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Page 39
The Rockaway Times
Awareness Cards
These cards have become a
popular way of handling by-
standers for parents of chil-
dren with autism. They often
state a few brief facts about au-
tism, explain why meltdowns
happen and refer the reader to
a website where they can learn
When our “artistic” child is
having a meltdown or displays
socially unacceptable behav-
ior, will gifting this card be
beneficial in educating folks
unaware about autism? Will
it foster understanding, pa-
tience and tolerance? Or does
it come across as trying to il-
licit pity, while revealing our
child’s disability to strangers?
I have quandaries about this.
I am afraid of how folks would
use it to brand her and block
themselves from appreciat-
ing her enchantingly beauti-
ful abilities. All they would
see is a child with a problem.
Then there is the concern of
safety. Suppose my daughter
is targeted because of her au-
tism? Think of recent incidents
where autistic children were
However on the flip side (no
pun intended), perhaps if I
had one of these cards in my
arsenal, it could have eased
the tension described in the
incident below?
September 8, I leaped out of
bed. First day of school!
Ecstatic that my daughter
would be carted off for a few
hours of the day in which I
could finally get some peace
and quiet, and EXHALE! As
most parents with “artistic” or
“normal” children would at-
test, after a stressful, crazy and
hectic summer, this is the day
of jubilee!
However, “mummy” para-
noia and anxiety then kicked
in soon after. For the new
school year, I got my daughter
transferred to a local school.
Her commute would be twenty
minutes each way, as opposed
to the ninety minutes she had
for the last three years. A flood
of questions went through
my head as I was getting her
dressed. Would she like the
new school? What will her
teacher, therapists and paras
be like? What were the behav-
iors and needs of the other
children? Will they warm up
her food to the volcanic tem-
perature she likes? What was
I sacrificing, just to limit her
commuting time and increase
my peace of mind?
The bus was scheduled to
arrive at seven. By eight, no
bus. Like any child, she start-
ed getting agitated, repeat-
edly stripping off her clothes,
jumping on the bed, and gal-
loping all over the house like
the underdog horse in the
Belmont Stakes! It was not her
fault, but I was losing patience.
Eight-thirty and still no bus.
She was late. Feeling that I was
about to have a stroke, I got her
dressed for the fifty-millionth
time, and decided to take her
myself. Besides, she loves rid-
ing on the MTA buses.
In the packed bus, a woman
offered her seat to my daugh-
ter, who immediately catapult-
ed onto it, facing the window.
Then disaster struck. Another
woman in the adjacent seat
barked: “Can’t you make your
child sit properly? I don’t
want my work clothes to get
dirty. Make her behave!” That
oh so tender moment, when
someone demands, “Make
your daughter behave!” After
a stressful morning, I was at
the breaking point. I snapped
back: “This is the way she sits!
Trust me lady, this is not the
time or the place!” Some by-
standers started quietly snick-
ering, while others gave me a
sympathetic look. I started to
feel guilty. I was wrong. It’s not
the woman’s fault. She does
not understand. Maybe, she
also had a rough morning.
As we exited the bus, I turned
to the woman and said, “My
apologies. Hope your day im-
Would gifting an autism
awareness card have eased the
tension between the woman
and me? I don’t talk about au-
tism for sympathy or pity. My
desire is to open doors into the
reality of our lives as caregiv-
ers, and build understanding,
tolerance and growth of our
“artistic” children.
thoughts and stories by email-
ing me at ourartisticchild@
outlook.com. I would love
your feedback!
Also please reach out if you
are interested in attending
the Rockaway Beach “Artistic"
Families support group.
Life With Our
“Artistic” Child
By Kami-LeighAgard