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.