I ran into a girl I hadn't seen in about 20 years the other day.
She was the girlfriend of one of Mr. Limefreckle's friends, I saw her fairly often when we first started dating, my husband and this particular friend were roommates at the time. We weren't really very close (she and her boyfriend fought CONSTANTLY back in those days..I kept my distance.) but I heard her voice in the grocery store the other day, and remembered her, so I went over and we became reacquainted.
Conversation turned to Limefreckle Jr., and I explained that he had autism. The look on her face was a look that I have come to hate....it was pity, sadness, she said "oh no" or something like that....she pretty much let me know exactly where she stood on the subject. It's a reaction that I often get, and it's ANNOYING. Too me it basically says "oh, poor you". Once I remember a girl actually saying out loud "oh, that's so sad". It makes me feel that my child is considered "less than"....of course, that's just what I read into it, I don't know that the person making that comment thinks that way. I just know that it's probably the #1 reaction I hate the most when someone hears my son has autism.
She immediately followed that with the #2 reaction I hate the most....
"Have you read anything by Jenny McCarthy?"
This was pretty much the look on my face. Don't get me wrong, I really like Jenny McCarthy. I think that she is funny, and would be a lot of fun to hang out with.....and I'm sure, as a fellow Autism Mom, she probably has some great resources....but please.....I tend to get my medical advice from actual doctors, not Hollywood...it's just something I'm a stickler for. I do admire her for getting the word out there about Autism etc., although it's been a bit of a double edge sword....everyone now thinks that vaccines caused my son's autism, and he should be eating a gluten free diet. I've met my fair share of families with children with autism....I've yet to meet one where that diet really makes a significant difference in the child....but again, that's just my experience.
And then of course, she followed up with the #3 reaction I hate the most....a discussion of why there is so much autism in the world. As if it is some plague taking over the nation. "What do you think is causing it?" is the question I hear over and over. I just said the same thing I always do "no one knows..." because that is the truth. I don't believe there is just one cause of autism, I think there are probably several reasons there is a higher incidence of diagnosis (not the least of which is we are getting better at identifying it....not so much that more and more people are "coming down with it".)
Once the conversation turned to autism, I'd pretty much had my fill of catching up, so I said my goodbyes and continued on with my grocery shopping. I couldn't help but feel sad, the moment I mentioned he has "autism" I felt my son was reduced to a "disease" in some one's mind, not the bright, funny, wonderful boy that he is. Autism is not his definition.....it's just something that he lives with. I hope one day more people will understand that.