People With “Perfect” Children
I find it interesting that people without children are always the experts on how you should raise your children, and people who have children without Autism often have very strong opinions on how things should be done. Both types of people often compare their “normal” children, whether already born or planned in the future, to your Autistic child.
Cameron was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was five years old. I received many different reactions. Most of them were not offensive; people merely wanted to know what the condition was. I would explain that it is a high-functioning form of Autism; they would attempt to understand where we were coming from and what we faced on a daily basis.
Not every reaction was as kind or easy to deal with. Some people acted like I had just announced that my child was retarded. They would make comparisons with retarded children. I would explain that with this form of Autism, the children are usually very bright, even geniuses in some cases.
There were those who did not listen when I explained this to them. They cast judgments and refused to see my child’s light. I am ashamed to say that some of the worst judgments came from my brother and his wife. They refused to see my child as anything but “defective.” If he acted a certain way, they made no efforts to understand him; they simply rolled their eyes and acted like he was spoiled.
My brother even went so far as to say that my son is spoiled. He didn’t say it to my face; he said it to our sister. I said, “How is Cameron spoiled? He has needs that the other children don’t have. We are trying to help him.”
Cameron was a bit more difficult to potty train than the other children had been. My brother and his wife had no children yet, but were quite the experts at giving advice on how we should do it.
They have since had four boys. They had difficulty potty training at least one, possibly two, of the oldest boys. I know it was wrong, but part of me felt a bit smug.
Their second son was clearly different from the other boys. We wondered if he had some form of Autism. Every time we brought it up, however, I hit a brick wall with my brother. He kept saying, “No, it can’t be. He’s smart.”
I felt like strangling him! It was clear to me that my words had not penetrated his thick skull.
They recently came up with a diagnosis of ADHD for that particular son. My brother refuses to accept that as well. I personally expect them to eventually change it to an Autism diagnosis, but he is three or four, and difficult to diagnose at that age.
My brother’s wife recently asked me if Cameron was worse than their son, or if their son was worse than Cameron. I told her truthfully that her son was worse. I did not mention that I believe he could be better if they made more of an effort with him.
He recently had a very bad infection and was given a PICC line, just like Cameron. He would get his antibiotics through that line at home. I worried that he would pull the line out.
I only had to tell Cameron once, and he knew what not to do. I simply told him what not to do, and what the consequences would be if he did not obey. We have had no problems with him.
My brother’s son wasn’t home 24 hours, before he’d pulled his PICC line out. I felt a mixture of emotions. I felt concern for my nephew, sympathy for my brother and his wife, and a bit of… I don’t know…. Would it be validation that our son is really as intelligent as I have told them? Would it be security in knowing that we are doing a good job? Maybe it was a feeling of smugness that their “perfect” children aren’t as “perfect” as they assumed they would be.
I know I should not feel this way, but sometimes I find it interesting to sit back and watch how life evens out. I am not perfect, but I am working on it. I cast no judgments on most people who are honestly doing their best. What bothers me is parents who don’t put the effort in, and then complain when things don’t turn out the way they were expecting.
Every child has a great deal of potential. It is our jobs, as parents, to make that potential come to light.