The mum of a young boy on the autism spectrum has penned a heartfelt letter to parents of neurotypical children, asking for kindness and understanding.
April is Autism Acceptance Month – aimed to do just that; encourage inclusion of people on the autism spectrum.
Libby Green’s son, Oscar, aged 4, attends our specialist school St Paul’s College, in Balwyn. Oscar was diagnosed with autism about six months ago, but Libby says they knew there was something different about him from age two, due to a language delay and behavior traits typical of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
“We found it important to remember that at diagnosis point Oscar had not changed; he was still the same child as he was yesterday. That being said, there is an all-consuming sadness that comes with the realisation that your child may struggle in life – that’s the hardest part, not knowing what that struggle will look like.”
Libby says her family is thrilled to have found St Paul’s, where Oscar is thriving. He’s an active boy who loves running, jumping, dancing and flying down waterslides. Academically, he’s great at spelling out any words he sees.
“He knows all the names of the kids in his class, and he demonstrates much affection for both them and his teachers each day.”
And while the school environment is inclusive and welcoming, Libby wishes the same for the wider community. She’s penned this letter in an effort to help people understand what children on the spectrum and their parents go through…
Dear parent with a typically developing child,
I want you to know I’ve already driven to two other parks to see how many people are there before getting to this one. This one had the fewest people, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry if he follows your child a bit too closely; it’s just because he wants to start a chasey game but doesn’t know how to ask, and has no concept of the fact that your child might not want to play that sort of game. Permission is not something that exists in his world, at least not yet. But I will grab him and pull him away, kicking and screaming and hitting me probably. I’m sorry again, he’s autistic.
I’m sorry if he pushes in to go down the slide before your child whose turn it clearly was. He’s just so excited. Turn-taking is not something that exists in his world, at least not yet. But I will take him off the slide, kicking and screaming and hitting me probably. I’m sorry again, he’s autistic.
I’m sorry if I can’t even attempt minimal polite conversation with you – I just can’t take my eyes off him for a second. He’s super quick you see and might run away, without a single care in the world. Making sure he is safe with a parent close by is not something he cares about, at least not yet. I’m sorry I’m so distracted, he’s autistic.
We’ve been here for 12 minutes, I’ve apologised three times and I’m out of energy. More people have arrived and I can’t keep apologising, so we’ll just go home.
We all want to take our children to the playground – they love it so much. Please know that while you can sit back and smile and enjoy your child having fun – I am an anxious wreck who won’t relax for even a moment, always remaining 1-2metres away from my child. But I still want to take him to the playground, and I’m doing my absolute best. Your understanding and empathy, and maybe even a kind word, means more than you could know.
Libby Green, Oscar’s Mum.