By now his voice is loud and there is banging on the windows, the dashboard, crying and screaming. I scan the parking lot visually for onlookers. I fear the day when someone, perhaps an officer of the law intervenes. I propose it might go something like this:
(no disrespect intended toward our officers or first responders, somewhat tongue in cheek).
My son: no, no stop singing Joey
Me: I'm not singing. Let's go to McDs.
Tap, tap, tap.
I turn to my left to see a officer standing by the car.
Officer: roll down your window Mamm.
Me: Officer, there really is no problem.
Officer: Looks like a problem to me, what's going on here.
Me: This is my son he's upset.
Officer, yes that's obvious, Hey son, stop banging on the windows.
Me: He has autism, he doesn't mean any harm.
Officer: whoa, hey buddy stop hitting your Mom.
"What is the problem for him?" Why is he like that?'
Me: Hard to explain. I said something he didnt like and this is what we call a "meltdown".
Officer: I saw you pull in off the highway. Are you in danger?
Me: No in times like this we seek a safe place to wait out the meltdown. Obviuosly the road is not a safe place. Better to wait it out here.
My son: 'A Clue, A Clue"....."I have to call Steve, I have to call Steve'.
Officer: "What is he saying?" Why is he asking about clues? Is Steve his Dad?
Me: No , the "A clue reference is from Blue's Clues...the children's show". "Steve was the host of the show".
Officer: Why is he saying that though?
Me: It has meaning to him. At this point in his life I do not know what that meaning is. Saying those things is his way of dealing with this distress he's feeling. It's tough though because I can't call Steve as you well know.
Officer: "Well he can speak I would not have thought he had autism".
Me: Some autistic children are verbal and some are not. Meaningful communication is difficult for them and for some impossible.
Officer: 'Doesn't it hurt you when he punches you?" "Isn't there anything you can do about that?"
Me: yes, of course it hurts. I'm only human. You try your best to either block the blows or get out of the way, again, no where to go when you are in a car, another reason we pull off the road.
Officer: "Don't you have anyone to help you?" "I thought they gave aides to families with disabled children."
Me: No most of the time I have no one to help me and that is true for so many autism families. Funding is not there to pay for the assistance we might need and how often we need it. It's not a budgetary priority for our State or Nation. No one thinks of the futures these children and their families will face as they grow older. We would like to be independent and not have to ask for help now so that when he grows he too, can be independent.
Officer: "He seems to be calming down now." "Are you alright buddy?"
My son: "Yes, we have to go to McD's now, what's the holdup. You need to stop talking now. Let's go!
Me: "That's another thing our kids struggle with is social skills and manners. Please don't take an offense officer. He really is a good kid. Life is just much harder for him.
Officer: "Is there anything I can do?"
Me:"Yes, please tell your superiors about this experience you just had. Please tell them to sponsor training sessions for officers like yourself and our first responders so they know what autism can look like. Please tell them to always ask the parents first what is going on if possible. All children with autism are different and the circumstances also will be different. We as a community need to know that you are educated as best possible and wanting to help us as we so desperately need it at times.
Officer: "I will do that and I hope you have a better day".
I breathe a sigh of relief as he walks away and back to his car. Another meltdown survived. I wonder will he tell his fellow officers so they have just a glimpse into our world?
Today's trip did not turn out as above. We simply sat it out in the parking lot until it was ok to continue on our trip. I want to communicate however when you see that mom or grandmom or dad in their car trying to calm an upset child please do not judge or criticize or offer nasty suggestions on how to raise a child, simply think that perhaps that person is "Driving Under the Influence: Of Autism".