It’s Okay To Be Different. It’s Not Okay To Be Laughed At For Being Different.

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.

Norrin at the playground

It was bound to happen. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. I thought I had a few more years before seeing my  son Norrin get laughed at for being different. Maybe I was hoping it wouldn’t happen at all. But the other day, at the playground, two little girls (about his age) laughed in Norrin’s face because he sounded “weird.”

Norrin was scripting, laughing to himself and making that grunting sound he makes when excited. To me, he just sounded like Norrin but I guess to anyone unaware of autism, his behavior may seem strange. For the last few years, I’ve watched people watching Norrin. More and more I’ve seen Norrin excluded and ignored at the playground. And as I write this, I am trying to figure out what is worse: exclusion or mockery.

I am grateful Norrin is unaware when people stare. And now, even more grateful that he does not understand the meaning behind their laughter.

But I am always aware. I understand why they are laughing. And while I know it doesn’t hurt Norrin (at least not now). It hurts me. Because I know, Norrin is a great kid and I want him to be accepted. I have seen how hard he works and how far he’s come. He is just as funny and as bright as any other kid. And I wish more kids took the time to see beyond the “weird.” He does not deserve to be laughed at for being different. No special needs child deserves that.

I cannot accept children laughing at others with special needs, as ‘kids will be kids.’ Because for me, this is how bullying begins. And the older Norrin gets, the worse it could become. According to this online article, nearly half the kids diagnosed with autism are victims of bullying.

As another school year begins I wonder how many kids will be excluded, ignored, stared at, laughed at or bullied for being different. Why are these behaviors acceptable as ‘typical’ kid behavior but  hand flapping or scripting are the behaviors society deems inappropriate?

Autism awareness and acceptance is a two way street. It’s not enough for parents of special needs children to be aware. We need parents of “typical” kids to meet us half way. It really doesn’t take much. You don’t need to be an autism/special needs expert. You don’t need to get into complicated explanations, especially if your children are too young to understand.

Awareness and acceptance can start with two very basic rules to live by: it’s okay to be different and treat others the way you want to be treated.

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  1. by Ruby

    On September 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Amiga I couldn’t agree more. I use to be scared of be the confrontational parent but once I noticed how parents weren’t taking initiative to raise respectable kids i refused for my kids or any one else to be bullied or disrespected. I am not the parent that speaks up and makes it a point to say “That is not NICE” “We don’t treat others like that” Those 2 simple rules you mentioned need to be adopted by ALL PARENTS. Keep being strong for Norrin you are raising an amazing young man!!!

  2. by Karen V.

    On September 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I know the deep seated feeling you feel – I fear it too, though I have no knowledge that it has or has not occurred yet with my son who also talks to himself and scripts on the playground. The laughing, the isolation that comes with different will always be wrong and it should be taught from the earliest grades -everywhere – that differences of all kinds are to be celebrated and that we should always look for the good in everyone. If we start it young, it will stay there.

  3. by Presley's Pantry

    On September 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    That’s a tough one…. one I am not ready to swallow on any level. I am fearful that I would become a crazy mother who would have to walk up to those kids and give them a serious scolding on what’s right and wrong….. one their parents might have to relive as well. I am a big advocate of the different… I was always one who embraced difference in my peers, and tended to gravitate towards the kids that were being bullied as a protective shield. I applaud you for having the strength I’m still unsure I will have when I have to cross this bridge with my son. Lead the way Lisa…. show us how to handle it.

  4. by Comiendo en LA

    On September 6, 2012 at 1:33 am

    Hard topic and as you said kids are kids, but there’s a line to be disrespectful.

    Continue with your great job as a mother!

  5. by Justice Jonesie

    On September 6, 2012 at 9:30 am

    It’s not right for kids to laugh at other kids, simple. Not every child understands or knows how to react. If I see kids being mean or hurtful, whether they are mine or not, I will say something. What you are going through is tough but you continue to handle it with grace.

  6. by Pattie

    On September 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I cannot understand how kids think that laughing at someone else is okay. In my mind, that comes from the parents and parents need to step up and tell their kids that it’s not cool to do that. Otherwise, I’ll be the one telling their kid that because thtat’s the type of parent that I am. I will nit stand by and have any kid laughed at.

  7. by I Do Not Want To Cure My Special Needs Kid | To The Max

    On September 11, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    [...] We need to understand that life doesn’t always run on an exact timeline. Not every achievement or milestone needs to happen for every person at the same time.  We need to accept autistics for all that they can do, rather than for what they can’t. We need to understand that different is not always a bad thing.  Different doesn’t need to be feared or cured.  And different should never be laughed at. [...]