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Megan talks about the need for people to be more tolerant of meltdowns.
I love being an autistic mother. I love having three daughters. I love my unique and quirky family. I am a generally happy and positive person. I try not to let life’s problems bring me down. On rare occasions, however, I feel overwhelmed and misunderstood.
All parents have moments where they feel exhausted, burnt out and frustrated.
When you’re a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, it can be hard to find support from your peers, especially when full-blown meltdown can happen without warning. Parents without autistic children often lack understanding and compassion for our kids.
Yes, we want our children to be seen in the best way possible.
No parent wants their children to be stared at or see heads shake wondering what’s wrong with our parenting. I remember when my daughters and I went to a local ice cream parlor for a treat. My youngest, who is on the spectrum and 5 years old at the time, said she wanted ice cream with sprinkles.
Easy enough, right?
WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong. She wanted ice cream AND sprinkles. The sprinkles were not supposed to touch the ice cream. When the server handed her the ice cream with sprinkles, she lost all composure and sense of self. She laid down in the middle of the store and started screaming while spinning in circles. Kind of like those pinwheel fireworks that make screeching sounds while they spin.
Her meltdown immediately caught the attention of everyone in the store. Not only did they stare, they got up out of their seats to get a better view. Ugh! It seemed as if no one was going to give me a break and stop selling tickets to the best show in the strip mall.
But, someone did notice that this was not an ordinary tantrum.
To my surprise and my never-ending gratitude, a store manager asked how he could help. When I explained that I, yes me, her mother, forgot to mention that the sprinkles shouldn’t touch the ice cream, he said let’s make a new one.
He calmly walked back to the counter, made a new ice cream with the sprinkles in a separate bowl and handed it to me. Once I could get my daughter to see that the ice cream was fixed, she stopped screaming and got up. People eventually went back to their original programming. I will be forever grateful for the kind man who saw my frustration, my daughter’s panic, and simply separated the sprinkles.
It was such a small thing for him to do, but it meant the world to me and my family. When your child looks “normal,” people often assume that you are somehow a bad parent for allowing them to have a “tantrum.”
I’ve gotten the looks and the comments from other parents that have witnessed one of my daughter’s meltdowns. I have heard the whispers of those who point fingers and give looks of disapproval. I have told people that my daughter is on the autism spectrum and is not a poorly behaved child.
But should I really have to defend my daughter and my parenting skills?
Chances are you have been at the grocery store and seen a child crying uncontrollably. You may see a child screaming while at Target. You may think the mother doesn’t care if her child is screaming. But, just maybe, that mother is doing the best job she can. Maybe her child is experiencing a meltdown and not a tantrum. Maybe she and her child could use help or kind word. Maybe you shouldn’t stare.
Instead of judgement, couldn’t someone’s first thoughts be that a child is in distress for a reason? Aren’t all parents trying to do their best? Shouldn’t we all be a little more tolerant?
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