My neighborhood has a special Women’s Club that meets regularly and hosts family-oriented social events. I’m going to be direct and get right to the point: I have been asked by several women not to attend any of these meetings because I have an Autistic child.
Bear in mind, I have never brought my son to a meeting, he has never been to a social event, he has never caused a neighborhood “ruckus.” He has Autism. It’s not contagious, scary or dangerous. There’s nothing unusual to stare at when you meet him. Why, then, am I blatantly cast out?
I have been a single mom for nine years. My children and I have lived on this block, renting my home, since our return from Knoxville two years ago. I have never brought a date home (what’s dating, ha ha!), had a loud party, had any questionable visitors, or been in trouble with the law. In fact, having disaster response training under my belt and being a volunteer with the Fire Department, I would be an amazing resource for the community if someone would dare get to know me.
I walk my two giant Malamutes at least twice a day and always wave and exchange small talk with everyone I meet. Everyone waves and smiles back, yet we’re still not allowed into “the club” (first rule of Fight Club is…). Worse yet, I continually get asked why I’m not seen at the club meetings, and am also labeled the “crazy homeschooling neighbor that doesn’t participate.”
This just compounds our history of being kicked out of restaurants, book stores, flights (!), and why no one in my family will visit us. I’ve also been told he’s not Autistic, it’s my parenting that’s the problem. That’s a good one!
With all the awareness work and training I do, why are we still experiencing this kind of response from people?
What should I do?
Well, I have some options about my neighborhood. I don’t have the energy to tackle public places at the moment (I will move one mountain at a time!), but here are my choices:
- I can whine about how unfair it is and feel like a victim
- I can say, “Oh well,” and let it roll off my back, like water off a duck
- I can organize a neighborhood gathering of my own, or request to be a special “guest speaker” at the next one
If I can train law enforcement, EMTs, and firefighters about Autism, why can’t I put something unique together to present to my neighbors? It would be so beneficial for everyone to learn a little more about Autism and my son in particular. This way, when we have a wandering situation (which recently happened!), I can feel like my neighbors have my back rather than feeling like they are sitting in judgement. Sure, they may continue to judge me after they learn more, but that’s none of my business.
Now I’d like to hear from you
Have you ever felt persecuted by a group due to your (or your child’s) Autism? How did you respond? Would you like to learn more about giving a small presentation to your neighborhood? Share your comments below, drop me an email, or say something on the SOA Facebook page – I always love sharing thoughts and ideas with you.