As the mother of an aggressive 5-year-old with autism, I am keenly aware of the reactions of others toward my child. Not a week goes by without awkward stares as people wonder why my little boy talks so loudly in the store or why he grabs the arms of strangers and asks them about how old they are, how many pets they have, and other random questions from his inquiring mind.
Just this week I heard stinging comments from people close to me:
He ruins every family event.
If you don't get his behavior under control, he'll be in jail by the time he's 10.
He's going to end up in a home.
I hate this kid. He ruined my life.
They won't ever let him go to kindergarten if he says those things to other kids.
Nobody wants him around.
I suppose the people who made these comments didn't know how hurtful they were to me, nor that T's∗ little ears are always listening. These comments repeat over and over in my mind like a stuck record, dragging down my spirit. I keep the pain of those words deep inside and only allow myself a few short times to cry and grieve behind locked doors, to let out the terrible, crushing hurt, and then regroup to be present for my son.
In stark contrast, I also heard encouraging and uplifting comments:
I can't believe how well he talks. It's amazing.
I've seen kids with much worse behavior. You are not alone. This is the hardest time.
Don't worry about his behavior with us. This is our circle of friends because our child has special needs. It doesn't bother us at all.
Probably the most endearing encounter this week was running into T's preschool teacher. I had gone to Hobby Lobby while T was in therapy, knowing the soothing Christian music and calm environment would be a balm for the negative remarks that week. There was Miss Ellie∗! She greeted me by name and asked about T. Folding my arms so she couldn't see the deep scratches from T that I had covered up with makeup that morning, I shared that we were still having some behavior problems and I didn't know how T would be able to go to kindergarten with these issues. Miss Ellie responded in her usual calm and reassuring voice, “He will figure it out. He's so smart. It will just take time, but I know he'll figure it out.” What medicine those kind words were for my soul!
Later it struck me that people react in two general ways to others who are different. Some view T as a bother, an irritation, a danger, unwanted. That probably represents the attitude of most toward my son. When T's birth parents couldn't care for him as a baby, no line of people awaited to welcome him into their home. No family members wanted him. If someone didn't step up, he would have gone to foster care. He was essentially an unwanted child even before all his diagnoses were known. But, from the first time I cared for him at a few weeks of age, T was always wanted by me, beloved by me. God clearly called me to be his mother and to protect him.
The second group of people are those who care. Some of T's therapists love him. They light up whenever he enters the room with his burst of energy. The kind words of family members who live far away or even strangers in a store make me appreciate them. They understand; they have compassion. Those are the people I gravitate to—those who don't steal my joy, those who give me hope.
Indeed, our lives are about relationship. Which group do you belong to? Are you part of the group that avoids the difficult? Or are you among the blessed who can express care and gentleness to those who need it most?
NCF wants to care for and support you. Find a local or virtual group or join our national virtual meetings or prayer times. Learn more at ncf-jcn.org.
Connect with NCF!