As a full time worker, it’s hard to make time to attend any autism-related groups that can build on my knowledge and skills to work with my son. Everything tends to happen during the week when I need to be making money to fund his speech session and school fees.
So instead, I want to attend as many weekend activities as possible. Most events happen in the city area, so a bit of travelling will be involved but what we expect to gain from it all makes the travelling totally worth it.
We started in April and attended the launch of the Autism Awareness month. We were the first group to arrive – hubby, Curly, the in-laws and I – and we chatted with the staff as they helped Curly with hand printing, face painting and bubble blowing. We donated some gold coins and told our story to the kind and gentle social workers.
And then other families started to arrive. We were so excited as we were looking forward to chit-chatting with them, exchanging stories and all. Maybe take home a number and keep in contact. But I was so wrong!
Parents kept away from parents. None came forward to introduce themselves. If it wasn’t for me going up for a ‘Hi, hello’ to one of the mums, she would have continued to pretend we were not there… there as in sitting 5 metres from her and her family on the greens. A short 30 seconds or so and the ‘room’ went quiet and the crickets chirped. She wouldn’t continue talking, so I walked away.
I didn’t assume that this woman was being rude. I assumed she was shy or unsure. She probably felt the way I did – and she was probably wondering if I would start judging her as soon as she opens her mouth to talk about life as a mum with a child with autism, and talk about why her child is ‘different’.
I assume she feared that no one understands what she’s going through and perhaps no one cares to make the time to say meaningful things to her. When I speak with some people – even some of my friends – about Curly, they jump to the conclusion that he’ll grow out of it. Grow out of what? Grow out of himself?
I know that some people don’t know as much as I do, and I respect that. And I know that I need to be the person that gives them the knowledge so that they can understand my son, our life and our challenges. But I’m not ready to take that step yet. I’m still at the stage where I’m annoyed when people say things that are not quite appropriate.
I’m at the stage where I’m annoyed that they couldn’t make an effort to do some research to find out what autism is. And I’m at that stage where I need more support from people who are going through the same challenges as I am; I need the support, not the questions and definitely not the comments.
So dear parents with children with autism… stop being shy – especially when in groups with others who are experiencing the autism challenge. We need each other, so let’s be there for each other. Open up in person, introduce yourselves and create your support system.
If there’s anyone in Perth who is reading this, please get in contact, I’m dying to talk with some great people.
Have you made friends with other parents with children with autism? What tips can you share with us about forging new friendships?