An Open Letter to Parents Whose Children Don’t Have Autism

My friend’s sister has four children, ages 14, 13, 7, and 3. This woman’s 13-year-old son has a severe form of autism and a mood disorder with psychotic episodes; doctors have told his parents that their son is a very unusual case. As a result, life is extremely challenging for the entire family. Because their son is prone to frequent and uncontrollable outbursts, they’re all having a particularly difficult time in the condo complex where they moved last year for his mother’s job as a biotech scientist. Her heartbreaking Facebook post, which she allowed me to share, strikes me as the kind of thing every parent should read, particularly if he or she doesn’t have a child with autism–or any other disability or mental illness.

“I would like to say something to those people in our community who look at my husband, myself, and our disabled son in disgust or shout out your windows for us to just keep him quiet. He is a minor inconvenience to you. You get to go back to your lives, travel as you please, eat what you please, and go about your merry way. Imagine what it is like for us, constantly struggling to keep our son safe. Imagine what it is like for our other three children, whose friends’ parents won’t allow them to come over while our son is home, who are constantly told they can’t go places because it’s too difficult, and who often can’t make their needs heard above his yelling. But most of all, imagine what it is like for our son, whose level of anxiety is so great, whose suffering is so enormous, that he is driven to cry, driven to scream, driven to bang his head and bite his arms and legs. Have you ever in your life felt so much pain that you were driven to that? Be grateful for what you have, for being born with a normal functioning brain, and maybe you would consider being helpful instead. We could always use a home-cooked dinner, an offer to take one of our other children to a movie, or just a smile of support.”

Image: autism symbol design isolated on white background via Shutterstock.

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  1. by Lindsay

    On October 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    I can understand how your friend feels 100%. My daughter has issues like this as well and we have tow other children. People assume you are a bad parent when they see the fits but they are really just ignorant to the situation. It breaks your heart a. to see your child like that and know there is little to nothing you can do to help them and b. To see other people judging you and your child like they are better than you because they are ignorant of the situation. Give your friend my love and support. xoxoxox.

  2. by Elise

    On October 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    My neighbor of 13 years has 3 children, one with autism. When he was younger (he’s now 18), the tantrums were frequent and extremely loud. Standing in front of his window naked, throwing and breaking things, and loud, painful screams were not unusual and some neighbors had a LOT of opinions and lots to say..several resulting in calls to child protective services. As a single mom in an apartment building, she took it in stride albeit a very very tired stride. Other neighbors stepped up to the plate, helping with bus duty, taking over meals, and supporting the other two siblings in their endeavors. Sometimes, it just takes a village.

  3. by Forrest Robleto

    On October 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Where do you live? I’d be happy to help occasionally.

  4. by dawn

    On October 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Your friend should print this on a business card and the next time their son is reacting and the people around him are giving their disaproval reaction they can hand them to them and continue about their business caring for their child. A bumpersticker wouldn’t hurt either for those that park around their car in the condo complex. Sometimes a little education goes a long way for rude people. Another card would maybe be better for people you don’t know explaining, on their son’s behalf his reaction. Ignorance is no excuse for bad behavior however knowlage is sometimes fuel for understanding

  5. by marie

    On October 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    i am so touched by your situation. my son has very similar struggles. i try hard to ignore the negative and focus on the little moments of connection.
    once, in the middle of my son’s violent meltdown which was causing a public spectacle, a compassionate women stopped and asked if she could help. there was nothing she could do, but i felt so thankful for the offer. i still think of it now, and wish i could tell her how much it mattered.
    Peace!

  6. by Rosie

    On October 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Your letter has brought me to tears. I know what your going through. I have 3 children who have special needs, one who is autistic. It is so hard but I don’t care what anyone thinks. I love all my 6 of my children and I wouldn’t change not even a single strand of hair on their body. May God shower your home with blessings and remember your not alone. My prayers are with you and all the other families. xoxo

  7. by O.T.

    On October 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing your friend’s post. I read it and do not mean to by any means over-step boundaries. I am a pediatric occupational therapist with experience working with children with autism who have exhibited similar behaviors. If your friend’s child is not already receiving skilled, direct occupational therapy services, I would highly encourage your friend to have him evaluated by a skilled and experienced OT (occupational therapist) with a background in sensory processing/sensory modulation. It can help. Thanks for sharing

  8. by Amanda

    On October 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I agree you should make letters or cards! Let people know around you! Some may think twice and help, some will still be clueless and ignorant but how would you know if you don’t speak up!!? Your a voice for your son! Be heard!!! You will never know what help is there until you act on it!

  9. by suzy

    On October 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I am the mother of three children, none of which are disabled. When out in public and a child seems to be acting out or throwing a tantrum I don’t find it difficult to distinguish between a bratty child and a disbaled child. It is absolutely wrong for people to judge parents of disabled children. I also hate to see people complain in restaurants when parents bring in a disabled child that may be a louder or messier than they would like. I have done my best to teach my two older children (my youngest is only 15m but my girls are 11 and 9) the difference as well so that they have understanding and a tolerance for those with disabilities. Also,both of my children have had autistic friends on various levels of the spectrum as our school district mainstreams with aides as much as possible. I love this as it has given them such a head start in learning to accept people as friends despite any disabilities.

  10. by Theresa C.

    On October 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I have a son whose 10 yrs old with Autism.He is very high functioning but it was hard when he was little and had horrible temper tantrums.Not sure where you live but if it’s not too far from me i would love to help out :)

  11. by Michelle C

    On October 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you everyone for your support. I am the mom in the article. I think the informational card idea is a great one. We do have Autism bumper stickers on our cars and most of our neighbors are supportive. But it only takes a few bad apples as they say. In this particular instance the neighbor knows our son is autistic but it does not seem to phase him. I figure he must be a pretty miserable guy.

    Thanks again everyone! :)

    Michelle