An open letter to the police officer who helped my autistic son
Alexandra Samuel

I read your article and some of the responses. Just to give some credence to my response, I’m going to tell you a little about me.

I am autistic. I am also a mother of three, two of which are autistic. It is not an easy road.

My own autistism is both a hindrance and a help in raising my two autistic children. Helpful because I understand their thought patterns better than someone who is not. Hindering, because I don’t always fully understand the way teachers, babysitters, family members, friends, ect think or view my kids. I find that often my kids make more sense to me than the rest of the world.

I am very glad the officer was kind and understanding. Unfortunately, the behavior you described is typical of an autistic child. Though not all autistic children behave that way.

I think you are doing a fine job. It is impossible to keep all meltdowns from occurring, especially when it comes to consequences.

It is personally disturbing how many people think that an autistic child should not have consequences. It is true that its much harder for an autistic child to understand consequences. My son is eleven and he doesn’t always understand. (My daughter rarely acts up so she rarely needs consequences.) The thing is, that as hard as it is, we can learn to draw connections between actions and consequences. It takes time, patience, and consistency. As a parent, its a very difficult and frustrating process. I completely agree with taking away YouTube. He did not honor his part of the agreement. He has to learn just as any other kid does. Catering to him will ultimately hold him back. The real world won’t cater to him just because he’s autistic. He has to learn values, responsibility, consequences, ect. The more he learns to cope with disappointments and consequences, the better he will be able to function when he grows up. Routine is of course important. He also has to learn to cope with stress and anxiety due to routine changes.

For instance, I like to get off exactly when my schedule says I should. More often than not, it doesn’t work that way. Not getting off on time automatically makes me irritable and stressed. Its not truly even a big deal. But, it messes up my routine. Even though it stresses me out, I can not give in to my meltdown. I cannot be cranky. I can’t just walk out. I have to cope.

The point is, the world isn’t going to take it easy on him (or me or my kids) just because he’s autistic. Its our job as parents to teach our kids, autistic or not, the skills they are going to need once they’re on their own.

Giving in to their demands and tantrums aren’t going to do that. (He also needs to understand the difference between privileges and rights. YouTube is NOT a right under any circumstances.) My mom never took it easy on me. Because of that, I had to learn to deal with reality in the non autistic majority. I am better for it. It wasn’t easy. Its still not. However, I’m a single mom raising tbree young children on my own. (Also not an easy road.) I wouldn’t have the capability to do such had I been coddled.