Many parents struggle with whether or not they should make it known that their child is autistic when in public situations. They are concerned about the idea of labeling their child with this developmental disorder and how that would effectively limit them to the misconceptions and uncertainties of strangers. Even those who have children on the higher functioning end of the spectrum find themselves in uncomfortable public situations that include lots of staring and judgements.
For one autism mom and blogger, Julie Green, says, “Although i balk at the idea of him wearing his label on his sleeve–because he’s so much more than just a label–I also wonder whether keeping mum about his disorder is somehow unfair or discourteous to strangers. One of her friends, also an autism mom, claims that wearing autism awareness shirts, pins, or signs, has made all the difference in how others perceive or judge them. Instead of having to deal with people telling her off, if people know her child has autism they are more likely to just ignore them or let them be.
Another friend who has a 9 year old non-verbal son, does not agree that labeling is the answer to it all. She explains, “It’s not like we stop teaching him to behave properly because he’s slow to learn. There are some limitations for sure, like his speech. But it doesn’t stop him functioning like other human beings. [All] kids are work in progress.”
There is no right or wrong answer to whether or not you should tell strangers that your child has autism to prevent any uncomfortable situations or keep it on a need-to-know-basis. Ms. Green says, “At times I still long for my friend’s handy card or T-shirt that spells out his difference so people can just quit staring and move on already.” Perhaps what we need to do, is continue to take these uncomfortable situations as an opportunity to spread awareness about autism and how fast its diagnosis has grown in the past few years alone. By doing this we may eventually reach a point where strangers are more knowledgeable and less inclined to judge a child’s behavior and either help if they can or continue with their day, leaving everyone in a more positive state of mind.