So there I was minding my own business trying to help mr. L go to his swim class that his special needs school provides at a local civic center/ YMCA when some old guy decided he needed to teach me about “all them ADHD kids”…
To take a few steps back mr. L has been refusing to go to his swim lessons. Which if you know my kid you know is just crazy talk. These basic swim lessons are within walking distance from his school and mr. L is made for water. He loves it water, can spend hours in it, and acts like a teenager having to say goodbye to a summer crush every time it’s time to dry off.
His awesome school teacher and I have been brainstorming what might be causing his distain for this usually preferred activity. We have wondered if it’s the noise level, or if walking back to school afterwards with wet hair was too uncomfortable. We decided that maybe it was the unknown of expectations that was causing too much stress and anxiety for my son.
Mr. L doesn’t like to get things wrong; assignments, art projects, social rules, etc. Picking up on social cues is not easy for many on the spectrum. I’ve read that many with autism feel like they are living on an alien planet because they just don’t understand things like sarcasm, jokes, body language, facial expressions, or reading between the lines.
So for mr. L new places and experiences can cause anxiety, because he hates getting things wrong. Whats worse is getting in trouble with people he doesn’t even know. This can happen because he didn’t pick up on their hints or warnings or irritation with him and next thing he knows he broke a rule he didn’t know even existed.
In general mr. L loves water and loves swimming but he usually does this with close/ trusted family, and not with school staff or unfamiliar swim instructors who may not “get” autism. With knowing this, my son’s teacher asked if I would mind borrowing her iPad and recording mr. L’s swim practice experience so she could make a social story out of it for following weeks of swim practice.
Ok, so you are up to date. I was with my son and his special needs class at a local community pool for his swim lessons and I was recording him, his peers, and his school staff with an iPad to hopefully help create a social story when this stranger decided he needed to teach me about my child 🤣
My son and his classmates had just been lead to their changing rooms and I was waiting in the hall when some guy I had never met before thought the best way to strike up a conversation with me was to say, “I watched this thing on tv the other night about how that iPad caused all them kids to have ADHD” I responded with a smile, “Oh some of these children may have ADHD, I’m not sure. But I do know the thing they all have in common is autism.” the man looked grumpy that I wasn’t wowed by his unwanted commentary and continued, “In my day no one had autism”. I ignored that he said autism like it was a disgusting word and replied, “Oh they did, they are just better at diagnosing it today. They are better at giving help and not just shoving people into mental hospitals or hiding them away”.
You would think at this point he would realize I knew more about the subject then he estimated. But many people have room to grow in their own social skills, so he continued to try to change my life and possibly convince me to apologize for forcing iPads on helpless children and making them all autistic 🤨
He then said, “Well that iPad caused their autism and technology makes them that way”. Again I smiled and said, “We’ll that is true that too much technology can cross a line and become the opposite of helpful. But I’m actually using this iPad to record one of the kids to make a social story for him to help with his anxiety.”
For some odd reason this guy continued, “You really think that’s going to help that kid!?” At this point I was done sharing my time with this negative and unhelpful old man, “Yes, social stories do help him, I would know, he’s my son. It was nice talking with you”. Then I greeted his shocked look with a smile and went onto the pool deck.
No iPad caused my son’s autism, unless he had it with him before he was born. But I was there when he was born and no, he didn’t come out with an iPad in hand. I wasn’t pregnant with an iPad. When the dr weighed his little 4lbs 7oz self, an iPad wasn’t included on the scale. Mr. L was born autistic and I knew he was different before he could even sit up.
What did that guy think he was doing talking to someone who was obviously working with the special needs kids? Did he think he was going to change my life, make me want to change my ways and apologize for making those “ADHD kids” autistic with my evil iPad? 🙄
That behavior is hurtful to the autistic community and to the caregivers. Placing blame like that ostracizes parents, keeps children from a diagnosis and from services. I am not a refrigerator mom, screen time did not cause my son to be antisocial, screen time actually helped build my son’s vocabulary and has helped him share his world with me.
I will say that there is a point that screens get in the way of socializing but that is an individual line, not a hard black and white rule. I didn’t want to be rude that day, In general I want to advocate and keep communication open, but gosh darn it! Some people are so rude and ignorant.
How do you handle unwanted comments? Would you have told that guy where to shove it? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to like and share 🤗