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Misperceptions, by Melanie Marten

To the lady at the counter in the craft store yesterday,

You may not have realized I heard you as we stood next to each other at the craft store counter yesterday, though your words were obviously meant for me. As you were rolling your eyes and grumbling about how mothers should control their out-of-control, noisy children in stores, I was too busy reveling in the blessing that is my son to react to your words.

Contrary to your belief, my son was not making loud noises, dancing and jumping because he is an ill-behaved child. He was not a brat getting away with disrupting a checkout line under the nose of his tired mother, me.

My son is autistic.

You see, when my son makes odd noises or speaks gibberish words, he is not acting out. Those sounds burst forth from his spirit in his own special type of communication.

He can speak very few English words clearly, and how can you ask me to stop him from making up his own? Perhaps only a mother can understand them as they are passed through a filter of love on the way to her ears. I look in his eyes and listen to his ‘talk’ and swear I can hear what sounds like angels singing in a far off place.

When my son refuses to stand still and dances and jumps, he is not behaving badly. He is expressing joy, or contentment, or even frustration. My son cannot explain what he is feeling, so he must act it out. Society may dictate a dampened flow of raw emotion, but stifling emotions is not what motherhood should be about.

You grumbled about the three or four minutes my son’s actions affected your day, but I rejoiced in them. Some days my son makes no noise at all, or sits in his room and refuses to come out and join in the play, or has melt downs that involve kicking and screaming and tear at my heart. You saw my son on a good day, doing things that should have elicited questions rather than condemnation.

So, next time you notice the type of noises and actions my son displayed yesterday, still your judgmental tongue and take a moment to listen, watch and perhaps even learn. If another child like my son bothers you as you go about your business, do not make rude comments and gestures. Instead, simply move away quietly so you do not disrupt the mother’s enjoyment of her unique and wonderful child.

Sincerely,
The mother of an autistic son.

~~~~~
Melanie Marten is self-taught and self-employed. Besides freelance writing, she dabbles in website design and owns dozens of websites and blogs. Work is squeezed in between parenting two boys, homeschooling, feeding fish and, occasionally, sleep. You can read more of her writing by visiting her author’s site at: http://melaniemarten.com/

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16 Responses to “Misperceptions, by Melanie Marten”

  1. Linda St.Cyr says:

    I wish you could have told her that in person! You are an incredible mother and it shines through in this letter. I’m so glad your son had a good day and was making sounds, noise and gestures to communicate with you. Things like that are so important and meaningful. Sends virtual hugs to you and your son…

  2. Gillian says:

    Oh the amount of times I have called people out for these snide remarks! I refuse to let it go and confront them. Doesn’t make me popular but who cares.

    Your son had every right to make noise, bounce around and be what too few children seem allowed to be these days, A CHILD. Childhood is noisy and it is fun and sour biddies like this one get right up my nose.

    Good for you for expressing this and bringing it to the attention of those who rush to judge and tread on peoples happiness without a care.

    Enjoy your son and thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Kristi Cramer says:

    Some people just don’t understand and never will. I would like to meet her children, if she even has any. People like that get absolutely no enjoyment out of children – they are delightful and entertaining (most of the time!). Rather than insulting your son and you maybe she could have commented on how happy your son is or asked if he’s really excited to be doing a special craft.

    Happy Spring to you and your son!!

  4. Cathy Doheny says:

    Excellent letter and excellent point you make. People are so quick to judge that which they do not understand. I wish you could have told her in person. I have gotten to the point that I confront such behavior. But it is never easy to educate those who just don’t want to bother with keeping an open mind. Thank you for this letter. Maybe it will make someone else think twice before making such insensitive comments.

  5. heather shockney says:

    As the parent of an autistic child I can relate to the stares and comments made when my daughter cannot stand still, or she is in the middle of a meltdown. Why can’t people be more understanding instead of jumping to conclusions about our parenting skills? I hope that woman sees your letter, and I hope others like her do too. Maybe they will think before they speak next time.

  6. Cindy says:

    Mel,
    The kind of love you display in this letter is sadly not something most people understand. I’m glad you were able to enjoy your son’s joy despite this woman.
    Keep up the good work!

  7. Mel,

    I loved this line “Perhaps only a mother can understand them as they are passed through a filter of love on the way to her ears.” So beautiful and so true.

    It makes me sad for people who judge children, especially amazing children like your son. Shame on her for judging, instead of rejoicing, your son’s joy.

  8. amy says:

    i hear comments such as this. My son is not autistic but is adhd, has ‘developmental delays’ and other medical issues which make him appear different. The comments of others are rude and that is sad. If someone is not making comments about his limp, or his ‘noises’ then its about his sometimes vacant stare.

    Had one lady tell me I needed to get him seen for that limp because he walked like an oaf. I politely told her there’s a inch lift in his right shoe and told her she’d walk funny too if one leg was shorter than the other. Imagine walking on one stilt all the time, its gotta be hard.

  9. Jo Brielyn says:

    Mel,

    It’s evident from your letter what a loving mother you are and how lucky your son is to have you. I’ve worked with autistic children in the past, and the fact that he’s responsive and trying to communicate is excellent.

    Shame on that woman for being so judgmental. If people would only learn to think before they speak and act…

  10. Rissa says:

    It amazes me how rude people can be! Confronting her would have taken away from your joy of watching your son. She wasn’t worth it.

    Everyone has bad days. If a child is acting up, it doesn’t mean the parents are doing a poor job. Every parent has had to deal with a tantrum in a store. When I see it I try to let the parent know it happens to all of us so they won’t feel so embarrassed.

    Her comments said more about her than about you.

  11. Angel says:

    You are a truly wonderful mother, Mel. I’m glad you got to enjoy your son’s noises that day! I hope you have many more days exactly like it!

  12. Borgieskid says:

    Such rudeness could be countered with a softly spoken short reply.. one that isn’t argumentative or guilty, but spoken as a teacher. I would simply tell these rude people “not every child acting like this is a spoiled brat, some have problems like mine.. but today is a good day and we are celebrating that” I just don’t think I could let such rudeness go unanswered. Hope you have thousands and thousands of good days ahead..

  13. Denise says:

    Wow, Mel…what a powerful letter. I hope in the future, that after reading your letter, someone will think twice before they make judgement.

  14. jckat says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how judgemental people can be of others. I’d like for them to just walk a mile in the shoes of the child. And a second mile in the shoes of mom and then think about their words.

  15. Phoenixritu says:

    Its sad that our world has so many judgemental rules about behavior. Enjoy your child, and forget such sour people

  16. Donna says:

    Wow, you are incredible. I’ve wanted to say something to people like this, but never had the courage. Thank you for putting feelings into words.

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