A mum from Ireland has penned an open letter to others in the hope that they’ll think twice before judging her autistic son.
Nicole Duggan set up a Facebook page, My Boy Blue, about her three-year-old son Riley that’s designed to ‘make the judgers understand’ as part of her New Year goal.
Nicole posts her feelings of what life is like for autistic children and their parents, with the aim of making others consider her and her son’s situation.
‘When I set up this page I promised myself that this year I would make people understand autism,’ she writes, before going on to explain what the typical parent looks forward to when they have kids.
‘You dream of their first word, the first time they will clap their hands, the first time they wave goodbye and of course their first steps. All of the ‘normal’ things.
‘Well, in my house these things are far from normal. Yes we had some of them, but they have disappeared. Words were lost, milestones missed and many tears were cried along the way.’
Nicole then breaks apart some of the assumptions about Riley that may have been made regarding his behaviour.
‘This is not ‘laziness’ on his part. It is not him being stubborn and it most certainly is not him acting up.
‘My little boy is just like your child, he loves to dance, he loves to be cuddled, he cries when he falls, and he adores Mickey mouse. He is, however, “wired differently”.’
She describes a typical situation in Riley’s everyday routine, and how immensely difficult it can be for him to live a ‘normal’ life.
‘The small things we take for granted every day are the hardest things for him to cope with. Different lights, sounds, smells or even the look of something can cause an overload that is too hard for an adult to deal with, let alone my little boy.’
‘”Normal things” such as going shopping, playing in a kids’ playzone, or even a hair cut can be unbearable for him.’
Nicole implores others to help Riley by interacting with him positively, rather than alienating him.
‘To the people that stare at him because he hums, join in with his little singsong, because in his eyes he is singing the best song in the world.
‘To the mothers that pull their children away from him, you are creating the bullies of the future. Children don’t notice the differences, they just want to play – let them.
‘To the lady that called him bold in the supermarket, try to look at things from his perspective. An overload of colours and sounds. People whizzing past you. You too would cry your eyes out if you could not tell anyone how you are feeling when it all gets too much.’
Nicole finishes her post by saying how grateful she is to have her son the way he is, and that anyone who is part of his life needs to be patient and understanding of his autism.
‘I would not change my small man for the world and if you cannot understand him and how he works, then you do not deserve to be in his life in the first place.
‘Children with needs are the bravest, most courageous and most amazing little people in this world. They are fighting battles nobody knows and I guarantee not one adult would make it through half of the obstacles they do.
‘Just because there is not a physical difference does not mean they are simply bold.
‘So this year I ask you to think before you judge, live a day in my small man’s shoes and you will understand how much of a superhero he really is.’