Autistic children need understanding

Most parents find the idea of taking their children to get Santa pictures less than thrilling. The thought of getting them ready, packing them up in the cold and waiting in line for long periods of time just to get a typically hilarious but cute photo of someone’s eyes closed, staring at Santa in horror, or the inevitable baby bawling on his lap.

Most parents find the idea of taking their children to get Santa pictures less than thrilling. The thought of getting them ready, packing them up in the cold and waiting in line for long periods of time just to get a typically hilarious but cute photo of someone’s eyes closed, staring at Santa in horror, or the inevitable baby bawling on his lap.

Why do we do it? Tradition, memories? Probably most importantly because we love our children and want to give them the opportunity. It’s worth the hassle in the end … for the most part.

My experience at a local mall on Dec. 18 has perhaps left a lasting impression so hurtful that I may not be bringing my children (five, four and two and a half) back indefinitely.

It started quite seamlessly actually; there was no lineup at all! No waiting is always a bonus! Both of my sons were in the stroller, and as I unpacked the two-year-old, I could see my four-year-old was starting to lose his cool. The two-year-old and five-year-old ran and sat on Santa’s lap.

Santa and the photographer were waiting for me to unpack my four-year-old. By this time, he was screaming and thrashing in the stroller so loud I’m sure those across the mall could hear him. I could feel the stares start, so I told the photographer to just shoot the two kids. I tried to calm my four-year-old the best I could, but he was past the point of recovery.

Again, I glanced around and saw nothing but stares, and looks of if that were my kid … why doesn’t she do something … what a brat … I prayed they would get the photo so we could get out of there.

Once my daughter and son were off of Santa’s lap, the photographer came over to me and I will never forget the words out of her mouth: “Boy, you’d think that someone was cutting his leg off.” My heart broke. I couldn’t believe the ignorance of this woman. I replied simply and calmly “My Son is autistic, I’m sorry he’s bothered you.”

My plea is this: please, oh please, tell your friends, tell your family, educate yourselves. Until my son was diagnosed with autism in July 2013, I really didn’t know much about it myself. I believe it is one of the most under-acknowledged and talked about issues that is affecting so many children in our community now.

Instead of allowing this atrocity of treatment by an ignorant employee get to me, I’m using it as fuel to get the word out. Please, if you see a child kicking, screaming, sobbing on the floor or perhaps in a stroller as my son was, take a moment and stop. Think that perhaps you may be a witness to autism at an exasperating low that many parents deal with daily. This beautiful child is really dealing with something that he may have seen, heard or something that we can’t know for sure, in the way the diagnosis permits.

Stares are neither appreciated, nor unsolicited comments, nor advice.

Compassion and understanding is all we ask as parents of these beautiful, perfect souls, but if that is even too much to ask, then please keep your mouth shut and move on.

I a the mother to two beautiful autistic little boys who are perfect to me, and the world could learn something from their untainted love.

Jasmine Cardinal

Blackfalds

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