Dear Shopper,

Yes, I know.  I’m well aware that my child is screaming.  Not just a regular scream, but an ear-piercing, sanity-shattering screech.  Even if I wasn’t seeing and hearing it, I would know by the expression on your face.

Clearly, you have raised your children better than me.

That is what you were wanting to say, right?   There certainly can’t be any other purpose to you stopping in your tracks to stare or elbow your companion  or better yet — give knowing looks to other shoppers passing by.

I have no doubt that you have wonderful, well-behaved children.  Grown, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who would never have dreamed of screaming like this in public when they were children.  Judging by your expression and utter exasperation, you’ve never hesitated to let them know who was boss.

And I know that you did your best with your children, that you loved them, and want all children to have a solid upbringing in which to start their lives.  You are, in all probability, a good person.  You probably don’t mean any harm.

This is what complicates what I want to say to you.  Because, despite my anger towards you, I happen to have been raised well too.  I don’t want to be ugly, even though right now I feel like it.

Because I know some of that anger is misdirected.  It is misdirected because I, too, have stood in judgment of someone like me.  I, along with almost everyone, have stood in public and watched a scene like this one play out and thought to myself, “Clearly she has no control over her children.  When I have children, mine will never behave like that.”   I, like most people, wasn’t quite as obvious about it as you.  I didn’t stare or make comments that could be heard.  But I was every bit as decided.   So, some of my anger is really directed toward Human Nature, who refuses to be put in its place.

The nice thing about human nature, however, is that it can be overridden.  And all it takes is but a single experience, a single human interaction, to the contrary of your own strongly held convictions.  Then presto whammo — you are a new and hopefully improved person.

Let me introduce you to my child.  Like you, I marveled at the miracle of life upon becoming his mother.  Like you, I rocked, burped, and inhaled his sweet baby scent and thanked God over and over for the gift of him.   Like you, I had certain dreams for my child.  There your path and my path diverged somewhat.

My precious child is autistic.  Yes, I’ve seen Rain Man, and, no, my son is not likely going to be a great card counter.  The truth about autism is that it encompasses a wide spectrum of abilities.  And, like you and me, every autistic child who has it is different from the next.  Yet they do often share some similar traits – sensory overload and meltdowns are one of them.

Every person on the planet has what I think of as an internal alarm system.  Most of us have ours in good working order.  But some people with autism have what I like to call a hair-trigger alarm system.  Theirs can go off with what seems to average folks like little to no provocation.  There IS always provocation.  Non-autistic people simply aren’t as sensitive to seeing and hearing the triggers, and that’s when the alarm goes off.  And when it does, it’s loud.   Everyone in the vicinity wants nothing more than to have it turned off, including the people who love them.  When you see me “placating” my child and “giving in” to his tantrum, I’m really just desperately looking around for the alarm key or trying to remember the right code to turn off that blaring alarm.  It isn’t his fault.  And, no matter how upsetting it is for you, let me assure you it is that much more upsetting for him.

I’m sorry that you haven’t had quite as pleasant of a shopping trip as you had anticipated.  It hasn’t been so pleasant for me either.  Problem is — I have to feed my family, deposit my paycheck, pick up prescriptions, etc. just like you do.  And, unfortunately, no one arrived at my house today to watch my child so that his autistic behavior wouldn’t upset anyone in public.  I have to leave the house and so does my child.  Because I have to teach him about the world.  I have to let him practice controlling his alarm system.   So that he, too, can possibly be a productive citizen making come true all those dreams I had for him when he was so small.

With so many advances in early detection and therapy, many of us will be able to see most of those dreams come true for our unique children.  And for some of us, our dreams will have to change for our children.  We may need to re-define happiness and success.  For life is like that.  We constantly have to reevaluate our expectations of ourselves, others –and, sometimes, even the grocery store.

I’m hoping that your single human interaction with me has given you an opportunity to be a better person.  For, with 1 in 91 children being diagnosed with autism now, you are going to have a lot more opportunities to make a positive impact in the life of someone like me.  All it would take would be a smile, a pat on the back, or a “Bless your heart, honey, hang in there” to refill a stressed out parent’s reserve of patience and calm.  You could be the bright spot in our day.  And, then, if you want, you are welcome to ask all the questions you want.  Your curiosity doesn’t offend me in the least.  Most of us aren’t the least bit upset to talk about our kids – any more than you are.  If anything, it is an opportunity to educate and dispel myths.

And, maybe, just maybe, you will be standing there when the alarm gets turned off.  Maybe you will get to see what every mother wants the world to see – the wonderful personality of her child, in our case hidden behind a mask of fear, anger and frustration.

Who knows?  Maybe I’ll get to see the one hidden behind yours.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

“We Don’t Talk No Baby Talk Round Here!”

Reply to a Disgruntled Reader

Dear Friend Whom I Haven’t Seen Much of Lately

Letter to My NT (Neurotypical) Child

Or you might like “Excess Baggage” from Random Pearls of Wisdom.

271 responses »

  1. Karen says:

    I so agree, and I also posted about our shopping experience with those unfortunate rude people we all encounter…It is such a shame people can be so mean. I was on an airplane a couple of months ago and a mom with 4 kids had one child screaming and while others stared I did not and when it was over and she walked by, I smiled sweetly at her, as if to say, I am on your side…I wanted to reach out to her if just for a moment to let her know it’s okay. If you should get a chance to read it, here is my post:

  2. says:

    One day I was trying to make a quick get away, and by that I mean: Carrying my son from one side of the mall to the other with him hysterical and drooling so much my back was soaked. I made it to the final set of doors. 10 feet and I was safe from the looks. There is a woman in between the two sets of doors I see her open one for me I am thinking oh thank you this will be much easier now. But, nope, she stops blocks the door and trys to hand me a DVD on how to raise a bad child. No joke! I looked at her and simply said excuse me, she didn’t budge. No I have my 3 year old over my shoulder trapped at this door in front of a packed register ( did I mention it was Christmas time). I was in complete panic. I had so many emotions going thru me at once I was ready to drop to the floor and join my son. THen I gathered myself backed up, he can attest get people to move easily, and struggled to open another door next her and finally got out. You want to stare, gawk, whatever, but really, a DVD? She is lucky my hands were full because I can’t imagine what I would have done.

  3. Lori says:

    Oh, how I wish compassion could be a required course in education. 😉 I have three autistic sons. Some days, going out is a complete nightmare- mostly because of OTHER people. I’ve lost count of how many times people have threatened to intervene- we’ve even had one doctor threaten to and another who actually assaulted one of my children. After the last time someone said something, just a few days ago, I have promised myself to make some autism awareness cards, keep them in my back pocket (I don’t carry a purse, just a few basics in my back pocket, I need all of the extra arms I can get with four kids, three with an asd dx), and hand them out to people who make rude comments. I can’t always put nicely into words what I need them to know in the middle of a meltdown, especially if more than one is melting down.

  4. My son’s meltdowns sometimes begin as a normal tantrum with a specific need not being met – you have a moment to figure out what he wants & meet his demand (if possible & realistic) or else meltdown *might* ensue – more likely if he’s hungry, thirsty or sick.
    Recently, he has been going into them more often in public places that used to be fun & relaxing. Yesterday, I was shaking & tense & holding back my own tears, mumbling again & again how sorry I was that I didn’t bring the sippy cup of milk while my husband wrestled our screaming, crying, thrashing son out of the mall – our son who had been perfectly happy just a few minutes earlier & we were all feeling good, b/c we really need happy outings & this one had been going really great.
    On our way out, I passed an older woman who chuckled to no one in particular, not making eye contact with me or my husband, “I remember that.” Do you? Did you go through this the way that we go through this? This isn’t just a tantrum of a kid who didn’t get the toy he wanted. And my husband is carrying him b/c he’s better at avoiding having his face scratched & his hair pulled out than I am.
    A smile of encouragement would’ve been much better. Or just move along, okay? This isn’t something to chuckle at.

  5. AG says:

    It has been many years since my daughter was that young. But many of your statements ring true.
    Very well written.

  6. This: “And, no matter how upsetting it is for you, let me assure you it is that much more upsetting for him.”

    I had to learn that as a parent and our family and friends had to learn it and I pray that strangers will too.

  7. Audrey Hartley says:

    I will never forget my 34th birthday, when my infant decided to wail and cry to my whole birthday dinner at a very exclusive club. I also have a dear friend with two Autistic sons. Here is what we have come up with to fix the “dreads” of these situations….it takes a VILLAGE! Surround yourself with friends and family who can either watch him when you have to run errands (and the overtimulation is agonizing, which usually sets these precious kiddos off!), or take him outside to cool off while you finish your tasks. Could not have made it through without those people who took turns with me and my husband when our perfectly perceived “normal” child went off. It made us all the more ready to help our other friends who needed it. And, there is always someone….you just have to ask!!! Good luck!!!

  8. Julie says:

    There’s a difference between a mom who is trying to control the situation, and one who just lets her child scream and throw a tantrum with no intervention. Park the stupid cart, take the child into the restroom, outside, the car, etc until he calms down. The mom who says her son is too old to do that should leave him at home, and practice, practice, practice until he understands.

    Newfoundland is right — support those parents who are TRYING. “Good for you, Mom, for sticking to your guns.” “Nice to see someone put boundaries on their kids.” “I remember those days.”

    Those who simply let the kid do whatever he wants, SHAME ON YOU. The rest of us also have to go to the bank, do our shopping, and run errands. It’s wrong of you to allow your child to give us migraines, raise our blood pressure, and ruin our days.

    • Elisa's Spot says:

      I sooooooooooo comprehend this kind of thinking. It was how I was brought up to be. Never, ever, let a child do a behavior that is negative in order to get what is wanted. It is still very difficult for me to realize and to remember that a temper tantrum is NOT the same as a meltdown AND to remember that a meltdown can also be a temper tantrum.

      A meltdown that looks like full blown kicking screaming, self injuring actions, can occur immediately if a trigger causes it. Electronic sounds from cash register used to do it to my kiddo. Just one beep at the right(or wrong) frequency was ear splitting neurologically triggered flight response. Some of these triggers for a person with an ASD are on a level of concentration camp type abuse, this is how the brain translates them. Sometimes, they are predictable and thus can be bypassed. Sometimes it is an accumulation of triggers that cause the brain to decide that it can no longer cope and there is no ability in the ASD person, of any age, to communicate the need to remove self or to seek help in calming. There are adults with ASD that once in overload cannot tell they are hungry or thirsty anymore, or if they can flip into a catatonic seeming state where they cannot communicate needs outside of themselves. It feels awful inside when that happens.

      People do not know that once a kiddo is in a meltdown, often times they cannot stand touch, which would be required to lead them away or the bear hug them, to help them to be still or not to injure themselves. The best thing a neurologist explained to me was that a meltdown is a lot like epilepsy. It’s electrical activity that is separated from all control and desire to act, like breathing.

      I know some parents, particularly of the young or less verbal, who stop then attempting to provide boundaries and limitations, or do not know how to provide replacements or how to expose a person to sensory input in order to help to tame the errant electrical response. It can take years to know what to do, just as with parenting any child NT or otherwise.

      I don’t require you to think any differently, I just noted what you wrote and thought that perhaps you did not comprehend the differences in the behaviors. I am sorry that your system isn’t in good enough control to allow you to handle noise and things along with the stresses of your day. I hope you can find a way to tame your own system so that you do not need to arrange others around you in order for your blood pressure not to go up and to get a headache. These body responses are the sympathetic nervous system, which does not function properly in a person with autism. Imagine that out of whack response times a thousand, and you cannot think to leave or to speak and say how overwhelmed your brain is 🙂

    • mom says:

      “Julie” –
      You are an ugly, self absorbed individual. I feel sad for you. To the mom of the crying in cart, child with Autism – Thumbs up! I would hope to encounter your child – tantrum or not – ANY day, before encountering one being raised by this woman.

  9. Elisa's Spot says:

    I have a lot to say regarding the things having nothing to do with ASD with which I notice people wrangling with here.

    Next, the same request to be understood is reflected back with very ethno and ego centrci directions as to what to do. There is no book, manual, or right way. There are a LOT of quack ways to deal with raising all of our children, NT or otherwise. Our skills to adapt and to perceive accurately to cause and effect or as to when there are none all come under the microscope of analysis here. The longer it takes us, as adults and caregivers, to get this in check, the less of service we are to our children.

    ABA is not the only way, though it is a way to make the children into robots. I have had good experiences and bad with it myself. I’ve sat in conferences with OT and PT and otherwise degreed(and thus knowledgeable persons–ha!) Did you know that many of them do not internalize at all what they are taught? Did you know that the skill of making a child look at one in the eyes are simply some words on paper, to be executed. There is no connection to function and to need and to individual use? Shame on me for having them on a pedestal to expect some expert to know better!

    Here is a place where one can gain conference information, advances in the field and perhaps more than one way to skin a cat (to get the desired result).
    Handouts and many presentations and slideshows are available.
    There can be a vast difference in conference material and opionion about ASD from country to country, locale to locale.

    It is important to gain knowledge, to assimilate it, and to use discernment with it. If it does not become wisdom, we are all just puppets.

  10. jamiesmum says:

    I’ve just signed up tonight but I’ve read your post a lot over the last week or so and its reduced me to tears every time. Our family, his nursery and the his SLT all think my son has Aspergers but I’ve just been told that the waiting list for a diagnostic appt will be around a year and it saddens me so much that my little man will be without the help and guidance we all need for another 12 mths.

    Your post touches me on so many levels that I feel I could have written it myself. I never take my son on a “big shop” because neither he nor I can cope with it but I realise he needs to learn coping mechanisms so I take him when I only need a few bits and pieces. The looks from other shoppers don’t really worry me, I have a thick skin, but seeing my son having a meltdown breaks my heart and I just feel able to cope with it so much easier at home.

    I’m definately going to be hanging about here because I feel you guys can help me through this difficult time 🙂 x

    • FlappinessIs says:

      How old is your son? If he is under 3, he must be given an Early Steps evaluation if requested. They will provide needed services until he turns three. If 12 months is the best answer you’ve gotten, may I suggest searching for other developmental pediatricians in your state or calling your local CARD? It can take a few months, but 12 is WAY too long. I was told even longer times by some doctors and I kept going until I found one with only a 2 month wait. Keep searching.

      I do know what you are going through. The beginning is hard. We’re still in it ourselves without a formal diagnosis. I’m so glad you have found the online ASD community. I find them to be a lifesaver too. Hang in there. You’re a good mama. 🙂

      • jamiesmum says:

        Thanks so much for the response. Jamie will be 4 in March but I’m in Scotland so think things work a bit different over here. We’re due a paed appointment in the next 4 – 6 weeks & I need their backing before we can move forward but once I have that I will pester the life out of the diagnostic team till my wee man gets his appointment. 😉

      • FlappinessIs says:

        Silly me. Thinking just like an American – forgetting that there are other places on the planet. Tsk, tsk. It’s interesting how different states in my country and different countries around the world approach diagnosis. I’ve heard that the best place to be for autism is in one of the Scandanavian countries, but don’t know if that’s really true. We have a lot of hurdles here too. Wouldn’t it be nice if all children could receive state of the art therapy at just the right time? In our area of Florida, it seems no one has ever heard of ABA therapy, which is frustrating. I’m glad your little fella has the doc appointment soon. God speed with the rest, Jamiesmum!

      • jamiesmum says:

        Lol ! I’ve just had to Google ABA because I’ve never heard of it either, I’m still very much finding my feet with all this. My Mum is now suggesting we look into going private but I’ll wait for the Paed appointment and take it from there. It would be marvellous if all our kids could get what they need, when they needing it but I suppose thats never gonna happen 😦 x

  11. Heather says:

    I think, even though someone is “looking” or “staring” it is human nature to look and stare. Children throwing temper tantrums is eye catching, It MAKES me want to look every time. lol That does not mean I am thinking ANYTHING about the mom. That’s a judgment all in itself. I AM this mom of 4 that everyone is looking at when it happens and….I don’t care 🙂 Stop judging that people are judging or you are the one judging that they are judging which makes you judgmental about weather or not they are judgmental. No one is God, no one reads minds, to me…this article is written about something far too complex that no one, not even I could ever know the truth about. If someone is staring, assume they are directing prayer toward you, miss these days with their now grown children, wish they could help or just find it hilarious. Take care!

    • FlappinessIs says:

      It isn’t the looking that most of us get upset about, I don’t think. There’s a BIG difference between the looking that is instinctive when hearing a loud noise and the openly disapproving and frowning stare that some folks continue to do while trying to catch your eye so that you can see how much they disapprove of you while sometimes gesturing for someone else to look and disapprove as well. That’s just mean. And though it is certainly true that you shouldn’t allow this to get to you, the reality is that one of these people is going to do it on a day that you have been told your child is regressing, you have just had to pay your yearly insurance deductible all at once, and your mother calls to tell you her doctor thinks she might have cancer. I think it’s a rare individual who would never get upset about such a thing, though I envy those folks. Most of the time, I can shake it off. This particular day – I couldn’t. I know that I have to develop thicker skin. Unfortunately, growing anything takes time. I’m a work in progress. 🙂

  12. Kaylie'sMommy says:

    Beautifully written. You have such a way with words. You make me aware of things that I hadn’t even realized, as we are quite new to this world. My daughter was just diagnosed in September. When she would shriek in public places, I thought she was just bored or wanted to leave to go do something more fun. She doesn’t speak yet so I can’t ask her why she is shrieking. I hadn’t thought of the hair-trigger alarm going off when there is too much stimulation. That makes PERFECT sense to me. I get it now.

    When I started reading this, I called my husband into the room so I could read it aloud. I thought he could benefit from it as well. I broke down and started crying when I got to the paragraph about how we all ***rocked, burped, and inhaled our sweet babies’ scent and thanked God over and over for the gift of them. I had certain dreams for my child.*** I had to stop reading. It hit me like a ton of bricks that we might not see our daughter reach the goals/dreams we once had for her. We’ll just have to create new dreams.

    So, I was thinking how great it would be to print this out in the event that I get the look or a nasty comment when my daughter starts shrieking in the store. Then I decided not to waste my printer ink. I can see by some of the comments here that there are simply people in the world who don’t care to be compassionate or understanding. They’d rather accuse parents of “coddling” or assume there is something we, the parents of special need kiddos, could do differently or better to make them act like other typical kids. They truth is, my three year old autistic daughter acts a whole lot better than most typical kids her age, thanks to her ABA therapy. I think that most of the people who are harshly judging us are too ignorant and/or uncaring to be touched by these words anyway. Truthfully, I don’t know if I have ever made eye contact with a person who is giving me the look. I can sometimes “feel” it or see it peripherally. I am too busy and concerned with my daughter, stooping down to make eye contact with her to try to calm her down and make her feel better about things. It’s not my job to try to make “them” feel better about things. Quite frankly, I think those people are so miserable within their own lives that there’s probably not much anybody could say or do to make a difference to them.

    I am so thankful to have found this blog. You speak from your heart and it touches mine immensely. Thank you!!!

  13. jennifet mckinley says:

    OMG. This is my life when it comes to outings. I have been kicked out if Walmart, snarrled at in walgreens, told I was a bad mom in safeway. Sad thing is I can go on. I feel bad for my daughter because she is the sweetest, kindest, most loveable 4 year old and when we go out and she starts to have issues people only see a “brat” a “misbehaved child ” and she is neither. The judging make me so sad. All these people are just ignorant. I think all parents need to be educated on special need children when they go to birthing classes. Maybe, just maybe we could all learn compassion.

  14. cutemongoose says:

    reminds me of the time my then 3 1/2 yo son had a meltdown outside of a grocery store in the toney part of town (Bethesda/Friendship Heights). He was rolling around on the pavement and absolutely screeching. Why? Because he wanted me flip a bicycle over so that he could spin the wheels. I had told him that we cannot flip somebody else’s bike over to spin the wheels and besides…the bike was also locked to a bike rack. An elderly woman stopped next to my screaming child, folded her arms across her chest and just stared at us. I don’t remember if or what I said to her, so I probably ignored her. Eventually I had to pick my son of the ground, hoist him over my shoulder and walk away from the bicycle (trigger).

  15. Polly M. says:

    I was excited to read this post from you, but the more I read it, the more I felt awful that you are so distraught by these people that stare and silently judge (or not–who knows what they’re thinking?). Your son is younger than my daughter, so I had to really look back at my days at the grocery store with her and that ever-present paranoia that I had that she would lose her marbles in front of everyone else. Then I had to remember the day I finally said, “FORGET THIS!” (I think I might have said something else instead of “forget”, LOL) and decided I was not going to care anymore about anyone’s stares. My job as my daughter’s mother was not to GIVE a SH** about what others thought. I had to remind myself of that for a while, maybe a couple of months–then it came second nature. I just smile at others, those folks who are frowning or staring–which usually induces a smile from them, and then you can almost see their heart softening. Try it sometime. And if it doesn’t work, so what?

    My daughter is almost 7. She is so great at the grocery store now. But I assure you, she wasn’t always, and it was a scary prospect to take her when she was 2-3-4 years old. Even now, she does things that clearly draw attention to her disability, but seriously, I *so* don’t care what other people think, I just smile and move on. I hope that people are staring because maybe they’ve never been exposed to autism, and maybe they’ll learn something today. Or maybe–just maybe–they have their own child that has a disability of their own, or a grandchild…you never know.

    • Tami Neilson says:

      I get what you are saying…and I admire your strength to not care because it truly takes a lot of that and I’m getting there. I’m not there yet…but I do care less and less. It’s very hard to constantly be stared at in judgment or criticized although the sensitive upset side is gone and the anger/rage side took over. I know it’s wrong but I will bark at someone for perceived rude behavior and not care. I will embarrass them with sarcasm…I guess I’ll drop to their level or even prove I can be more cruel just to momentarily feel better. I’m a good sized female that knows how to defend herself *well* so I’m very unafraid of any confrontation. In fact the aggressive side of my nature welcomes it and lately I find it comforts me and brings satisfaction to literally make a person take off. Alas It is due to my own insecurities and frustration over being powerless to the situation which aggression makes me feel powerful against those I feel are rude or wrong doers. Lately it’s fading though and i’m starting to not care though so this phase is leaving as well. i think each person’s journey leads them through emotional phases to which they may not do the right thing..respond the right way or even care too much when you should not. we are all built differently. Eventually the hope is to get to where you are.

  16. […] out some of Leigh’s other great blog posts! Dear Shopper Staring at My Child Having a Meltdown in the Grocery Store So You’re Wondering if Your Child Might Be Autistic Dear Friend Whom I Haven’t Seen […]

  17. janetgirl says:

    Beautifully written and expressed. However, everyone can hate me now, when I see a child having a meltdown in a public place I have been known to groan or roll my eyes and, yes, wish the kid would just stop! This does not automatically mean I’m thinking badly of the parent or the child. It just means it is unpleasant! It is unpleasant for me, the parent and the poor child having the meltdown! I am well aware that parents of children with special needs need to shop and pay their bills, just like me. Besides rolling my eyes and groaning, I have also been known to openly sympathize with the parent and or child. I won’t say I have never judged, because I am human, but as I don’t know your situation I try not to. You, in turn, should not automatically judge every person you PERCEIVE to be judging you. Not everyone is. I am not angry that your child is having a meltdown. You should not be angry because I don’t react the way you would like me to.

    • Tami Neilson says:

      @Janetgirl…Life must be tough for you b/c it can be ‘unpleasant’ in general. special needs kids or not. There are loud and screaming kids where ever I go whether they are on the spectrum or not. However my mother taught me right. I do not nor will i ever stare or groan or make another person’s unpleasant experience even worse. I can be the meanest person only in self defense…otherwise i’m probably the nicest and most sympathetic to many plights. I’m more than sure the parent is not enjoying it after all. In fact, these are the types I extent a smile and “been there done that” to in order to make them feel better. I’m sure the open sympathy goes over much better. If a person looks at me big deal. I’m not phased. If they dared to say something to me or stare….I’m not the right person to do that to because I’ll say something and not even care. confrontation does not scare me in the fact half the time i enjoy it as it gets my aggression out. If they can openly stare, they can take the consequence that comes with it. So do know…I’m not angry over someone reacting or not reacting if they are NOT rude about it. if they are rude, they deal with that consequence.

  18. Jen. says:

    OMG…I have so been in this situation. I have been in the checkout with my son who is 7 and is alo Autistic. I had a gentleman turn around while we were both in line waiting to check out at Wal-Mart (because face it they have 20 some checkouts and only like 4 are ever open) and my son was having a total meltdown because he hates being around a bunch of people and hates shopping…anyway the man very rudely looked at my son and said”Why don’t you shut up”!!! I was in shock, I could not believe my ears. I live in a very small town and people are usually friendly. I was about in tears when I looked at him and said “I’m sorry if my special needs child is disturbing you but he can’t help it and there was no need for you to say that to him.” He looked at me and said “I have special needs too…” I was so blown away I didn’t know what else to say I just stood there as he checked out. Once he was gone the clerk apologized to me for the gentlemans rude behavior and said it was uncalled for. Even the manager came over an apologized. So needless to say a few phone calls to a store manager the next day I was told that if I was ever in the store and needed to check out quickly with my son that I just needed to find a manager and they would assist me with checking out so that I didn’t have to stand in line.

    • Lena says:

      Just curious… why did you call the store the next day to complain? It’s not their fault that a customer was rude to you.

      • Becky says:

        Where does it say she called to “complain”? Maybe she was just trying to figure out how to avoid/handle that situation in the future. The manager told her: “if I was ever in the store and needed to check out quickly with my son that I just needed to find a manager and they would assist me with checking out so that I didn’t have to stand in line.” Says nothing about her “complaining” as far as I can see.

  19. Tammy says:

    I was just thinking about this yesterday – I was pregnant with my first child at 23, working at a bank. A child was throwing a screaming tantrum as his mom stood in line. My heart went out to her, but I did “internally” think, “My child will never act like that” and may even said it out loud to a fellow employee. Now I’m (almost) 40, three kids (all of whom have thrown tantrums in a store, especially my youngest) and I laugh now at what I once said. One of the biggest lessons being a mom has taught me is DO.NOT.JUDGE. I’m now the mom to a teenager going through many internal problems who truly was “the perfect child” – until 13; the mom to a preteen with low working memory, ADD, and who struggles so badly in school; and the mom to a preschooler with cochlear implants (CIs) and moderate SPD. You never know what a person is going through, never know what a child is going through. The best thing an onlooker did for me, as my preschooler was screaming his lungs out as I tried to “pry” him in the shopping cart, was ask if he could help in any way. If you’re going to look fine, it’s human nature (which I also get many of from my son’s CIs). Just please don’t gawk in disgust (which I also get many of from my son’s CIs), and more than anything, revert back to what I hope all of us were taught as kids, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

  20. natalie says:

    Wow. This made me cry. I can totally relate.
    My sisters son (who is visiting me on holidays right now) has severe Autism. He is the most affectionate, happy and loving boy I know. Not to mention the smartest! Our family is convinced one day soon he will be able to hack into top security computer systems, as he is a genius with technology! Lol.
    Your article was spot on. I have seen the ongoing challenges my sister is faced with but she is so patient and loving and has happily accepted that her life’s path has diverted. She never complains. Her son is lucky to have such a wonderful mother, just as we are blessed to have him in our lives.

  21. Vinni Kaoz says:

    I’m a 25yr old with ASD/ADD combination from the Netherlands (so don’t watch my spelling). Beautifull blog, takes me back to my childhood, my parents sometimes got the “code” right, when it didn’t work, they tried to get me a.s.a.p. out of the store. They had a lot of problems and my little brother is Asperger (and doing University!!) but now especially my mom can get me calm when I feel the “alarm” coming. It’s hard, also for her, because I’m projecting all my problems to her sometimes and she can’t handle it, she has her own problems too and 25 years with 2 of “us” that’s hard, but I’m getting there to somehow understand it all myself, but it’s a long journey and I’m learning everyday things that seem so normal to do for “normal” people.

    I have so much respect for all you ASD-parents, keep up the good work! But don’t try to protect them TOO much, for some of “us” it’s good to put us right in overloaded situations (with positive attitude of the people/situation). I’m only diagnosed for 2 years now, but I know it helped me so much that I only discovered it this late (that’s really positive and in other cases really negative)…

    Take care!
    Vinni Kaoz

  22. mahanako says:

    Hey there,
    Never mind what other people might think about you or your child!! You can’t change anybodies mind, so don’t spent your energy on trying to make better people out of them!! The most important thing in your life and in your child’s life is What you are thinking about your own actions. You know that your child doesn’t scream because it is not well educated. You suffer a lot, and i can understand it, because you didn’t expect that your child might have some autistic troubles. Don’t focus on other people, especially not those one you even don’t know. Who cares about there opinion. 10 seconds after your left there way, they forgot about you and your child. I like your blog very much (but this doesn’t matter because you don’t know me:-)
    Keep on writing!!

  23. I worked with Special Needs children for several years and now, after adopting, have one of my own. I have four boys ages 11-22. The experiences with the three older ones were typical, fit throwing or tired scenarios were part of life. I learned to cope with the stares. Thank you for your article.

  24. I know that feeling all to well. I once was stopped, by an older lady, responding to the song I was singing. “I love that you are singing Jesus Loves Me to your son as he cries.” I smiled back and said I am singing it for me….. I have three boys ranging in age 18-22 and a little boy we recently adopted with special needs.

  25. sherry-Lyn says:

    Your post was shared with us by a friend. I think it is AMAZINGLY written. So many times I have wanted to say something to people when my boys were having a melt down. you see 2 of my 3 boys have ADHD and I suspect at least one of my 2 daughters do as well. Meltdowns are a part of many outings for my family. Thankfully those closest to us know what we are going through and support us in very many ways.

    In our circle of friends there are several special children with a variety of disabilities which has brought our little coffee club much closer. We are there for each other in any way possible.

    If only others could see life through our eyes then they too could understand. Bless you and your family for sharing. wishing you a Happy New Year filled with understanding, kindness and joy.

  26. Michele says:

    Noop, you amaze me. You are such an incredible mother and a strong person who deals with the ups and downs in your life with grace and love. I am honored to call you friend. This letter is so on point. You have beautiful children who can both teach us so much about life and laughter. Love you.

  27. We have 3 on the spectrum, and hubby is an RN (aka mandated reporter). My bio son is over 100 pounds, and he can meltdown with the best. I am not able to simply “remove him” from a situation. He’s just too heavy. He becomes dead weight with a dozen arms and legs. In times past, I’ve been able to remove him from a store if need be, if I couldn’t get a certain toy he wanted due to budget, or if the door alarm went off somewhere in the store, a fire alarm went off, intercom buzzed, you name it. I’ve been beaten and bloodied by him (keep in mind he’s now nearing 10, most of this happened at a much earlier age), and no one bothered to say a thing. I tried hard to keep my cool, tried hard to be a good mom while my own anxiety went through the roof.

    Over the years, we have practiced more with our outtings. We talk in advance, like if we’re going to a store, I talk with the kids and we make a list of what we are going to get. If they act well, they may get to pick out a small toy or piece of candy… It has taken a LOT of practice, and I do mean a LOT! The middle and youngest were the hardest…middle being the biggest, the youngest trying to bolt from us and run across the store doing 100 yrd dash in seconds. People look at us like we’re horrible parents…they don’t understand we’re handling 3 autistic kids, hubby IS a professional psychiatric RN with 15 years experience, and I have many years working nursing and mental health under my belt as well as being aspie and handling my own nuances. We know what we’re doing, just folks don’t seem to realize that. I totally understand there’s kids that choose to have a hissy fit, and then there’s the autism meltdowns from hell.

    BTW..I reblogged your post on my blog, at Sunny Patch Cottage. I believe as many as possible should read this!!!

  28. Max Vincent says:

    While I can totally empathize with the mother writing the letter, there are times when dining out or in a store when a child will just raise holy hell because he or she has been told “no”. Or a parent spanks a child and shakes them to quiet them down–to me that is the worst. Being a social worker, however, if I see a parent abusing a child, I have a duty to report to officials of the state, whether they be police, or Child Protective Services. We are trained to look for signs of autism, Aspergers, Downs Syndrome, etc. So that we do not confront a parent who is legitimately trying to calm a child down, I (wnd many others) will observe and not comment, not pass judgment. So just because there are some of us who watch the interactions of parents/children more than others, please do not lump us all in one basket and think we are passing judgment on you. If something were to happen and we didn’t report it, it could mean our license, reputation and conscience.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, Max. I’m a mandated reporter, and I understand that situation. As someone who has experienced it, all I can tell you is that animosity looking in your direction is unmistakeable. Max, you would simply look curious. Curiosity is natural. Deliberate staring with a frown, smirk or eye roll is not. Or maybe it is and we will require a theological or anthropological discussion instead! I’m sure you are a nice person, Max, even if we disagree. Happy New Year!

    • Katrena Lee says:

      there is a difference in looking and the “look” of disdain and utter disgust that we are talking about here. The look that we are referring to is the one that is the pinched lipped sneer like someone has smelled something disgusting or rotten that is turning their stomach. The one that says…”can’t you DO something about that BRAT???” Not the one that is quietly trying to figure out if the child is in distress or if something bad is happening to them or if the parent needs some help. We know the difference and have observed both. We don’t have a problem in the world with the look you are referring to and probably don’t see the one you are referring to half the time that it happens whereas the one that is referred to in this blog is noted almost all the time by parents of newly diagnosed children and at least half the time whether we acknowledge it or not by the more experienced parents of long time ASD kids. After we have been raising these kids for many many years we learn to “tune out” the rest of the world and focus on the needs of our kids rather than the stares of disgust of disgruntled shoppers around us. Actually what all the negative posters to this blog don’t seem to realize or care about is that those “stares of disgust” actually do more than upset US….they actually make the situation worse for my son…HE picks them up and they make HIM more nervous and upset and they make his meltdown last longer so I usually have to end up telling him nobody is looking at him or to ignore the other people…they are just stupid people and THEY need to learn some manners and how to not be rude. So go ahead and watch me all you want…offer help once you discern there is nothing bad going on if you feel so led because chances are quite good he’s going to hurt me rather than the other way around. 🙂

  29. Becky says:

    A question….I’m a 50-something mom with four children who are past the meltdown in the store phase. I’ve survived my share of public meltdowns, however. Usually I smile at the parent, and say something like, “been there, done that. This too shall pass.” Would you find that helpful or irritating, as I clearly don’t know what it’s like to to parent a child with autism. It is my desire to be supportive, not irritating….

    • FlappinessIs says:

      I think most of us are open to someone saying something to the effect of what you did. To me, an understanding smile makes it better. But, truthfully, I’m sure that among the ranks of ASD parents are folks who were jerks before they ever had kids and remain so. Some people might be too stressed to think clearly and bite your head off. There probably isn’t a perfect answer. But, I would wager that 90% of the time, a kind word or smile will help. If there is something obvious to offer help with, I might try offering that too. But I can understand why that might feel uncomfortable. The fact that you sympathize will be written across your face, and I think that makes a huge difference for any stressed out parent you come across. Thanks for being such a caring person and reaching out, Becky. You have, undoubtably, touched many hearts with just the question alone. 🙂

    • Katrena Lee says:

      to me an acknowledgement is not the same as scorn as disgust and is welcomed. I am further into my journey than some so I don’t experience as much embarrassment as frustration and desperation and exasperation. The “this too shall pass” for me would be a reminder to step back and remember that this is but a moment in time and while this is one of the tougher ones it WILL pass and as that country song goes “you’re gonna miss’re gonna want this back…you’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone away so fast” These kids WILL grow up and while some of them WILL be perpetual kids they won’t always LOOK like kids and our babies won’t always be our BABIES. So I say again…I would welcome that as both encouragement and a reminder.

    • Tami Neilson says:

      People like you I adore! I can’t speak for everyone but for me, it means a lot when someone is kind or says a kind word. it can turn that difficult moment into one to which the stress melts away. Thank you for being a wonderful human being!

  30. sunshine says:

    Still don’t care. I’ve worked in children’s photography and I’ve seen autistic children and I’ve seen kids who are just plain bad who’s parents won’t spank them and plead with them to act right. I’m not a doctor but I’ve seen enough children in my career to know who’s autistic and who’s just plain being a bad ass kid. If you that this is the case with you child you should just say screw em instead of writing an article about not being judged. You writing an article is acknowledging guilt you feel when people stare at your autistic child, so if you know what the situation is then why do you care what everyone else thinks? Don’t try to play the don’t judge me sympathy card reserved for parents who know their children are wild and out of control, because it’s not meant for you. . .

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Dear Sunshine, like a lot of things in life, it is impossible to understand why someone thinks a certain way or feels a certain way until you have walked in their shoes. You may have taken the photographs of autistic children, but you haven’t raised one. I promise you it is not the same. Before becoming the parent of an autistic child, I was a teacher for 12 years. That would put me in a category of folks who have worked with all kinds of children and can tell the difference between autistic and bratty behavior as well. Then I had an ASD child. It is, quite simply, more than you, in your experience, can know. Before you judge me as being alone in my “guilt”, however, I suggest that you take the time to read through the comments (there are over 100 of them) of other ASD parents. I think it would prove to be enlightening. Unless your speciality is taking photographs of autistic children in grocery stores, I think you might consider tempering your judgment of those of us who feel the way we do. The fact that you began your comment with the phrase “still don’t care” might prove to be a clue to you as for why you find it difficult to understand why we do. I hope that you do not ever have to find out the hard way what it means or feels like to be the parent of special needs child. Despite your antipathy, I would not wish that on you. Best wishes, Sunshine.

  31. Lealyn says:

    Good job mom and congrats on your tactful and loving way of address…. I have m had this painful experience and I feel your pain

  32. Bethany S. says:

    My cousin’s wife sent me the link to your blog after I posted on facebook this, “When you see a family with a child who seems unruly, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. You never know what’s going on in their household. When you see a child sitting in a movie with a set of noise reduction headphones on, don’t think it’s weird. His/her parents might found a way to make the movie experience as normal as possible for their sound sensitive child. Life with a child with autism is different. Sometimes it is really hard. But, when you are putting your kid to bed and they are reading sentences to you and they kiss you good night, then it makes it ok!! :)”

    If you could have taken the words out of my head and put them into a blog, I am sure they would not have been so eloquent but you spoke EXACTLY how I feel. Thanks!

  33. mamma joyce says:

    I am privileged to have, on my staff, a lovely gentle man with Aspergers; through his presence with us, we have all learned a vast amount about accomodating others, about creating an environment where everyone’s talents / uniqueness / triggers / quirks and personalities are accepted and valued and about accepting every person for who they are: we’re not an exceptional company, we’re not trained educationalists or medical specialists – we’re just a group of people that aren’t afraid to ask ‘how can I make it better?’ – and that goes for everyone (cos all of us have traits that the others find challenging!). Thanks to all for sharing your viewpoints and experiences: I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous 2012, with moments of serenity, a well of calm and courage from those who are there to support you and lots of opportunities to see all of your loved ones grow, blossom and overcome even one challenge in the year ahead…every journey starts with a single step…hope all of yours bring you to a welcome destination 🙂

  34. Tina G says:

    Thanks for writing this post. I have an Aspie son and have experienced his meltdowns frequently. I don’t take him to supermarkets anymore as they are too over-stimulatory for him. It means I have to do my grocery shopping online, but I am happy to do this if it means we can avoid a meltdown!

    I would like to point out, in the nicest possible way, that the real Rain Man Kim Peek doesn’t actually have autism. He has an agenesis of the Corpus Callosum, which is often mis-diagnosed as autism. I know this because my youngest son has the same condition.

    I hope you have a wonderful 2012

  35. Just found your blog and absolutely love it. I am also a teacher and have children with special needs in my classroom. I have a lot of communication with the parents of those children, but it’s really helpful to see your point of view on things. I think it could help me be a better teacher! Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more. 🙂

  36. steven s says:

    Thank you for sharing this as it helps educate everyone around us and make steps towards a better future for all.

  37. Michael says:

    It is fate to have someone post a link to this blog on my Facebook newsfeed within an hour of returning from the mall after a “mild” meltdown in the mall, this time triggered by the fact that the elevator wasn’t working and my autistic son has a rule that you can’t go down an escalator, only up. He is 10 now, and I can’t count the times over the years of such meltdowns, and the looks and reactions of others.

    What you have written has crossed my mind many times, and how I’ve wished to say it on many occasions. But I will never let those people win … We have as much a right to be out in the mall as they do, and the joy my son has at the mall far outweighs the outbursts and meltdowns that happen from time to time.

    Your posting, and others I have since read, brought tears to my eyes (not something a 37 year old man admits often) and I so look forward to reading more in the future.

  38. Sharmayne says:

    Wow, I think I wrote this in my sleep!!!!!!! My 8yr old son has a dual dx, bipolar being his primary, autism being his secondary, along with many many others, so I know 1st hand what a nightmare it is just to walk out your front door and into public.

  39. Reblogged this on Sunny Patch Cottage and commented:
    I ran across this a Flappiness Is, and I really believe it is worth a re-blog! As a parent of one bio son with autism/MR/bi polar, and stepmom to 2 on the autism spectrum, I absolutely understand without a shadow of a doubt just how this goes!!!

    Enjoy the read and tell them Angie sent you!

  40. MJ says:

    Wonderful article (or blog, whatever we call it now) – thank you so much for sharing! It means a lot! (((big gentle hugs for you!)))

  41. aefountain says:

    My step-son once said to me in a restaurant, what are you so worried about Troy for….there are far worse behaved kids in here than him.

  42. vixytwix says:

    It is human nature that people will behave like that when a smile or a quiet, supportive comment would have been just as easy as a disapproving stare. I just want to poke my tongue out at people like that, or say take a picture, you can take it to your Mother’s meeting so you can all feel better about yourselves. That is exactly what that behaviour displays. Put on your Mother Shield and block out the negative for both of you because, at the end of the day, she doesn’t live your life.

  43. spicyt says:

    This is my first time reading, wont be my last! My 17 y/o dtr has high functioning Aspergersand other learning disabilities. I had these “looks” when she would have a fit cuz the lining on her sock wasn’t laying just right across her toes while we were shopping before…its hard for all involved. People need to be educated on Autism sectrum disorders and other disabilities….even now at 17 when she meets new people and they look at her oddly when she says something a bit off or doesn’t get certain subtleties in peoples conversations…or doesn’t display the just right emotion on whatever topic….I wanna jump in and start explaining….but she has to learn to deal with these events on her own…I really hate it when I see or hear them insult her with a “dumb blond” joke or whatever. she is one of the sweetest girls ever, and beautiful as a super model..which actually makes things worse for her when it comes to other girls. Life will be a struggle for her….I’m trying to prepare her as best I can, althought I have some severe and chronic phyical illnesses that keep me in bed alot, so its all just a struggle…but we are making it! But I’m gonna be lookin over your blog some more! Thanks!

  44. rosa says:


  45. Mahalah says:

    I am the mom of the blogger I am responding through. I have 8 kids, +2 who didn’t get to cry outside of the womb. When I lost my first child we left the hospital and had a meal at a restaurant so we wouldn’t have to cook at home, While we ate, there was a couple with a brand new baby who came in. After a while the baby began to scream. They looked so embarrassed. My thoughts were not criticism, My thoughts were, “What a wonderful sound! I would love to be hearing that from my baby right now.” It is all in perspective. I admire your letter that you have posted, because communication with education helps the rest of us think, and gain understanding. Thank you! Something that helped me cope with the comments of people was a quote. “If they have kids, no explanation is needed. If they don’t have kids, no amount of explanation will help.” I suppose you could make up a similar quote for an autistic child. You sound like the very mom this child needs. All trials have eventual rewards, and I know that your child has the biggest challenges of all, and you are intertwined in them. Keep being strong and courageous. Never be afraid to ask for help from those who love you. Even help with your home. I will be praying for blessings for you and your son.

  46. beyouteaful says:

    I have been in many similar situations to this that you have written about and have had to control my anger and frustration with the people staring around me as well. Although I am not a mother of an autistic child I have 2 autistic step-siblings. I am 8 years older then my brother and 10 of my sister. I studied Child and Adolescent Development for 4.5 years at a University and took many classes focusing on the abnormal psychology we see in humans today – I have great interest in the ASD field and could not have been happier to see your post this afternoon.

    I would like to thank you. As you could not have put it in a better way! You speak for many mothers, fathers, siblings, classmates, friends,teachers, and people who suffer from ASD themself.

    And lastly I’d like to say…
    “Bless your heart, honey, hang in there”


  47. Dee Wheat says:

    I haven’t seen anyone else mention it….and I apologize if I missed it….but while detailing the “distressing” aspects of the entire autism spectrum, no one has emphasized the positive aspects. There are many, you know. Autistic children can and often are the most loving, caring children on earth.

    I know a fellow disability advocate who has a child with multiple disabilities, including autism and Downs. And yes, he has his bad moments. He also will cuddle up with you if he thinks you are sad or upset and croon a little song until you simply cannot help but feel better.

    I know another autistic child who is non-verbal, but when I found her a laptop at a yard sale ($10, and it worked perfectly!!!!), she not only typed me a thank you, but also had her mom take a pic for me showing her with an enormous smile on her face.

    Yet another child on the spectrum who belongs to another friend is barely verbal but can sit at a piano and play the most beautiful music you have ever heard.

    So, moms of these children, feel blessed, despite the fact that you are exhausted, harried, and may not have had a chance to take a shower that lasted longer than four minutes in what seems like years, because you truly DO have special children, often far more special than others can even begin to comprehend.

    Frankly, I feel privileged to know your children, “warts and all”. as the saying goes, and I pity the folks who don’t know them because they are truly deprived.

  48. I love your post to the “angry shopper lady”. You put it so perfectly, and I could feel your frustration. I have two children, neither of which is autistic. But my friend’s son is, and I have witnessed the lightning quick mood swing or meltdown. I have also been privileged to see him as a perfect angel, full of love and affection. You’re doing the right thing…keep exposing him to all that everyday life has to offer. The older he gets he’ll be better equipped to handle it. And hopefully the world will be less quick to judge.

  49. Great post! My husband and I have five children, and two of them are severely on the spectrum. We so appreciate the time you have taken to share your journey, and we look forward to reading future posts. You can check our blog out at . Thanks again for your sharing!

  50. […] Dear Shopper Staring at MY Child Having a Meltdown in the Grocery Store […]

  51. Oh yeah, I’ve so been there! Thanks for writing this post on behalf of all of us in the same situation. Keep up the good work, my dear. 🙂

    -Angela (aka Caffeinated Autism Mom)

  52. Dangerboy says:

    Bravo, madam. Beautifully written. Even those of us without autistic children can benefit from this. Every kid will have a tantrum at some point, it’s perfectly natural. And we could all be less judgmental and more supportive about it.
    And bless you for the way you support and understand your child.
    And furthermore, I applaud your response to the troll. You are clearly a saint.

    Once upon a time, other kids’ tantrums would bother me. Wifefish and I invented our own tantrum game to reverse our thinking. Then we adopted our own wonderful little man!
    (Note it’s a humor piece, tongue firmly in cheek.)

  53. ape2016 says:

    I couldn’t have said it better!

  54. Kelly says:

    I had never read your blog before but thanks to a friend’s link on facebook I now have your blog marked to follow. My husband and I are raising our granddaughter who is on the spectrum. She is a delightful little girl but I get sad that some people will never see how delightful she is because she is melting down at the store and we can’t stop or fix it right then.

    Your writing is beautiful and shares such an important message for everyone that encounters one of our special children out in this world!

  55. MartyrdHavok says:

    This is my first time reading here and all I can say is: Oh my… you have captured it perfectly. While my son (now 16) isn’t quite ASD, he’s bi-polar/ADHD/ODD. It can be just as tough, and very touch and go. While he doesn’t have as many “tantrums” as he used to, he does have massive anger issues when he “swings”. We went to the store the other day, and there was this poor woman, had to be in her early twenties, with a two/three year old having an absolute fit. My son wrinkled his nose and said “I’d spank my kid for that…” to which I commented “And you used to be just as bad…” He tipped his head at me and said “you never spanked me…” But it gave him a lot to think about…I gave in very rarely. So we were doing last minute shopping on the 23rd, and another woman had a few unrulies on her hands. He’s always been very good with little kids… he walked over and was talking to them, distracting them. Mom was wary…but then very appreciative of the “help”. He told her “I was just as bad, still am.” Sometimes kids get it better than the adults do. I think it is because they CAN remember what it was like at that age. And, when they have about the same issues, it really hits home.

  56. christa9936 says:

    There is that moment when time stops and you simply want to re-direct and explain away… for my son it’s the ‘moving’ Halloween, Christmas, and Easter ‘toys’ that start when you walk by.

  57. Excellently written. I have five children, one of whom is not diagnosed as autistic, however he has tendencies for MANY of the ASD’s. Everyone I take him to for testing says he’s almost this, almost that………not quite anything. I’m not saying that I’m not grateful that my son is high functioning, but he doesn’t qualify for any help that I don’t pay for. I have him in a private school and they “fudge the numbers” for me so I can continue to get additional help for him. I just don’t understand “testing systems”… son is one point above a diagnosis… he’s out of luck in the help department?

    The unfortunate thing is that everyone expects him to be “normal” but he’s not. My kids don’t always understand why he gets treated differently. Last night I had a talk with my 14 year old son, who was expressing his frustration about my almost autistic son. After a long talk, I said, “Do you know what he asked for for Christmas? He wrote a note to Santa which said, Dear Santa, could you please please bring me a jar of this magic stuff that makes me able to be smart?” My 14 year old cried, he finally really got it.

    My heart goes out to all the parents and families of autistic children, I haven’t been quite in their shoes but I know I’m close. And it didn’t take my almost autistic son to change my judgemental mind about children’s meltdowns in public…….it was my oldest son, having meltdowns in public as a toddler…………..I was converted after that. LOL

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Being “almost” is tough. I have a friend who has a twice-exceptional child who also has some autistic features. Yet, people often won’t recognize “almost”. I do. We were initially told by Early Steps screeners that they really didn’t think our son needed to be evaluated for autism, though they did provide services for his delays. Now, everyone is in agreement he is on the spectrum, but he is atypical enough that our official diagnosis won’t come until after 3. Thank goodness your son has you who sees his differentness and acts accordingly. Kudos to mother’s intuition! We are happy to count you as one of our own, not almost. 🙂

      • Munchy! says:

        Aha! More proof to my theory that ‘autism’ is just the newest way that moms (and less frequently, dads) “Munchausen by Proxy ” their kids. Yep – you just “KNOW” there is something wrong, so you therefore create it, and thus damage your child. Good job!

      • FlappinessIs says:

        Dear “Munchy” or Shall I Say “Laughing at You All?” I don’t know if you are aware of this, but there are simple ways of determining authorship in both writing and the internet. What concerns me for you, Munchy, is that you are actually going to the trouble to create alternate identities and email addresses for the sole purpose of insulting a group of special-needs parents in a personal blog. This will not help you to derive the self-confidence and influence you so clearly are seeking. I suggest that you seek out friendships and interests that will allow you to find personal fulfillment in legitimate and longer lasting ways. Best wishes to you, Munchy, and have a Happy New Year.

    • momz says:

      This makes me cry, too. My 15 y.o. daughter has Asp. and mood disorders, since before she can remember, age 2-3. She recently has expressed being “broken,” having her happiness “broken,” and desperately wanting her meltdowns to stop, even right after having one. She also swings her mood back quickly, leaving the rest of the fam. to recover from the volcano eruption while she is giddy.

      My 13 y.o. son is likely an “almost” child as well, but emotionally ahead of her in many ways. He is very quick to restore with her after her episodes. 17 y.o. NT son just hates her but is working on acceptance and understanding!

      Thank you Flappiness for your blog and for this amazing post, which I too have lived out for many years! My heart is blessed this day by your sharing!

  58. Misty says:

    Dearest Flappiness:
    A friend of mine posted your blog on her FB and I came across it- and I’m SO glad I did! My son has an ASD and several other disorders – your words definetly hit home. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    I can’t wait to read your other posts! God Bless!!

  59. Elissa says:

    I to don’t look at the onlookers faces during a meltdown- instead in my calmest most gentlest voice- I soothe my 13 year old son- I stroke his hair- I hug him I tell him it’s going to be alright- so what are all the nosies actually witnessing now?? A wonderful mother calming her child- I swear to g-d I will never give the public the satisfaction of seeing me lose it! And in all situations people continue with there business- no snide remarks passed- I don’t know what i’de say or do to someone who dared say something nasty to us during a meltdown-

  60. thought4food says:

    Being someone who, at 54, gets so overwhelmed in stores that I cannot function, I have to say that I get your child’s outburst. I wish I could do that same thing! Having said that, let me say this: Everytime I see/hear a child having a meltdown in a store it makes me smile. My youngest(at that time) grandson died at 2 years old. I would give anything to hear him pitch a fit in the store and cheese off any number of pinch mouthed women. I smile because THAT child is here and interacting with the world. And whether they know it or not, they are eternally blessed by every scream, every tantrum, every meltdown. There will always be ignorance in the world, but I make a point of making comments within the hearing of those who choose to react negatively, that, while being sugary sweet as only southern women can, make them cringe in shame. I think you can’t change the world if you don’t try and I want to try.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Yes, we southern women do sugary sweet correction like nobody’s business, don’t we? 😉 You just made a lot of stressed out mamas smile. God bless you.

    • Katrena Lee says:

      and is every sugary sweet dripping with venom comment followed up with “bless your heart”??? You sound like some of the southern women I grew up around!! I miss them with every thread of my innermost being. A couple of them are still nearby but I had to leave the south and move to Utah to be able to have the assistance of my parents for my special needs kiddo and leave my southern roots behind. 😦 sigh

  61. Excellent! So many of us have been here…

  62. This is absolutely brilliant!!!!! So very true and so very sad.

  63. Toye says:

    Beautiful! I am changed!

  64. d says:

    What she said… Some times a smile, and inward pointing finger, and a facepalm can really make some poor harried mom’s day. Those kids misbehaving in the store/resturant/wherever? Yeah, those are mine.

  65. […] the posts on blogs and FB continued about “the shopping experience” until we all landed here, on a post aptly titled “Dear Shopper Staring at My Child Having a Meltdown”.  It […]

  66. “The manner in which you judge is the manner in which you shall be judged”. That’s probably why some people are such tightwads when it comes to mercy. It says a lot about them, and what they are missing in their lives, and nothing about you and your child.

    No one is perfect. Those who think they are, are insufferable to the rest of us,eh?

    Nice post!

  67. chasmyn says:

    This is a wonderful post – it had me weeping. And the comments are mostly very thoughtful and insightful as well. I love your response to the trolls – I am glad I read all of it. Thank you.

    BTW, this is so timely for me – my son has sensory issues, and reading this and the comments has offered me a lot of insight into what he is going through and ways to support him that aren’t shaming. I really so much appreciate this post and all of the comments.

  68. Oh my gosh this is everything I have ever wanted to say and more about circumstances like this. I also have a boy who has alarm system moments. I also have a husband in the military and have to venture from place to place with kids in cart or at my side as well as if I am a single mother. It is a hard world to be critcized for a job we hold so dear. My son threw a tratrum over a box of cereal at a grocery store and I left him in that isle proceeded to the next isle where I could still hear him screaming and had a lady stare me down and give me a dirty look then look over into the isle with my son and point. I said “oh I know he is there trust me, I can hear him obviously. I refuse to cowar to these fits and let him think it is okay. He will calm down when he realized he can’t see me anymore.” Sure enough my son yells for me and stops crying trying to find where I went. We checked out and the lady conviently ended up behind me in the check out. I seen her looking over my cart as if she was looking for the cereal. I said ” no he didn’t get what he wanted and smiled.” I have even had workers in stores bring me balloons for my son before to calm him down.

    so your not alone, there are many more of us out there. Thanks for blogging this. 🙂

  69. kristy s says:

    How timely it was that I came to read your blog today. I had this exact experience happen to me when I was out at a shopping mall with my 2.5 year old this week. She is not Autistic, but she is at the age where she seems to be continually on sensory overload from her fear, anger and frustrations as well. It was 3 days ago, and I am still raging with anger inside me for how we were treated by a complete stranger.

    My poor daughter was on sensory overload in the middle of a food court of a mall. She was in full blown tantrum mode and all I could do was to keep her safe until she came down from it when a “well meaning” stranger came up to me to inform me that my daughter looked in terrible distress and I should be doing more to help her. I politely thanked her for her concern and told her we had it under control. She then came back a 2nd time urging me to “do something” about her behaviour. She then went to mall staff asking them to call security on me because I could only assume she felt I was harming my child by letting her scream that way for so long (as if I could do anything to stop it at that point it!!!) Once she is in full blown tantrum/overload mode it’s all I can do to keep her from hurting herself or others).

    Thankfully, the wonderfully understanding mall staff person told her to take a flying leap and that she would not be having us removed because my daughter was having a tantrum. She told her to go sit somewhere else if it was bothering her so much! Then, this “well meaning” individual had the audacity to approach me a 3rd time, but this time she spoke and looked at me with disgust and contempt. Speaking loud enough for everyone around us to hear (including my 6 year old who was with me), she chews me out for being a horrible mother for “letting” my daughter cry like that for that long and not doing anything to stop her “behaviour”. She tells me I should be ashamed of myself and its criminal and I may end up breaking her!!!

    I have never felt so angry and hurt at the same time before. If my other daughter hadn’t been their with me, I might of leaped over the table to shake some sense into her…but what was even worse was that I found myself feeling the need to apologize and explain myself to this complete stranger when deep down I knew I hadn’t been a bad parent…but to suddenly be confronted with the accusation that I was being a bad parent to my child and possibly harming her for life…well, crueler words have never been spoken:(.

  70. jadeluv28 says:

    I cried when I read this. My daughter isn’t autistic but she was born with Turners Syndrome and has Erb’s Palsy. She is an angel but sometimes she can’t control herself and she experiences sensory overload and I can relate to this feeling. People are staring, they are talking, and all you really want is someone to walk over to you and tell you it’s all gonna be okay. But they just stare, and talk, and point and it does nothing but make you angry. Angry because they are so ignorant to think that you aren’t CONTROLLING your child when they don’t know the first thing about your child. I commend you for being able to find comfort in writing and sharing how you feel with others you are a supermom in my eyes. 🙂

  71. I don’t have any children and not planning on having any either. But next time I see such a scene, I will surely stop and ask if I can be of any help. This article helped me understand autism a bit more. Thanks 🙂

  72. please says:

    Ugh, please step off your soapbox and remove yourself from the store or leave your kid at home. Society shouldn’t have to suffer because so many people selfishly procreate and overpopulate this planet. Children are like cigarettes: both should be kept in your own home if they’re bothersome to others.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Dear Please,
      If you are in search of a forum in which to practice flaming, I suggest that you leave your flamebait elsewhere. You will, no doubt, derive greater satisfaction if you do. Why? Because the special-needs parenting community is made of people of people who are far better at handling heartbreak, adversity, hostile opinions, red tape, and ignorance than just about any forum community you could possibly come across. The vast majority of my readers are not so easily manipulated by flaming attempts as the folks in other forums and message boards I suspect you thrive in. I know that I am not alone in my hope that you will not ever have to learn the hard way what it means to have a special needs child. Truly, best wishes to you.

    • christa9936 says:

      Dear ‘Please’…
      At some point you may have a child, or know someone who has a child, or perhaps care about someone with a child… I can only hope you don’t squash them as you would a cigarette when desiring to put it out. Or, throw it out the window, as so many smokers do.
      I stand on a soapbox because my beloved son cannot speak for himself, and at times I cannot leave him at home because the law does not allow for such, and at times I cannot remove myself (and him) from the store because there are others that depend on what that store offers.
      Society, overall, is not suffering and of this I am certain, but if you are please feel free to remove yourself (from the store, not the planet) and feel smug while doing so.
      As a final thought from a parent, who could have but didn’t write this, here is a short list of people who had or have autism: Albert Einstein, Daryl Hannah, Dan Aykroyd, Gary Numan… and the list goes on.

    • Tami Neilson says:

      @Please – I should not entertain your comment as you are obviously a troll but I just have to say that you are the type that should stay at home. The world is an open and free place for everyone. If you can’t deal with everyday situations, you are better off “away” from society….maybe on an island? There are some very nice deserted ones to which you could probably make up your own rules 🙂

  73. Deborah says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, a Facebook friend shared this on her page, and it made me think Aaaah there are others out there. I have an Autistic son, and I read and nodded…I’ve had 7 years of disapproving looks, I’ve had people tell me to “do something” about his behaviour or glare at me went he launches into a full on meltdown like it was my fault, or become angry and shout at me when he has become blinded by frustration and confusion and made bad choices…I’ve cringed so many times when someone says “who’s child is this?” or “is this your child”, and have many a time searched for the right “code” to switch off my wailing Autistic child, he just looks like any other child on the external, but inside he is so complicated and any day at any time his “wiring” just shorts out, and believe me understanding Autism is like learning another language…a very ancient language that not many people have mastered. I just want people to show some tolerance, because he doesn’t have a sign that say’s “I’m Autistic”, and he is not naughty, he’s just not understanding “the messages” So if you ever see me flustered or on the verge of tears don’t shout or glare at me, how about some kind words of encouragement, or even a hug 🙂

  74. Rachel Parks says:


  75. As a new parent I will admit I am still a bit judgemental when it comes to other parents and their children in public. That said and before you all jump down my throat…I judge the ones who go to a restaurant and their children run around like maniacs while they calmly continue to eat dinner without trying to contain their children. The ones who teach their children how to hate by what they say or do to another human being just because they are a different colour, race, or religion. Parents who make excuses for their childrens bad behaviour when all that needs to be done is a little parenting and involvement in your childs life (this is for the parents with no special children).

    I have watched a woman scream at an associate working in a change room in a clothing store for 5 minutes in front of her two children because the associate couldn’t move fast enough. I am not a silent person as my Mom taught me to stick up for what I believe, stand up for those who can’t, and ask questions don’t stare, point or laugh. So I stood up for the associate and called the woman on her rude behaviour in front of her children. That didn’t go over well but she stopped screaming at the lady who couldn’t talk back for fear of losing her job.

    I hope that my daughter grows up to be a thoughtful, considerate person who looks past the outside to see the beauty inside cause EVERYONE is beautiful one way or another.

  76. Thank you!! I am the mom to 4 kids with autism we have lived this article for over a decade. I posted your article to my FB page Special Needs Homeschooling. Many could identify and completely understand it. Your article inspired a post on my blog tonight, Thank you! I hope you come over to the page or blog and say hi!
    God bless
    Heather Laurie

  77. Thank you for this great post. I have 4 wonderful children with autism and have lived ‘the look’ for years. I posted your article on my FaceBook page Special Needs Homeschooling and many readers could identify with it. Over the course of the day I have talked to several friends dealing with autism and I want to thank you for inspiring a post on my blog Please feel free to stop over and say hello!
    God bless
    Heather Laurie

  78. 1awakening1 says:

    Well said, I wouldn’t of put it so tactfully. I swear, some days I feel like recording peoples reactions to my childs meltdowns, or noises of extreme happiness. More and more, I am able to block them out though..but on a bad day, when I am struggling..the on lookers don’t help the situation. 😉

  79. […] Dear Shopper Staring at My Child Having a Meltdown in the Grocery Store  by flappiness is… […]

  80. mrs geek says:

    I’m in my 40s now, and fifteen years ago was diagnosed with Asperger’s. The diagnosis and associated symptoms made a lot of things make sense. Things that I thought just made me weird were actually part of a whole other thing.

    Luckily for my mother, my alarm system has always been silent, but it is still here. The meltdown is entirely internal. Right now I’m still calming down after having to visit several different stores earlier today.

    But one thing I try to remember is that no matter what happens, everyone is doing the best they can. I try not to judge parents of “misbehaving” or “disobedient” children any more harshly than anyone else. For even if they are neurotypical, we don’t know exactly what kind of stress they might be under. Are they sick? Are they hurt? Have they just had some big family upheaval? Chances are we’ll never know, so I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

    I’m nowhere near perfect, however, so I still give “the look” to people who give “the look” to other mothers.

    (And my 2 year old son isn’t perfectly neurotypical, but so far doesn’t seem to be “bad” enough to be diagnosed to be on the spectrum, but whether he stays this way, ends up “normal” or on the spectrum, I love the hell out of him.)

  81. Dee Wheat says:

    This is my sig line, used everywhere that I post that allows one:

    The biggest obstacle that people with disabilities face is people without disabilities.

    I believe that deep in my heart, and always will. Anyone who cannot distinguish between a child who is simply being ill-mannered and a child who is in sensory overload and, quite possibly, a panic attack caused by that overload doesn’t need to be out in public themselves.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      I have to say that I am curious as to why this is so difficult as well. A real meltdown is an upsetting and sad thing. Way different than what my typical 4 year old has been trying to get by with lately. Those are whiny tantrums and quite obviously so! And, before anyone fusses at me, I don’t let her get away with it. She just stubborn. Fortunately, not as stubborn as Mama. 🙂

      Yes, Dee, a panic attack is entirely different thing altogether.

      Thanks for sharing.

      • Dee Wheat says:

        Actually, I probably should have said an anxiety attack rather than a panic attack.Think … normal people experience anxiety when there is a lack of sensory input…..that’s why that used car salesman is soooo good. He says what he says, and he shuts up, because he knows that he who speaks first loses the money. And how many times have you seen someone cover their ears, cringe, and yell, “SHUT UP!!!!!” at people who are causing huge amounts of noise because they are sensory overloaded and it makes them anxious. People with autism at least don’t have the problem of discomfort due to a lack of sensory input LOL.

      • Katrena Lee says:

        actually Dee I agree with everything you said completely EXCEPT the lack of sensory input thing….I am blessed with a sensory SEEKER unfortunately…he licks…kicks..slams into..stomps…bangs…and pretty much seeks out every form of sensory input he can find all day every day….it drives me INSANE. lol. Sometimes I feel like I’m on sensory overload. Part of his OT experience is for him to get vestibular input via a tire swing and as much spinning as he can stand which is more than the OT can provide. He NEVER experiences dizziness no matter how long she spins him but due to his CP he can’t spin himself like typical kids with Autism can because he is too unstable so we don’t watch him spin and twirl at home like some parents do.

    • penny says:

      Wow what a harsh judgemental statement. No,the vast majority of people without disabilities is not your childs biggest obtascule..only some people. The rest of us are insulted by that statement. So someone who doesn’t have that ABILITY should stay home….glad to know some disabilities are to be given more mercy than others..nice.

      • FlappinessIs says:

        I don’t believe that Dee intended to imply that ALL human beings without disabilities are the only cause of strife in an disabled person’s life. After all, I assume that Dee herself is a non-disabled person. I think that we could drive ourselves crazy going around demanding that any person who speaks should qualify all of their statements with “all”, “some”, or “none”.

      • Dee Wheat says:

        Actually I am disabled, although my disability happened in middle age, and no, of course I didn’t mean every person in the world. Having experienced both worlds,. both as a disabled person AND as a medical professional, though, I think my statement is valid. My biggest pet peeve is someone who tells me, “I understand the problem”, as they loom over me in my wheelchair. Well, with all due respect, no,sorry, unless you’ve had your hiney glued to a wheelchair seat, you DON’T understand the problem. You don’t, for instance, have the experience of not being able to get into a restroom to even wash your hands before eating, you don’t have the experience of complete strangers patting you like a puppy while talking to your companion as though you are incapable of understanding small words, much less an adult conversation, you don’t have the experience of being yelled at, stared at, and being the subject of undisguised scorn or worse, undisguised pity.

        If you don’t have a child with a disability or enough contact with children with disabilities and their parents to see the pain in their eyes when someone makes an ugly remark, no, you don’t understand.

        And yes, the biggest obstacle people with disabilities face is the people without disabilities who THINK they understand. And please don’t think I’m angry. I’m not. I’m simply trying to explain something that is, for all intents and purposes, unexplainable to anyone who does not live in the world of the disabled and there really is no “sweetie-honey-baby”.nice way to do that.

      • FlappinessIs says:

        Well said, Dee. Thanks for clarifying. 🙂

      • Tami Neilson says:

        @Penny – I am a mother of a child on the spectrum and know all to well how many feel. There IS anger I feel many times and not because my child has a disability. It’s because of the rude behavior I get to experience on a daily basis. I should not have to explain the situation to anyone staring. It’s not their business…I am an advocate and quite often do but I feel a person should have to. That’s close to saying that they should have to wear a sign stating they have autism. I was brought up that it’s rude to stare. Plain and simple…looking and glancing? Perfectly normal but staring with a rude look or making blatant rude remarks is not right. There are times to which I may say something and explain..especially if someone seems to ask about it nicely. I don’t think anyone is saying certain disabilities get mercy over others…it’s about common courtesy and treating others as to how you would want to be treated regardless of the situation. I love this blog – it’s a great outlet to express feelings that many of us do…it truly says it all and as I could never know another person’s plight or issues in life…they can’t possibly know mine either. The bottom line is that judgement concerning whining kids is ugly. Even well disciplined nerotypical kids have their moments – why give a parent a hard time without knowing the situation? I find that practicing kindness and understanding go a long way. Having a child with special needs has changed me for the better and how I perceive things in the world in more ways I could ever explain.

  82. laura says:

    big thank you from a mama of a boy with autism

  83. penny says:

    Not all mothers with special needs children are without fault and not all people who give the look are as horrrible as you present them. There are many parents today who do not discipline their children. Sometimes it is very difficult to know what the situation is. Perhaps you could give the same mercy to those who cannot descern the difference as you wish to receive. I can tell the difference and my heart hurts for you. I recently went to lunch with a friend. We sat in a booth. Soon after receiving our food, a mother, a special needs child and grandmother sat in booth adjoining ours. The child soon began the ear splitting screaming. The mother says Iknew she would have a meltdown. The child screamed for the next 20minutes.We had to leave.Consideratiion needs be given all around.

    hear each speak or enjoy our lunch. After 20minutes we chose to leave. Consideration needs be given on both sides. And yes Iris think of that mom the rest of the day.

    • penny says:

      Sorry the comment was disjointed.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Penny, I did give her the same mercy. I didn’t say a word to her or give her the same unpleasant looks she was giving me. I would have appreciated that same mercy from her.

      It IS hard to discern the difference. For this reason, I would especially encourage people not to judge others. I was not complaining about someone looking. It is natural to glance at something making a ruckus. It is quite a different thing to stare – pointedly – and shake your head, frown, or make obvious comments to others. That is not natural. It’s unkind.

      I have never stood idly by and allowed him to shriek, if I could help it. If for no other reason than the shrieking is upsetting to me as well. Nor have I allowed either of my children to continue screaming in a restaurant. I do feel badly for other patrons and do my best to allow them to eat in peace. But a grocery store is not a fine dining experience, and I do not believe that any mother of any grumpy children should be required to go without groceries. This is similar to recent internet arguments that small children should not be allowed on planes.

      And it is true that not all special needs parents are without fault. However, I was raised that poor behavior on the part of someone else does not excuse it in me. That is precisely why I wrote my reply in the form of a letter on a blog — rather than address someone I am angry with in a hostile fashion. It serves no purpose other than to increase blood pressure and exacerbate the situation.

      • penny says:

        Flappinessls, my suggestion would be to go back and read your letter. You come across to some as very, very angry, sarcastic and judgemental. You can so no, but you do. Again, I will say, some give the bad look because they think the child is just misbehaving. They cannot discern the difference. You want every person to give you mercy regardless. If the person is standing close enough to you, for you to notice, them why not just say, My child is autistic. But I know you’ll probably say, Well I shouldn’t have to tell them anything about my child. Well maybe not..but to me that is giving others mercy too, other than just wanting it on you side. You are not the only one having a bad time, everyone has something..and yes THEY go home to that something also…that YOU don’t think about the rest of the day. Again, my heart hurts for you. I am a nice person, I would not be one with the ugly look. You just seem so angry at your situation.

      • FlappinessIs says:

        Penny, the entire purpose of that letter was to express feelings that I have NOT taken out on people who have behaved this way and to draw the attention of people who may have behaved this way before, in the hopes that they will rethink the scenes they see in the future. These words were never spoken to any live individual.

        I do not deny that the letter starts off angry. But a parent’s anger in that kind of situation is complex, not merely directed at a single person. I believe that if you will reread it, you will note that the speaker (me) begins to think it through and acknowledge that she, too, has been guilty of that kind of thinking, goes on to try to explain the situation that the shopper clearly didn’t understand, and implores that person to reevaluate how they might deal with a similar situation in the future. For, what I was attempting to get across, is that our (the parents) emotions are as complex as the situation itself and the shopper as an individual (hence the mask reference).

        I think it is safe to say that we are going to have to respectfully agree to disagree on this one. I don’t doubt for a minute that you are a nice person. I think we are simply coming from different places — and that’s okay. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, even when they are not the same as mine. Best wishes to you. 🙂

      • Katrena Lee says:

        Penny…I don’t try to hide my son’s diagnosis/label from him but I don’t feel that it is my job to offer it up as an explanation for his crisis moments in every environment to every person that has a problem with it. You don’t go around telling every person you see..I have cancer…I have diabetes…i have epilepsy…I have congestive heart failure…I have schizophrenia…and on and on. Those are all private diagnosis that you can opt to disclose or not and even if the symptoms are sometimes visible you still don’t HAVE to disclose the cause. I can be completely bald from chemotherapy and I don’t have to TELL someone that I have cancer….or alopecia…or trichotilamania (can’t spell that one sorry). Why should I have to take a time out from helping my child cope with his crisis moment in the middle of that crisis just to explain to some curious or nosy onlooker that he has autism and this is supposed to excuse his apparent behavior problem to that person and most often it won’t anyway because that person will only view it as me making an excuse for bad behavior??? The “teachable moments” for the people that don’t know what autism is are generally NOT in the middle of an autism meltdown! Besides…I just don’t have time because those moments when my son is in the middle of that meltdown are also the times he is most likely to bolt on me and flee out into the middle of traffic the SECOND my attention is diverted away from him. God bless you for trying to understand and wanting to be able to discern that difference it’s just that not everybody is like you.

      • momz says:

        BTW, I believe it also is rude to give looks or chastise ANY parent having behavior problems with ANY child, special needs or not. I think the same courtesy applies, to encourage, offer help, or quit looking and say nothing at all.

    • Tami Neilson says:


      So I have to ask you this..Is it your place or any persons to be the judge and jury whether it’s a case of sensory overload or bad parenting? I’ve seen bad parenting and witnessed it myself. Not in the form of abuse as I would call child protective services but in the form of spoiling and giving in too much. But guess what? That’s not my business.They will reap what they sow when they have an out of control child that doesn’t listen to them. Some people are just uneducated on parenting & you can’t police every situation like that. It’s rude to stare regardless. Looking is normal…but staring is rude in case you somehow were unaware. It’s funny b/c when I stare back at anyone staring at me; it’s interesting to see how fast they stop as you can tell they know it’s rude. You keep saying to “have mercy”….no one is “not” having mercy by making a simple request to other adults to quit being rude. If a person walks up and actually asks about the situation, i am more than happy to nicely explain what is going on. There is not one parent on this PLANET without fault. Special needs parent or not. I’m just so sorry that someone’s special needs child ruined a moment in time for you…your lunch. That mother lives with it daily and maybe they wanted to “try” to acclimate the child to new surroundings. You don’t know if she’s a good or bad mother based on that and it’s not your place to judge quite frankly. At some point in time, parent’s need to bring the children out in new surroundings so they can get used to the over stimulation, etc. They have as much right to be there as you. I used feel physically ill when having to do this at first..the stares….the mean looks. But a part of his therapy was that he had to get used to new surroundings in order to learn to adjust. Most children on the spectrum have a hard time in new situations and with change but can learn to cope. And guess what? he did! That was because I was a GOOD parent and tried everything I could think of to help my son. I went without for many years because his therapy has always been #1. I know he can be a successful adult in life…it will just require a lot more from me as a parent to get him there and if i have to walk through nasty glares…so be it. These days I just stare back as coldly as they do and it’s funny how it stops. It’s my way of saying “guess case you don’t know what rude looks like, here it is back at you” – My son is high functioning and adjusts to most changes very well because of that..I’m a very strong and vocal advocate for kids on the spectrum as I’m very well educated on it. We got him outside daily, social groups, grocery stores, one on one therapies…as i said in another post, i most certainly did not bring him to movie theaters or places that required silence or mostly adult places. That is consideration. But there are times I’m sure some felt infringed upon….you can’t please everyone and my son won’t suffer because of another person’s ignorance.

    • aefountain says:

      I hear your point of view. Eighteen years later, I have met more disgusted, ignorant looks, than graciousness. So no, I won’t give individuals the same mercy. I live in Canada and many posters are from the U.S. Ignorance is a thing of the past. If you continue to excuse it, we accept poor behaviour. FYI, I don’t have a child who has meltdowns, just flapping away and grunt noises.

  84. Melanie says:

    This was wonderful…& needs to be dedicated to the woman who, three years ago, told me that ‘maybe you should break his other arm!’ when my son with a broken elbow had a meltdown at the mall.

  85. This is AWESOME! I love the fact that you didn’t lash out and get angry. I love that you so eloquently explained and educated. I just LOVE that you said what all of us have been trying to say for so long. Thank you.

  86. Beautifully written, so frank, compassionate and informed… Thank you for sharing your story. I stumbled upon this post by a distant friend who shared it on Facebook. Parenting is the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. Thank you for being a present, committed parent; the world needs more of you and me and other committed parents! Happy New Year!

  87. aefountain says:

    I was told my undiagnosed son would probably never walk. So I took his hands and attached them to my hips and we “cha-cha’d” all over the house. Day in and day out, night in and night out, every where we went in that house, we ‘cha-cha’d’ to get there.

    One day standing in a line up, my son touched the young woman’s hips, that was standing infront of him. She turned, looked down at my young son, brushed off her hips and said “Ewwww!”.

    I turned to Troy and said “some girls don’t like boy cooties, Troy”.

    With that, she tutted and left the line.

    Moral of the story, we got to the cash register faster!

  88. Jennifer says:

    Excellent! Thank you for your intelligent and self controlled “letter to the public”. You make your points clearly and effectively.
    I think much of what you are saying applies to all differently abled children, not just autistic kids. My daughter looks perfectly normal to the passing stranger, yet at 3 1/2 she cannot talk or walk due to a myriad delays from her first 16 months of life in an orphanage and a recent discovery of a rare, severe epilepsy.
    My daughter rarely has meltdowns so I don’t often get that look. Instead when people try to make polite conversation or try to engage my daughter in conversation I get the “oh this poor woman doesn’t know there is something seriously wrong with her kid look”. With the very blatant implication that I must be a complete moron to let my child exist in such a state.
    I am so thankful for my daughter’s influence on my life because I know I view and respond to world with a much more compassionate eye now than I did before.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Yes, they absolutely do apply to others. So many special needs issues do overlap. I enjoy hearing from readers like you who educate me on some of those other special needs conditions. I, too, have gotten this look from people who don’t find his autism obvious. They can tell he’s behind and just kind of keep looking at him while continuing to talk to me. A friend of mine once confessed to me that she was a little grateful when her son got his hearing aid and leg braces because it was then physically obvious he was different and people left her alone. I get that. 🙂

  89. Elisa's Spot says:

    OH, and a creative solution to the safe space thing that can work for our kiddos, and many other children as well…

    In my town, after I began a support group, many many people came forward, the children at the time were all in a certain age group, clumped together. Stores and owners and staff knew me and my family. It was simpler to have supportive staff and so on. We suggested a spot in several stores called “Meltdown Mountain”. It worked very very well. It respected everyone. We had brochures for the asd awareness group posted, as well as simple tantrum methods and about sensory overload–also giving adult examples of too tight too bright and so on. It made it normal and average for anyone to use the spot, it also explained to the starers, perhaps not in the way they’d wish but that is what makes us all unique, the ability to have differing opinions.

  90. When my son (Asperger’s/HFA, with some sensory integration dysfunction thrown in) was young, I had some business cards made up to hand to people who gave me that look. It very politely thanked them for their concern about my child, informed them that my son was autistic, and directed them to websites on the internet so they could educate themselves. I only had to give them out once – thank goodness I got them from a website that made them for free. 🙂

    My son also had the physical aggressiveness to his meltdowns when he hit puberty. He had a teacher that made the problem worse, and refused to believe that she had any responsibility in what happened. He was devestated, and kept trying to hit his head on anything that had a sharp edge, trying to kill himself, out of guilt. The school had to hold him to the ground to protect him. When he was allowed back at school (was suspended for the rest of the week), his teacher refused to let him back in her classroom. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do that, legally. Once she found that out, she filed assault charges against him (he knocked something over that ended up falling into her – a music stand). Fortunately, the police took the report, but chose not to pursue it (although the report is still on record until he requests to have it removed at the age of 18).

    It amazes me how much ignorance is out there, and how many people feel like we don’t work hard to teach our kids how to control themselves, when it is frequently others that set them off, and refuse to see it. Yes, what sets off our children isn’t ‘normal’ for most kids, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t real to them, or bothers them that much more. The incident with the teacher occurred 3 years ago, and we still have to deal with fallout over it, even though he has now moved on to another school (the teacher’s husband is one of his teachers at the new school).

    Honestly, I think the negative comments here are nothing but the ramblings of small minded, ignorant people. By choosing to remain uneducated, they stay biased against those different from themselves. They are the ones to be pitied.

    • MartyrdHavok says:

      Agathamystery, I so know what you’re going through there. ADHD/BiPolar is just as hard, just as mental, and yet sometimes (not everytime) we get told it’s “not as bad as ASD at least”. My son wants to be “straight edge” which simply states “No drug or drink shall cross this body at any time.” It’s an entire lifestyle not just a saying, but it means he wants to try and deal with his issues in a ‘non medical” forum. It’s NOT easy. No medicines to curb his swings, no medicines to tame his ‘mouth’, just discipline on his part, and ours. We had a teacher that was so belligerent at his school that we ended up pulling him OUT of the public schools and he’s now attending digital courses. Which, of course, everyone makes out as the “retard classes” around here. Which doesn’t help. It also doesn’t help when his own family (my sister and her husband mainly) thinks he’s just ‘unruly and undisciplined’ instead of what he is. And treats him as such. It’s heartbreaking really. He’s trying. He’s trying HIS way. And maybe I’m the bad mother for not ‘forcefeeding’ him into “society’s expectation” that he be “drugged up” to control him (school teacher’s words). Whatever says, I’m proud of him for sticking up for himself. He may not always do things “right”…but at least he tries.

    • jessymum says:

      Love the business card idea! 🙂

  91. Gayle says:

    You expect people NOT to look when a child is screaming? Should we walk by without paying any attention? It is utterly ridiculous to expect people not to respond or stare when a child is shrieking and screaming.

    My sister has an autistic son, so I know the experience. She coddles him way too much and he knows just how to manipulate her with his fits and actions. He is much better behaved with me, because I do not give in to his tantrums.

    To accept that behavior from someone who is autistic is to devaluate them. It is to fail to treat them with dignity and respect. The worst thing you can do for someone who is autistic or has other sensory issues, is to not require them to do everything they can do.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Gayle, there is a difference between looking when you hear a loud noise and openly staring in disapproval. One is a natural reaction – the other is rude. I suspect that your sister has a child on the milder end of the spectrum. If her child were severe, I am not so certain you would hold the same certainty of her poor parenting that you do. I believe that most of us make enormous effort to teach our children how to behave in public, but autism and sensory integration disorder are both real physical conditions not brought about by coddling. I cannot imagine any autistic person making the choice to wear diapers into adulthood, not talk, or lose out on friendships and romantic relationships. I believe the cost of such “manipulation” far exceeds the benefits.

      I do believe that you are correct in your assertion that we should expect more from our children. But greater expectations must accompany greater patience and acceptance for the challenges they must overcome in meeting those expectations.

      • Elisa's Spot says:

        I would like to interject, that from my own experiences with my own differently ASD affected children, myself, and work with other children on the spectrum, there is a reason that ABA therapy works. It is a sort of programming. I have my own views on ABA, which are irrelevant here. The point is, that our children, sometimes more than others link cues to things and to actions…behavior modifications. I know that if I give in to my child on certain things, I have begun to attach a negative reinforcement to what began as a neurological glitch. All creatures have ways to get what they want, and avoid what they do not want. Until I was secure in myself, in my knowing and in my not knowing, I could not get past the wanting others on the outside to understand. Sometimes, I had to admit, that I wanted to take the easier softer way because I was on my own overload and giving in to my child, while telling myself that it was because I should to keep him calm, especially in public, was lazy of me. I had to admit that I was human. I had to, on a good day, look at him from other people’s eyes, watch what he did and did not do with others (generalization) and learn to discern between a cannot and a will not. I can empathize with what the various disgruntled labeled persons and well meaning stern and rod raised grandparents think, do , and express. I am ripped in two almost daily trying to make the right choice. If I allow this ripping apart to remain unexpressed, I cannot make good knowing and informed choices about myself and my kiddos. I can only react, and for me that is not a life at all.

      • FlappinessIs says:

        That’s absolutely true that other people’s perspectives help. Especially if they know your child. Watching him interact with others clues me in on the things that he will do for others. His therapists can get him to do things I cannot – which is a big clue to me that he is more aware than I often take him to be. The difference is that those therapists, family friends, etc. KNOW HIM – strangers can never know the strengths and limitations of a child. Therefore, they should not judge. My son’s therapists, however, are free to fuss at me all they want. And they have on occasion! lol 🙂

    • Gayle, have you ever thought that the reason your nephew behaves better with you is because he knows that you can’t handle his issues? My son was always trying hard to be on his best behavior when he was with someone else. It’s usually when he makes it home that he can relax enough to finally react, because he knows he’ll be safer.

      I’m sure your opinions on how your sister raises her son would change if you lived with them. As someone who has a family member who thinks their parenting skills are off, I can tell you how hurtful it is to know that our own family looks down on us. My 19 yr old niece so not kindly informed me that the reason why no one wanted to be around my son (which was news to me – most likely only her) was because we didn’t teach him how to properly be social. She informed me that it was because we weren’t good parents. She also said this in front of my son, who had done nothing to her. She has always been an angry young woman, and quite hateful, growing up. I told her that hse was more than welcome to come with me to the many meetings, doctors visits, therapy appointments, IEP meetings, behavior support meetings, etc., to see, exactly, how I parent my child. As she, herself, is now a 19 yr old unwed mother, I told her that I wished that her child was healthy, and that she never had to deal with the same hardships.

      After that, I chose to seperate myself, and my son, from her hateful nature. I now refuse to set foot in the house she is living in (she moved back in with her dad after getting evicted from her apartment and getting fired from her last 2 jobs).

      Instead of passing judgement on your sister’s parenting skills, why don’t you educate yourself on autism. There are many wonderful books that can help you along in the education that you sorely need.

      • Gayle says:

        Actually, I am caregiver three days a week to her son. He is mid spectrum, low verbal skills, and a self stimulator. I stick to my original statement – that too many parents ‘coddle’ these kids (all covered under the umbrella of ‘autism’), and the children use that to manipulate their parents. So many of us on the outside see this – take a step back some time and look for yourself. Her son blossoms with me.

  92. Lyndsy says:

    I like to think I have pretty mellow girls, not from any great parenting I’ve done, but because they are just better people than I am, and I should also note that neither are autistic. Other than being emotional dramatic girls they are healthy, in which I am eternally grateful… Crazy as it sounds, my kids STILL have melt downs and tantrums, and I’m quite convinced that 6 is worse than 3. Anyone who feels as tho they can cast judgment, just got a better hand dealt as far as fantastic perfect children. I love the way you said that you yourself has judged because none of us are perfect. Children are children with any disease and at any age and raised in anyway. All in all, they are still more perfect than any adult.

  93. Carolyn says:

    And unfortunately, Jenna just demonstrated why so many people out there just stare at our children during their tantrums and meltdowns. On the one hand, we have comments that strangers should show compassion by giving encouraging words and support when they see a parent trying to handle a meltdown. On the other hand, Jenna is saying that these encouraging words don’t make her feel any better. Should we all go around wearing signs on our backs that tell others how to “handle” our situations. I’ve learned that these responses are THEIR problem, not MINE. I know that I am doing what is best for my child and giving him what he needs. And while I would prefer to not be the object of stares in public, I realize that there are always going to be people out there who don’t know how to handle my child and our situation. I can’t take offense and get upset at every ignorant busybody out there or I would never leave the house.

  94. Jessica says:

    This is what every parent wants to say!

  95. Zoila says:

    You know… I think I gave up caring about the staring and the comments a long time ago. But I do face myself with the giggles when I am NOT in public with my two ASD boys. I can’t but think, “Thank God it’s not me this time.” When I can, I try to tell parent’s it’s No big deal, my kids do the same if not worse. Some parents thank me.. others give me look of shock.

    I think one of our problems today, is that we don’t talk to each other. Being friendly with strangers is almost a lost art. Wee are too busy facebooking, tweeting, listening to music, or whatever else during our routine activities. And while it maybe because some of us adults are truly autistic.. but mostly because we allow ourselves to be distracted.

  96. jessymum says:

    I love those t-shirts that say things like “I’m autistic, what’s your excuse?” … although also reminded of a scene in some silly teeny-bopper movie (Bratz maybe?) where a girl bumps into a boy – and she says “Are you blind?” and he says “No, but I’m deaf” and she says “You don’t look deaf” to which he replies “YOU DON’T LOOK IGNORANT, but you can’t judge a book” 🙂 … embrace diversity!, fight ignorance!

  97. […] I encourage people to ask questions and do my best to educate as much as I can. I used to be one of those people – the ones who stared and wished you would “Control your child…” – […]

  98. Jenna says:

    The other day we were at Sam’s. My son had a major melt down. He was trying to jump out of the cart… kicking screaming, hitting me. An awful time… there were a few people that tried to give encouraging words, but in all honesty it doesn’t make me feel any better.
    It makes me feel like, “you have no idea, he isn’t just a normal kid, these meltdowns can be never ending, and it doesn’t really get easier”. It just seems so crappy to me that when children have something wrong with them that might take there life so many of those lesser know illnesses causes your kids to go crazy. It just seems so unfair that if you might have to loose your child for the time you have left might be spent fighting with them

  99. Anya says:

    Does anyone really have control of anyone else? Heavens, they’re people, not androids. How many of us haven’t felt like throwing a huge fit at the grocery store? If I’m staring, it’s because I wish I could cut loose like that.

  100. Justin says:

    Huh.. maybe if she spent the same amount of time complaining that other people are upset with her ill-behaved child as she does typing letters to the editor, she could have *********** [offensive language edited by] that aren’t a public nuisance.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Justin, you appear to be confused. I did not spend any time typing a letter to any editor. This is a blog. As for the rest of your commentary, I again implore my readers to remember that Justin clearly is desiring of your attention. The greatest statement that you can make to someone resorting to crude insults (such as I had to edit), is to deny him what he wants – your response.

      Justin, I wish you all the best — specifically that you do not ever have to learn personally about what it means to have a special-needs child. You appear to have enough needs of your own. 🙂

  101. Amanda says:

    The stares are definitely one thing. It’s the comments that sting. Especially when they come from older people who do not necessarily believe in autism. I know I shouldn’t let them rent space in my head, but sometimes letting go is very difficult.

  102. autumn says:

    I can deal with the stares, bu it’s the comments made by other people I can’t deal with. I’ve even had strangers come up to my child and get in his face. Like their 20 seconds of consulting with him will work….I’ve had 9
    years and I don’t have all the answers. It’s arrogant and ignorant that they think they do!

  103. Stacia L says:

    This was written absolutely wonderfully! I use the be that person that would stare at the screaming kids..thinking to my self..get your kid together. I now have a child that is Autistic and I wonder if any of those parents..I silently judged were living the life that I am right now. How badly I want to go back and take those “stares” I wish I would have given them that “hang in there”. This was written exactly how I wish I could express my thoughts about this. My son has had many melt downs in the grocery I realize that it is because it is over stimulation..too much going on..sensory overload. This is my first time to your site and I am already hooked..its great to find support when you feel totally alone in your struggles with Autism..

  104. As a Pediatric OT and the mother of a child with SPD, I really appreciate your sentiments in this article. As a mom, I’ve been in this situation. As an OT, I’m never really sure how to respond to another mom going through this in public. Some moms/parents can get very defensive, even when my purest intentions are to be helpful. Blessings to you and your family!

  105. Linking to this on my blog and using it to teach feeling awareness and stress overload. As I note in the post, you are an Emotional Fitness Superstar. Not only are your handling your child with grace, you are trying to make the world better for all.

  106. Mendaxxx says:

    I’m a Muslim and your post exuded compassion, wisdom and tolerance; what my religion preaches. I invite you to it 🙂 If you ever want to ask me anything about it, please do.

  107. Mendaxxx says:

    This brought tears to my eyes; a person like me who is often misanthropic. It inspired me to try and overlook rude behaviour. Chastising meanies in your head only gives YOU a headache. Thank you for the beautiful post. I wish you were Muslim.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      I believe that’s the first time anyone has ever told me that! But I come from a small Bible-belt town in the southeast, so I guess I haven’t had many opportunities. lol Being stared at for any reason (including religious ones) is unacceptable. But, you are right. It gets me more upset than the individual doing it, so it serves no purpose. I wish only that I could take that lesson to heart more. Thank you for stopping by my blog and sharing your thoughts. Hope to see you again. 🙂

  108. brenda says:

    Thank you for this reminder that not every tantrum is made of selfishness. I hope I can learn to not be that horrible person that automatically assumes it is bad parenting and just let the loudness go and be patient like I should. What a fabulous mommy you are!

  109. Stace says:

    My child is not autistic, but has some meltdown issues due to his multiple birth anomolies. I cried as I read this post as I too have been on both sides of that scream. Thank you for so beautifully exlpressing what I feel.

  110. ScouterKat says:

    Just a thought based on Jane’s comment that all parents should remove their children and not just stand there and do nothing. Sometimes, nothing is the absolute best response to both ASD and NT kids.
    I think of a time when my NT son was 4 and literally threw himself to the floor in a tantrum over not getting candy at the grocery store checkout lane. I let him lie there tantruming while I finished putting groceries on the belt and paying. In the meantime, a well-meaning young cashier offered my son a lollipop to stop. I politely refused for the same reason I continued my checkout process: my son was not going to be rewarded for inappropriate behavior. Besides, when a child is mid meltdown or tantrum, it is NOT a teachable moment. Once he calmed down, the teaching began and ended with his consequence. Now, had I left without the groceries, my son’s lesson would have been: “If i throw a tantrum, mom is embarrassed enough to leave the store WITHOUT what we came for.” In other words, I would have been teaching my son how to control me, not himself. Yes, people were “inconvenienced” and “disturbed”, but that was the ONLY time he ever did so.
    And believe me, an ASD kiddo can learn similar lessons about meltdowns. My entire purpose in parenting my ASD son is to help him learn how to cope with his anxieties in appropriate ways. We ASD parents don’t think those bad thoughts because we wish you harm; rather, we are hurt because you only offer judgment instead of understanding or assistance.

  111. Kelly says:

    This should be mandatory reading for the human race. So beautifully and well said. Kudos!

  112. Cindy says:

    After only working with a child with ASD for three months I’ve developed a huge respect for the parents of these children. KIndness and tolerance would go so far. I’ve seen “the look” from other parents in our school. Shame on them. I know I’ve given it before too, not understanding what it is that others may be going through. Shame on me. Very simply if you don’t have it in you to reach out and be kind at least refrain from being rude.

  113. Laughing at you all.... says:

    Good thing all of you have autism to blame now! Now you don’t actually have to be parents! Great job.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Ladies and Gentlemen, stand back. I got this. Comments like these make me wish I had not committed to honesty with regard to comments. While it would be nice to give Laughing at You All what-for, it will do nothing but upset some and raise our respective blood pressures. I think life is too short to respond to such deliberate malice. And, since I have no desire to have my blog blocked by various filters, I – like Aunt Em – cannot tell this individual what I’m really thinking. I once learned a valuable lesson from a special education teacher. She said that when a child is having a tantrum for the purpose of getting attention, the best thing to do is leave them alone and remove their audience. When I attempted to gently remove the child, she insisted that I not do that and instead instructed the rest of the campers to quietly walk outside and do something else. She was 100% correct. So, assuming that Laughing At You All is holding true to his/her name and likely has checked to receive follow up comments via email, I suggest that we deny him the pleasure of our indignation and fury. I’m now going to attempt to hold to my beliefs and pray that Laughing At You All doesn’t have to learn about autism the hard way.

    • Mom of four says:

      Why do you need to find someone to feel superior to? We know what our issues are, and are doing our best to find ways to deal with them. You don’t seem to have found a way to deal with yours yet, whatever it is. You see, our children suffer, and we are doing our best to help them find ways out of that suffering. I would not wish less for you. I feel very sad for you, because to have read through all this, and only have that to say must leave you feeling very empty. With all my heart, I hope you have the courage to look inside yourself, but please don’t try to do it alone– it also takes courage to look for a therapist who can help us work through that kind of fear. I hope you make it, because even though I do not know you, I want you to be able to live life in a meaningful way, too.

    • joanne eaton says:

      I think the ignorance of the person aptly called Laughing at you all really sums up
      what parents of ASD really face every day….
      But lets hope that he/she/it never has to face the same challenges that our children do
      As for blaming parents…yours sure did a great job with you didnt they? NOT.

      • Tami Neilson says:

        That’s what I was thinking…”Laughing at you all” sounds like they need our compassion & pity due to their lack of compassion. I can’t imagine how that person was raised as I would be ashamed if my child said anything like that. Years of bad parenting is seen through adults like “laughing at you all”

  114. copycatmom says:

    I love your blog. You words are what many of us struggle to say at times.

  115. sarah lou xx says:

    you made me cry xx i have a friend whos son has asburges and i know iv spelt that wrong but you understand and went out with a single dad whos son was autistic i would like to say i understand how hard it is for all of you but i dont so i wont !! i know he is in his own world there but im sure your love is the greatest gift he has and knows it , i love being a mummy and if i see a child having a paddy in the supermarket i just laugh turn to my own kids and say in a load and hearing voice omg how embarrassing it was for me when you did that !!! to which my kids reply i never did that lol xx just to let there mum know that as much as it is a grand pain in the arse ALL kids do it its called asserting your self thats life and most ppl who behave like that either aint got babies there selves or have simply forgotten how uterly rediculas being a small person can be xxxx

  116. great post and this had to be said. people often jump into conclusion and judge you as you are a bad parent. No one wants to look beyond the obvious.

  117. solodialogue says:

    Well said. It has gotten easier for my son with time but I still look for the code too. ❤

  118. Coreen says:

    What a great article. I am a single mom of 2 autistic sons and 2 neurotypical girls. Life has not been easy to cope with the boys disability. The stares become overwhelming for me at times. People are becoming more accustomed to kids with this disability, but, they cannot gage the discomfort and heartache us parents feel. I will not closet the kids and pretend they do not exist. We are all God’s children, why can’t we act like it?

    The boys are trying to cope in a world that does not make them feel loved and comfortable a lot of the time. They are just doing THEIR best…What’s our problem?

  119. Christy says:

    Just beautiful. I, too, am a mother like you. I have 2 special children. A 10 year old with Asperger’s and an 8 year old with Down Syndrome. The looks, comments, judgments and disgust I’ve received in public is uncountable. We believe that my 8 year old also has autism on top of his Down Syndrome, so he’s got a double whammy. He can be an unbelievable handful in public because when he goes off, it’s almost impossible to find that alarm switch, as he cannot yet be reasoned with. He will simply go off until he’s finished – which has been as long as 90 minutes in the past.
    The only blessing in that is his Down Syndrome. Because he looks different than other children, people give him a little more grace. They gave my 10 year old nothing.
    Anyway. Your post is beautiful, heartfelt and right on the money. Thank you for sharing it and I now have to follow your blog!

  120. Marshfellows says:

    This is the first blog of yours I’ve read and I’m glad I found it! I’m a mom in my twenties with a brother & sister on the spectrum and both under 7 years old. I’ve just moved back closer to home so my family can know my little boy. I want to be close to my brother and sister but I feel so clueless about Autism. Not just the facts and the medical aspect of it, but even the everyday things. My sister is high-functioning and my brother is non-verbal. So even between the 2 kids, they are on very different ends of the spectrum. I just want to be more involved with them but I don’t want to upset their ryhthm and routines. I’m hoping by becoming more aware of Austim, what it is and what it means for both children and adults, and reading blogs like yours, I can better my relationship with them. 🙂

  121. flowermom says:

    Been there, done that. People can be so cruel and judgemental.

  122. Lisa D. says:

    Thank you for explaining this difficult situation with grace & gentleness. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  123. Linda says:

    Early on other people’s stares, gestures and rude comments used to really bug me. But then early on, everything bugged me. I was raw with emotion over how to raise my Autistic child. I was as ignorant as the people in the mall who stare. And in time, that all faded. During these past 11 yrs I have become far more educated, grounded and have successfully cleared out a lot of mental clutter.

    I don’t expect others to change or behave in any way I find appropriate. I wasted a lot of past energy chasing that dream. Instead I really downloaded the fact that the change must come from ME. I have learned to work with my son’s challenges ( as he has learned to work with mine!) and when there is the odd meltdown in the mall I get so focused on him that I don’t bother to look at who is looking at us. I honestly don’t care. My primary goal is to diffuse the situation and calm my son. For me, that is where all my focus lies and for us, this tends to be the best way to handle things.

    I love what you stated here: There IS always provocation.

    I cannot agree more. So many have said , especially school staff, that he “just went off”. No he didn’t. Eyes and ears need to be wide open because there is ALWAYS provocation. Once you really accept and share that fact with the key players in your life, that there is always provocation, then you have POWER. Your detective skills kick-in and you can work to determine what “hidden” triggers we may have missed. Once you do that, there are proactive solutions to manage them in the future.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Awesome points. People forget that autism is all about details – details they notice and we don’t. I think of the autistic eye/ear for detail as being similar to drug dogs. Just because we can’t smell what they do, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Autistic people perceive much more — and it, too, is there. No wonder they get overwhelmed. We would too in their place.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  124. liontamar says:

    Well said!!!! I have a child who has VCFS with some autistic traits and for him he MUST seat in the same seat at my local cafe and when the seat is otherwise occupied my son goes and sits there anyway!!!!….oh joy 🙂

  125. Elaine Hall says:

    Thank you for your post. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of folks judging us autistic moms, they simply ask, “How can I help?”
    Elaine Hall
    Author: Now I See the Moon
    co-Author: Seven Keys to Unlock Autism: Making Miracles in the Classroom

  126. Sharon says:

    Lovely piece. You have a gift.

  127. tracy says:

    Well said! I am a mother of a 7 yr old autistic boy.
    I get looks in the stores when he goes off. Family doesn’t even understand. Alot of my family has started a fight at his birthday when he had meltdown saying to spank him, he is a spoiled brat. It is not that. He had in his mind that he was to get wii games on his birthday party because he is addicted to wii. He can’t help it. I also know how it is in the stores with meltdowns. He goes into total meltdown in JcPenny jewelry counter. He hates them, so we stay away. All I can say is that people need to show compassion for the child and the parents who take care of them.

  128. Laurie says:

    I just found your blog and I love it. While I don’t have any special needs kids a lot of my friends do. One of them has an older boy around 13 and was having melt downs in public and she’s not the kind to sit by while people stare but she couldn’t figure out how to handle people the right way. After talking with the therapist they decided it should be quick not directed at anyone but her son and it needed to be something that would maybe snap him out of it. They decided that all she should say is (incsert child’s name here) stop being autistic. It explained to everyone that This wasn’t a normal melt down and most people who don’t have SN kids will move on out of embarrassment and lack of understanding and it will snap him out of it most the time bc he doesn’t like people to know. While I know this won’t work for some I hope it will for others. That or get a friend like me who will confront people starring at you. Have a wonderful day.

    • Elisa's Spot says:

      This does and can work, however it is a punishment and is shaming for my son in particular in the end. He says that he can’t sometimes see when he is doing it. For him, he says, he is just telling me how it is, he doesn’t know that he swears, he doesn’t know that he is screaming, eye rolling, hand gesturing, body language of a teen delinquent. The cue you suggested devastates him and is demeaning and makes him burst into tears. He becomes ashamed and hugs me and apologizes. And then he shuts down and become stiff and stims more obviously trying not to be himself. It is a most horrid thing to see. I have tried to shift to another aba type cue to be discreet but if i miss that window of monitoring him, he will no longer notice it. Besides, I do not always want to be modulating FOR him. I have to be 4 brains at my house if I do that. The one two three rule works, if i sign along with it. Then he doesn’t question WHY I am using the rule and he is allowed to ask me later once we are home, which is normally a more teachable moment.

  129. Ms. Poventud says:

    Praise the lord the heavens heard my prayers. I found my voice in you… Thank you for articulating my life my world. Well said and I will post and hand deliver to where this message can best be heard for others to read. God Bless you and for your calm ways of expressions. : )

  130. Dear Sweet Mrs. Flappiness,

    So well written . . . your ability to put your thoughts and emotions into your blogs without offending others is phenomenal.

    Someone once told me that ‘the only opinion I will ever need to be concerned with is the one belonging to God’. That was a game-changer for me.

    Keep on keeping on.

    Still In One Peace,
    Mom to Trisomy 21 Overcomer Caleb

    • Katie says:

      I love that quote! I am going to be putting it on my wall! That is something so important that we all need to remember. My children are not autistic, however my nephews are & I know the difficulties and joys parents of these amazing children go through! Even not having a child on the spectrum I do have a 2.5 year old who is very stubborn & we once had a complete meltdown in a store. She did not have an excuse & was just being a terrible 2 year old. I was humiliated but didn’t have the luxury of leaving without the things I badly needed. It’s so hard to remember that others opinions really don’t matter. Thank you for sharing that!

  131. Matthew Craven says:

    Autism is my 7 year old’s super power. His meltdowns and tantrums are rooted in his Autistic, OCD type behavior. He is a perfectionist at things he attempts. He does not do things the lazy, easy way when it doesn’t fit his destined design. He does things that us, NORMAL people couldn’t imagine or conceive. I hate that he was made autistic by whatever power deemed it so but I believe I could have never had quite a son like him without it. He gets better everyday at dealing with his quirks and when he figures himself out the world had better watch out. He will do exactly what he decides to do and with all the high tuned perfectionism he has developed. So you can have your boring, NORMAL children. I will take my son who makes me a better parent, everyday surprises me and makes me proud to be his dad.

  132. Jane says:

    I’m sorry, but just because your child is autistic doesn’t mean it’s okay that their tantrums disrupt and inconvenience others. I realize they can’t help it but just as a parent of a non-autistic child does, you shouldn’t be standing there doing nothing, you should remove him from the store/restaurant/mall, whatever until he calms down. If he’s overstimulated I can’t see why you wouldn’t do so anyway rather than stand there and think bad thoughts about the people around you.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Jane, I appreciate your concern. But there is a very big difference between a tantrum and a meltdown. One is deliberate and the other isn’t. There isn’t a parent in the world who simply stands idle while this is happening. Usually, we are attempting to calm our child. Also, not all high pitched screeches of autistic children turn into full blown meltdowns. My son will let out a single screech or two and then stop when I have redirected his attention. I still get ugly looks and judgment. If I were to remove him from the grocery store for every single outburst, our family would not eat.

      Of course, if he is at the point of a meltdown and overwhelmed, we do our best to remove him. But we still have to pass by people who give those same looks as we exit the store. It is also important to note that not every situation calls for us to give up and come back. If he does it at the doctor’s office, he still needs care. If it happens at the pharmacy, he still needs the medicine.

      I suspect that you are blessed to not have to worry about such things. Perhaps the next time you see a scene like this unfolding, you might remember that you have not walked in that parent’s shoes and either ignore it or offer help. After all, you will get to go home and forget all about it. They will go home and continue to live it. I assure you it is much more a disruption and inconvenience in their lives than in the other shoppers’. Best wishes.

      • samanthahines says:

        If I may, I would like to add in response to “Jane” that we all need to live together–literally and figuratively. We share this planet with people with autism, epilepsy, and a host of other conditions–conditions that should not preclude them from, well, anything. Calling a child an “inconvenience” or a “disruption” says more about the person hurtling these offensive monikers than it does about the child. Perhaps, as an adult, instead of being offended that someone might be thinking “bad thoughts” about you, you might try offering your assistance–or at least support.

      • Tami Neilson says:


        I could not have said it better myself…Thank you so much for this blog and thank you for eloquently wording what so many of us parents feel. I let myself get too steamed at times because I know the person has no idea what the situation is like yet they feel they have all of the answers. That is what I infuriates me the most.

    • Lisa says:

      “Just because your child is Autistic”….cannot actually be in the same sentence as “disrupt and inconvenience”, seriously?

      My child does more in any given 5 minutes to be able to function in the world around him, and I do 100X what “Jane” will ever do to aid my child in navigating his world. I cannot and will not “remove” him from the world we all SHARE.

      I fervently hope your eyes and heart can be opened to those of us living with the sometimes devastating disability, which is also an amazing learning tool. My Autistic Child has taught me to love, and be tolerant, unconditionally.

      • Katrena Lee says:

        and furthermore JANE I would LOVE to see YOU try to remove my child from an area when he is in the middle of a full blown meltdown without being hurt…heck…just try to remove him at all….good luck with that and let me know how it works out for ya. Lets see….a 50 lb child with about 10 arms and 8 legs and the strength of three men on PCP…yeah….that’s about right…now go ahead and forcibly remove that without any assistance at all. It takes three grown adults to give that 50 lb child an enema on a daily basis when he KNOWS it helps him. Now you think you can remove him by yourself in the middle of a meltdown which is actually a full on panic attack caused by sensory OVERLOAD and NOT a desire for a toy that I refused to buy him??????

    • Tami Neilson says:


      It’s because we have things we need to get done. If I removed my child each time he did that, I would not have groceries. I would not get errands done. It is NOT YOUR PLACE to tell me to remove my child. I have every right to be there as you do. It’s not like I’m taking him out to the movies or a restaurant to after all. If someone tries to tell me that?..yes the angry parent comes out real fast as I’m quickly in their face. Do you think the meltdowns are enjoyable for me? NO. they are hard and I want nothing more than for him to stop and at times one inch from being pushed over the edge from a person who has not had to deal with my every day life and how I do the best I can to make the best of it. Sometimes I’m exhausted ..mentally and physically. But I can’t leave my cart of groceries if a meltdown hits. You obviously have a ZERO educational background on this subject and for that I actually feel sorry for you. Ignorance is a very ugly trait. I have every right to be in that store as you do. I don’t have any family help. I have worked with my son since the age of 2 and can proudly say things have calmed down a lot more now. I worked with my son every day to the extent that parents without a special needs child could never imagine. I paid over 20,000 for his therapy and how to work with him and to educate MYSELF on the issues he has…to understand how his mind works and do what is recommended for the situation. It wouldn’t hurt for you to try to put yourself in the place of another going through something you have no clue about. Pick up a book lady because you wouldn’t want to say something to a mother like me who has had a very bad day and tell me I need to leave. I’m very vocal and don’t always take the high road when faced with ignorance. If I see a mother going through that these days, I smile her way and try to offer kind words because logic dictates that I’m sure she is not thrilled about the tantrum and might really need that.

      • momof2cubs says:

        I know what your saying Tami. We still need to get stuff done. I refuse to leave my son home because he might have a meltdown. We are not all lucky enough to leave our child with a family member while we do our errands. Our kids deserve to be out with us and experience the daily things that need to be done. 🙂

    • Rebecca Woodman says:

      Sorry Jane – but you have no idea…that is all I can say. Unless you are a parent of a child on the spectrum – you really should not be making any comments on how to handle this situation.

  133. Brilliantly written. May I print this and share with some friends on facebook?

  134. lemonflakes says:

    How old is your (son I assume)? Just wait until puberty and hormones kick in! My baby brothers meltdowns are very physical (age 14 Aspbergian). And when he realizes what happened, he gets embarrassed and acts out more, the poor thing 😦

    • Ms. Poventud says:

      Omg’ mines to… I never heard anyone else besides me say that same comment.. Which is when he gets embarrased he acts out more. And does become physical.

    • Elisa's Spot says:

      Yes I was patiently reading the comments before doing my own. I was shaming myself at the admonishments of the blog author about not doing the better than worse than type thing. Until I read your words. Sometimes, i find, that the mothers of asd kiddos are even more stringent about some things, and always on that line of overload too. My son is 15 and also with asperger’s. He does what you say yours does. I think the overload and actions are even worse with his trying to cope appropriately he cannot see himself, and I will NOT tolerate abuse and will correct him very loudly in public. I am one of those people who believes that giving my child an out by using their label to excuse unexcuseable and socially inappropriate social behavior makes my child’s differences into a crutch and an excuse when he makes his own bad choices. As they get older it can become much harder to tell which is defiant teen bad choices and which is a meltdown that requires sensitivity. My son, to others, fits their stereo type of rude and they say so. And when they do, I have failed three times. I have failed to teach my son to regulate himself in all situations and to help him to understand and to meet unspoken rules. I have failed because i have not asked enough of my child. And I have failed that I too can view him as a brat, that because I have the same disorders and must keep it together, he can too. That kind of shame and torture make it nearly impossible to just remember to relax and to live, To admit mistakes, make adjustments and to move on.

  135. Hit the nail on the head with this one. I’ve been to public places loads of times with my brother and if he makes a fuss or starts babbling even (ie not even crying or a tantrum), I get people staring at him. I agree that for a nearly 6-foot tall boy, babbling might seem odd but the looks on their faces (we’ve gotten so used to deciphering these looks, haven’t we?) is of disgust/fear and of “Don’t you know how to keep your child quiet?”. It’s upsetting but we’ve become used to it.
    Those who seem curious and ask, we appreciate it. Spreading knowledge and awareness is so important.
    Those who don’t feel like changing their minds or being open…well, I’ve got my own way of dealing with that – stare back at them if they’re silent, or ask them what the hell their problem is if they say something nasty.

  136. Katrena Lee says:

    What do I think? I think you brought me to tears. I too was a very judgmental perfect parenting non-parent. Is that a thing? Until I had my own special kiddo. Then I got the look all the time and the only thing that has stopped it in it’s tracks was when he got bad enough that he required a wheelchair and a service dog. Isn’t that SAD?? A wheelchair and dog make it okay but no wheelchair makes him a brat. Why can’t a kid in a wheelchair be a brat and a kid out of one have problems?? What is WRONG with our society that we make judgments in the ways that we do?? Wheelchairs do not automatically make someone cognitively incapable of handling their emotions and their environments…they just signify that their muscles don’t work right….UGH!!! I do still get “the look” from some though but I count myself lucky that I live in a VERY small community and aside from the occasional trip to walmart once a month or so I can do MOST of my grocery store and pharmacy stuff in this TINY grocery store that is privately owned and literally EVERYBODY knows us. Nobody blinks at him when he acts out other than to ask him if he’s having a bad day or to ask me if it’s okay if he has a sucker. They all make a point of saying hi to both of us and calling him by name when he comes in. They have even let him “help” stock the shelves with a few items a few times….(future job opportunity??) We even have our bank up here and a barber shop that can cut his hair and at both of those places we are guaranteed to never encounter more than two or three customers at a time when we go in MAX. and they are all the old weathered cowboy types that he adores so much and responds so well to. Mostly we do online shopping and hit up walmart for necessities when we have to. We do still have our moments but our smaller interactions in much smaller environments give him a lot more practice on a much smaller scale with much much much less pressure to perform “correctly” so he can “get it right” more often and build up his confidence. I think in our case that has made all the difference for us.

  137. Leon says:

    Outstanding. This hits home, with a bullet. The number of times my son Tristan’s “alarm” went off (his worst fear, at the time, was conveniently enough, babies – something you so rarely see out shopping, right?), and I’ve had to use every ounce of my considerable strength, while he kicked and screamed at the top of his lungs, to keep him from bolting out of a store and into traffic or losing himself in a sea of people… Now add to that mix that I’m a tall, dark and hairy male, and it doesn’t take long for some conclusions to be jumped. I got very good at bringing him back down or getting him back out to the car while simultaneously, feebly trying to telegraph to all onlookers that I wasn’t “your friendly neighborhood pedophile”!!
    Thankfully, it’s been almost two years since our repeated SRO performances, but still knocking on every available piece of wood. (I know better than to utter the phrase “out of the woods”. :^ / )
    You’re doing a great thing, sharing these stories and amplifying our collective voice. Awareness is the key! Thank you, from a fellow spectrum family.

  138. momof2cubs says:

    Thank you for this. I can really relate to it. I enjoy reading your blog. 🙂

  139. stephanie says:

    i can’t agree more with some of the posts above. you have quite a way with words. when i read what you write, i feel like my thoughts and emotions are validated. you have an amazing gift and i thank you for sharing it. really, truly i do.

    i shared and this is what i said:

    this lady is sooo right. the more of her posts i read, the more i like her.

    we were at the store and my son was in the shopping cart (the large part of it, not the child seat because he is way too big for that) and my younger daughter was standing next to it. we were in the speedy checkout and an older gentleman with his wife standing behind us said, with a look of disgust on his face, “don’t you think he’s too big to be in there?” i always get so conflicted when things like this happen. half of me wants to explain, let the man know there is a reason, i’m not really the bad parent he must think i am. the other half of me wants to say “who the hell are you? why do you think it’s your place to be in my personal business let alone have the audacity to say something to me? why does it bother you so? what are you, the walmart cart patrol? he is safe and we are not hurting anyone.” and most of all.. “don’t be so quick to judge me!” i can’t tell you how many times this sort of thing has happened.. too many to count. and, although i try to let things roll off my back, my response is usually based on my mood. if i’m tired or stressed my reaction may not be one with the education of others in mind.

  140. Patty Jo says:

    I find myself feeling the need to have my own panic attack when this happens. LOL Thanks for sharing! It helps to remind ourselves that people dont understnad and that we too once didn’t either. But hopefully one day people will become more educated!! God Bless

  141. Amber K says:

    love this so much. it so accurately conveys what i have felt, what i will feel, and is so perfectly said. thank you for your transparency, and for your encouragement as this brings me comfort. Comfort knowing that im not alone, that my feelings are valid, that my situation isn’t always easy, but that there are people who i can relate to. thank you.

  142. Michelle says:

    You have a talent for capturing the thoughts, feelings and experiences of parents of special needs kids everywhere and putting them in to the perfect words.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if this post could be printed in poster size and placed at the entrance to the shop!!

    Thank you for sharing.


    Michelle :o)

  143. sarah says:

    So true! Your blogs are wonderful and always seem to hit home with me! 😀

  144. Dawn F says:

    This is sooo how I feel but eloquently put!!!

  145. Really appreciate this post. Now that I’m on the “other side” now, I cringe when I think of how judgmental I was toward other parents of kids who were acting out in public. I was seriously the best at parenting before I had kids. 🙂 So many of my opinions have changed since having my own special son (I’ve posted about it as well: , and although I regret things I’ve thought and maybe have said before, it also keeps me humble…knowing that I was one of those lookers before. Thankfully, things are different now.

  146. Thank-you for sharing this. I needed it. Especially after today. God bless you ((hugs))

  147. Hi Leigh;

    I just recently started reading your post, after trying to start a blog of my own about our life with RAD (reactive attachment disorder), ADHD and ODD. I know that our children do not have the same thing however some of the behaviors are the same. I enjoy reading your post, they are well writen, informative, make me smile at times, cry at others. From one special needs parent to another you are AWESOME and doing a great job…. I am doing my best when we get those looks in public when my girls act up, to say a pray asking God for help. I also keep my focus on my children and not the on lookers, I move right into the mode of helping them get self control and if it takes time then it just takes time…I let my girls (or girl which ever may the case if one or both are acting out) that they need to reagain control if they do not then I assist them with either telling them to breathe, or start them counting, singing a song or jumping or running in place to get the blood and air moving in their brains. Those looks are never easy to deal with, I have one time asked one of those lookers if they wanted to clam my child down since they had noting better to do with their time than to stand and watch and listen to us… I was told “No” and they walked away very fast needless to say…. I must admit that those times no matter how I handle them I still leave feeling like 1/2″ tall. The words are not said or I do not hear them that they could do better, but the looks are enough to let you know their thoughts…. I pray for the day that parents of special needs children are not made to feel that way….

    Keep posting and hanging in there you are doing great…..

  148. I was lucky the last time we went to the store My David didn’t have his melt down until we were already on our way out of Wall-Mart. He was upset because he wanted to go to K-Mart after we left there and I told him that we had already bought everything we needed. Got the look from the greeter as she said have a good day I just said you too.

  149. Amy says:

    You said it perfectly. I’m so glad you have written this.. Sharing!!

  150. Debbie K. says:

    There was a time when I thought, “When I have children . . .” Now whenever I see a mom in the grocery store whose child is having a meltdown, I want to go over and give her a hug and tell her I know how she feels and it all be okay. Who cares what those old biddies in the store think with their judgmental looks? They don’t live your life, they don’t know how hard it is to create a “normal” life for your family when somedays everything seems to be so hard! Thanks for expressing it so well!

  151. ScouterKat says:

    Once again, you’ve captured what is a very trying situation for us.Taking my 8 year old ASD son out in public is still one of the toughest parts of this job. I’m grateful I’ve never had as horrible an experience as Stephanie (I literally gasped at the pure hatefulness of that comment). Unfortunately, I have had more than my fair share of the looks and stares and comments. I am just now learning to tune them out so that how I respond to my son is in a way that is truly what is best for him and for me. I still have much to learn in this area, but I am on the right track. I have to say that there are those out there who do understand that we are up against something they would find overwhelming and will affirm us. I even had two do this for me in one day when Little Man was having a particularly hard time at a 3 hour appt at the eye doctor. I’ll tell you that the next time I get the looks, stares or comments, I’m going to remember those two compliments and hang on to them as I do what I must in my child’s best interest.

  152. I haven’t been the mom with the meltdown, but I have been the teacher that everyone looks at because, like you, I am trying to find “the key to turn of the alarm”. Even other teachers look that way at another teacher and say, Oh my poor management skills.” Somehow, society just seems to see round holes and round pegs when they fail to see that everyone has a square peg somewhere that just doesn’t fit in that round hole. I am thankful for parents such as you that inform us and help me as a teacher. I am not a special ed teacher, just a kindergarten teacher of 32 years, that seems to have had a lot of children to teach and enjoy learning with them, irregardless of how they are labeled by someone.

    • Tonya says:

      As a mom of a young son with Autism, it’s nice to hear that you appreciate the parents’ input. I can speak for myself and others when I say that we are scared to leave our babies at school unless we feel like the teacher truly cares about them. I know it can be an inconvenience to have a child with special needs in the classroom, but I also know it can be a great experience for everyone.
      Thank you for your kind words and for teaching for 32 years!!

  153. My 12 yo daughter has a wardrobe of t-shirts proclaiming her autism. It helps curtail the dirty looks in public. My fav says “I’m autistic…I see rude people”. Plenty have read that one and quickly looked away!

  154. I too used to be the judgmental parent, still getting used to being judged. My life seems to be about learning not to judge others (in multiple areas), but that was how I was raised, and still have to deal with my mom judging me. Posts like yours, though, will do much to raise awareness. Many kudos, love your writing.

  155. You. Rule.
    Can I just say that?
    Well, one more thing.
    Can you come with me to the grocery store the next time I have to take my kids?

  156. kvetchmom says:

    Thank you for writing this post. It is brilliant and every word is true. I can relate. I want to wear a t-shirt that says “Back off, a*****e, she has autism”

  157. You took the words right out my mouth… Only you put it much better than I would have.

  158. writerfreak1990 says:

    I’ve been in the store with my nieice while she was having a meltdown and they gave us such dirty looks. Even though they didn’t know about her disability, I thought that they should be ashamed of themselves. Instead of judging, those kind of people should maybe ask if there is anything they can do to help.

  159. mjrockssocks says:

    You’re fantastic. I enjoy your blogs very much. My son is autistic as well and I know just where you’re coming from. I recognize it in other children, too, and always lend a kind word to the parent when I see them on the edge. It’s not easy and the last thing a parent needs is to be judged.

  160. Stephanie says:

    You are amazing! It’s like you take the thoughts right out of my head with every post. I’m still reeling from a comment I got in the store 2 years ago from someone who raised perfect children. She looked at my overloaded 2.5 year old, wailing in the cart and said, “Children like that should be drown at birth.” It was the single worst comment I’ve ever received and everytime I get ‘the look’ it jumps back into my head. It still brings tears to my eyes. I’ll take ‘the look’ over the hateful comments any day. Your blog helps put my jumbled, sometimes angry, thoughts into words. Thank you!

    • FlappinessIs says:

      That left me at a loss for words. Holy cow. I pray that woman thought she was being funny rather than that’s her true heart. Especially since she is raising children who will grow up influenced by her. How cruel.

      No wonder you cringe at “the look”.

      And I think that the experiences we share leave us all permanently interconnected. I often feel the same way reading other people’s blogs, that sense that someone read my mind. Autism, quite simply, is a big deal, and, once it has touched your heart, cannot ever be evicted.

      • Emzee says:

        FlappinessIs: I am a nearly 26 year old woman with Autism, its known as Asperger’s Disorder and I know you have heard about it. I have Meltdowns frequently because of a Severe Anxiety disorder that goes with the Autism. Its not easy, it sucks and most of the time I have trouble breathing. People look at me (and especially at work) and go “You Need To Calm Down RIGHT NOW!” Yeah, not good. Not easy and as you put it harder on the child. I hate it when people don’t know anything and all they do is point and stare and make comments. Thanks for the post, it does tell it like I have wanted to say for a long time!

      • FlappinessIs says:

        Thanks, Emzee. I love hearing from readers who have ASD themselves. Your perspective is necessary, important, and all too often overlooked. Please stop by again and share your thoughts. I know that other parents appreciate hearing your perspective as well.

    • lismk says:

      oh my goodness. i hate when people’s words stick in your brain like that. and it’s never the good words, like “keep it up, you’re doing great.” This post and these comments bring tears to my eyes.

    • Alison says:

      Wow, I can’t believe anyone would say something like that! I’m trying not to think of nasty replies to say to her because that would make me as bad as her…but the replies are still running into my head!

      • I always smile look over at one of my kids and go shopping is so fun with kids and wink at the mom. I always get a smile back.I even do it if mine is the one going nuts and you are giving me the look. Always makes them stop and think. You don’t have to have a kid with a medical issue to have a bad day at the store. All three of mine at some point have lost it. Be it they was tired to begain with the store is hot could be anything.

      • Elsa says:

        I agree! I had all these thoughts running through my head of how severly I would beat that woman….but of course, that would make me a worse human being than she is!

    • Stacey says:

      Stephanie – I can’t believe someone said that out loud much less though it..People can be so mean sometimes.

    • Scriptor Obscura says:

      I would have given that woman a He## of a piece of my mind for saying that to me! This makes me really angry! HOW DARE she say something like that to you! How bleeping dare she!!! Some people are just nasty, mean, cruel jerks. How would she like that if someone said that to her! I feel for you and what you went through!

      • Stephanie says:

        This happened at the end of a very long day of errands and I knew going in the store it was probably going to trigger a meltdown but all I needed was potatoes and some things to make a salad for dinner. I was trying to hurry and I had all 5 of my children with me. I’ve dealt with many horrible comments made by people because I have triplets so I thought I’d heard it all and was immune to it, I had comebacks for everything. Except that. My first instinct was to punch the woman in the face but I kept my wits and considered the example that would set for my other children. The woman was gone before my shock wore off. The cashier, who heard the comment, was furious as well. I’ve since thought of many comebacks, that I’ll hopefully never have to use.

    • shelgy says:

      what an evil thing for someone to say to you. I’m sorry that happened.

    • Shannon says:

      I can’t believe someone said that to you about your child. My brother is autistic and if someone was to say something like that to him I’d probably commit murder or come close to it. I feel for you and your family. I think that special needs children are miracles because they teach us how to be thankful and get through life without complaining as much. I look at my brother and see how happy he is even though he struggles daily. He gives me so much hope because I know that if he can be happy with his autism I can be happy no matter what. Hang in their!!!! Lots of love to you and your family.

      • I agree. I’m so sorry Stephanie, that you had to hear something like that. If anyone said that about my brother, I too would completely lose it.
        People seem to have no tolerance or acceptance of those who are different. Sad.

    • Tracy says:

      OH MY! How could anyone ever say that to a mother! Granted if my little girl screamed or cried in public place we left pronto but in some cases it is hard to just leave or in the case of the writer of this when your child is autistic some things you just cant help..
      I am so sorry that either of you were put thru that and the next time I get aggravated with a family of a crying child I will be more understanding…
      We all know that there are families out there that just let their kids run wild in the stores, throw themselves down in a tantrum to get what they want. They really need to get a rein on that though…..

    • Margre Payne says:

      what a nasty thing to say to anyone who has a child. No child should be drowned. I am sorry for all the looks mom and dads with crying children get in puplic I know I have given those looks (not on purpose) and recived those looks myself. My look stems from getting a headache from the screaming and not being able to do anything about it. cudos to all parents of autistic children you are absolute ANGLES.

    • Elsa says:

      That is awful!!!! I can’t believe someone could be so cruel and say something like that to you! I get looks all the time with my 6 year old who’s on the spectrum and I have a hard time not crying in public when that happens.

    • Tami Neilson says:

      This left me at a loss for words as well – The lady who said that clearly did not raise perfect children with a thought process like that..impossible. Maybe outwardly they appear one way but cruelty doesn’t always show it’s face and wears a mask. It’s really a shame a person like that had kids and instilled their beliefs on them. I can only hope and pray her kids are mentally stronger than her. I am glad I didn’t hear a comment like that as I know i would not take the high road in that case. Might be sitting in jail if I did.

  161. Jenni says:

    You are amazing. Thank you for ptting my feelings into words. Wish I could print this out and hand to every person who gives me and my daughter “the look.” you make me smile every time I read you blog.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Jenni, I am going to print THAT out to hang near where I write- for when I get blogger’s block. Writing publicly is such a strange thing. I am convinced half the time of how awful something is. I wish I could say that I write without worrying about other people’s opinions, but I would be lying. I nitpick my word choices and fret. I’ve been feeling low talent over the past few days and really needed those kind words. 🙂

      • This is the first I’ve read of your blog, and I agree with Jenni’s pov: you write very well. I’ve only had the chance to read a few of your entries, but all recent (Dec), and many have brought a tear to my eye. Very well written. Thank you.

  162. I was Boxing Day shopping today and I overheard a mother giving her child warnings and saying ” You are getting a time out when you get home for acting like this is a public place!” One time I would have been more judgmental but nowadays I think “Good, that you are giving that child boundaries, instead of anything goes!” I now smile and say, been there, done that and now it’s someone else’s turn. I am happy to read about your ideas. I admire all parents of children with autism and I, too, have had some experience in this area. I know some remarkable parents in Newfoundland who continue to be great advocates for their children.

  163. Lisa says:

    Very, very well stated. I feel like I could have written this post myself…hugs from another momma in the trenches. Hang in there…

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