only he doesn’t yet have those words.  He isn’t able to convey exactly what was too much.  He meant to say, “I have had enough.”  But it wasn’t you.  It just seemed like it.  And I could tell by your red face that it felt like it too.

So, I’m begging you.  Please don’t slink away and give up on getting to know him.  Please don’t feel that he just doesn’t like you.  Please don’t feel like you did anything wrong.  He may have been overwhelmed emotionally and sensory-wise, but his mind is quick.  He knows the difference between someone who is good to him and someone who is not.  If you continue to gently engage with him when you see him, he’ll learn that you’re not to be feared –and you’ll learn there is nothing to fear from reaching out to him.  Before you know it, you’ll have a little buddy who expands your world – just as you will expand his.

I want you to know that your efforts to engage with my child are beautiful to me.  Too many people are afraid to try – afraid to “upset” him.  Afraid to simply ask what’s the best way to get to know him.  But you?  You put yourself out there and sent a message to our family, to him, and everyone in the immediate area – that he is worth knowing.  Not everyone knows that.  But you do.

And that’s why I want so very badly for him to get to know you.  Because clearly you are worth knowing too.







10 thoughts on “Dear Friend Whom My Autistic Child Just Rebuffed

  1. Elizabeth

    I agree with Lisa, beautifully written. It is sometimes the inability to reciprocate, for whatever reason, that can be the most painful.

  2. Anonymous

    In a past life, you and I had a conversation about your son one morning. At the time, I talked about autism like it was a really great thing, to be appreciated and celebrated. You showed me a video of him that morning and I spoke admiringly about every autistic trait I saw in the video. I even told you that he might win a Nobel Prize in chemistry some day.

    But after that, I felt like the things I said in our conversation that morning might have come across in the wrong way, like you might have been offended with the way I spoke favorably about something that most parents consider to be a major problem. I started to get the impression that you were really worried about the unconventional way that he was developing. I felt like you might be losing hope that an autistic kid would ever fully develop, like so many other parents lose hope, especially here among these blogs where autism is usually portrayed as a catastrophic disability and a burden on parents. I felt kind of bad about it later and I wondered if you might have been insulted because I talked about your son’s autism like it was something to celebrate instead of something to lament.

    But after reading this post, I feel much better about that. Maybe you appreciated my comment for what it was worth. Maybe you realized that I was sincere in my praise of autism and that I never meant it to be disrespectful at all. I still think autism is something to celebrate, but only for parents who are willing to take the time to allow their kids to develop at their own pace and in their own ways, and only for parents who are willing to educate others about how to treat their autistic kids, instead of expecting their autistic kid to be neurotypical. The best way to raise an autistic kid is to try to change the world around the kid to make it more accepting and tolerant, not to try to change the kid to fit the world. That tactic will backfire, not allowing kids to be the way they were born will always end in disaster. Yes, autism is something to celebrate, but parents who have unrealistic expectations of autistic kids will have no reason to celebrate anything. Parents who expect their autistic child to develop exactly the way they did, will not have a good time raising an autistic. Parents who expect their autistic child to learn to talk before they learn geometry, or have any expectations similar to that, should probably forget about raising a happy autistic child. Child rearing will be a nightmare for those parents. Parents like that make up the vast majority of these autism blogs.

    Some parents will finally “get it”, and others never will. I have met lots of parents who get it, and lots of parents who never will. After reading this post, where you neither blame your friend nor your child for the miscommunications that are so often imposed upon unsuspecting autistic kids, I am convinced you are one of the ones who gets it.

    1. Jenny

      Right on! We need to pave the way for our kids,they can not change to fit in to our very average world

    2. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I remember that conversation. And, no, you didn’t upset me. While, I am not autistic myself, but I have a larger shake of “quirks” than most. Enough for a co-worker to joke, “You do know you are a tad on that spectrum, right?” I think I get him because I understand him. Thank you. :)

  3. Lynne Pardi

    Thank you for yet another wonderful, right-on-the-mark post!! I had one particular friend to whom I really wish I’d said essentially what you said here. I loved her for reaching out to my son, when many others ignored him or acted obviously uncomfortable around him. God gave you this special writing gift so that you could be the “voice” of many parents of kids on the spectrum. I am sure your talents could be used in multiple areas, but none would be more important than your writings about parenting your very special son. You help other parents and children tremendously, and we truly appreciate you!

  4. Lynne

    When we have a child on the spectrum on sensory overload, whether verbal or not, those friends who see past that, and who stick around to befriend your child in a nonjudgmental way, are truly special. I have one such friend who stuck by me watching my son grow up. She became my lIfeline..
    Your friend sounds like that. Hang onto her.

  5. Mytwicebakedpotato

    Thank you for writing this! Sadly, I have friends that were so sensitive that they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) try to relate and understand my son. Over time, and many instances where things that should have been said were not, the friendship suffered. I’m sorry for that!

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