As the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, I’ve often had to deal with unwanted and even downright rude public comments. Passers-by see a snapshot of a situation and are quick to make a judgment. Unfortunately, some of these passers-by choose to criticize me – either directly to me or to their cohorts but loud enough that I can hear. With the holiday shopping season upon us, which comes with loads of sensory input, I wanted to see how others respond to public criticism.
When I think about public criticism I immediately think of our family trip to Sea World in March 2007. After a fun day at the park, my daughter had an amazing meltdown on the way out. I actually blogged about it – The Dreaded Autism Tantrum. That day I chose to ignore the comments that I heard and focus on the task at hand, keeping my daughter safe and getting her out of the situation that was causing the meltdown.
Although a public meltdown is a common time to receive comments from strangers, it isn’t the only time I’ve heard rude comments. When my daughter was 4 I was changing her diaper at a store. A grandmother with a younger child was there. The younger child commented on the diaper change and the grandmother commented that my daughter was too old to still be in diapers. That day I didn’t hold my tongue and instead said something rude to the grandmother. I shouldn’t have responded that way, especially with the child in the picture, but I am human and I make mistakes.
Other times I’ve taken the opportunity to use an unsolicited and uniformed comment as an educational moment. My child is on the autism spectrum. Children on the autism spectrum can present with a variety of symptoms and one of these is blah blah blah (it changes depending on the situation). Did you know that 1 in 110 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum? I have two. I’ve even seen little autism business cards that parents and caregivers can quickly hand out.
So my response to public criticism varies widely – depending on my mood at the time and the type of comment. I’m curious, how do you respond to public criticism?