My 13-year-old son Alex and I get into the elevator with a neighbor. Perfectly normal thing to do after the end of a perfectly normal day. The door slides shut and the neighbor says, “Five, please” when I ask what floor she wants. Then perfect normalcy ends.

This violates my new rule of avoiding, if I can, elevators with neighbors when I’m riding with Alex. He still presses the buttons for a load of extra floors.

Alex, who has autism, presses three (not our floor) and nine (our floor). “Alex, press five, please.”
Noooo!” he says. “Alex, press five.” “Noooo!

Once, I would’ve felt the neighbor’s eyes on my back. I don’t this time. I try to press five and Alex grabs my hand; my other hand holds a grocery bag. “Alex, press five now.”


I could put down the bag and, suddenly needing both my arms for this 13-year-old, force his hand to the five button. I guess I still feel the eyes for a moment, though, because I don’t force his hand.

We get to three. Alex dashes to the door, in front of the neighbor, and stares out. He curls the fingers of two hands to make his own 3.

Eventually we get to five. I forget how, but I may have pressed the button myself. “Have a good night,” I say to the neighbor. “Take it easy,” she says. “Take it easy,” Alex says.

Alex, walk this way…  Alex, press five, please…  Those times he doesn’t, I grunt like Basil Fawlty in comedic exasperation even as I know that whatever Alex is doing is no passing instant but the way things are and the way they’re going to be. I’m getting plain old pissed at the idea that not every parent has a son who’s going to have to be a grown-up amid the wreckage of our special-needs budgets. Some doctor put it best 14 years ago: “You’re at the mercy of everybody with an opinion.” At that time, I believed he was talking about just Alex’s year in a hospital. Now I think he was talking about the rest of Alex’s life.

What must people must think when they see Alex? I pity the parents. Why do they let him do that? Why don’t they find a home for him somewhere?

He has a home. The opinions we have of him there will do for now.

About JeffsLife

Father of an autistic 13-year-old boy,

, , , ,

5 Responses to Opinions

  1. Jennifer February 29, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    My cousin Krystal once gave me a book that advised parents of autistics, “Stop caring what people think,” I suggest you take that advice, Duncan.

  2. Jim W. February 29, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    The stares and opinions bug me. On a good day I can dismiss them. On a bad day, they get to me.

    “stop caring what people think”, is phenomenal advice. . . but totally impractical.

    It’s like advising someone with a weight problem to stop feeling hungry. Yeah. . . I mean, that would fix it right?

    I don’t care who you are or how well adjusted. When you’re passionate about something. . . like your kid, for example, it’s not possible to “stop caring what people think.” It’s just too personal and emotional to practically implement 100% of the time.

  3. MarsupialMama March 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Yeah, I have to agree with Jim on this one. It’s not easy. On a good day, I too can studiously ignore and not care… But usually.. I don’t know, it’s just too close to my heart.

    One time (I’m not proud of this), we were on a plane (my son hates flying, though he’s gotten better) and he was having a full-blown, extended meltdown (his baby sister was also crying loudly and my husband and I had our hands *full* trying to manage the situation). The guy sitting across the aisle from us starts signing at us, trying to get my attention so I can get my son to hold his nose and blow to make his ears pop.

    I was a *bundle* of nerves and that just made me lose it. The ear-popping was *not* the problem. His phobia of seatbelts (which you of course have to wear during landing) was.

    I snapped at him and said really loudly “my son’s autistic and gets distressed by seat belts. Do you have a problem with that?? Does that make you uncomfortable in any way??” The guy shook his head “no” and avoided eye contact with me for the rest of the landing. Fine by me.

    I had also said it loudly to discourage any other passengers from offering me “advice” on how to calm my son down. Not my finest moment, but at least I was able to focus on my son with no further distractions.

  4. Jenn March 4, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    I’ve learned to accept every single glare, snide comment, rude person for what it is…. ignorance, pure and simple. Ashton has a lot of outward symptoms of Autism (the flapping/clapping, the babbling, etc) but eh, who cares. Sure, I have days where I want to tell the next person who stares to “Go fly a kite” but well… stupid is as stupid does. And really, it’s just a lack of education on their part.

    Most times I feel the need to educate (unless I’m totally exasperated and I don’t have too many of THOSE days anymore) so I’ll explain how my son is on the autism spectrum and some days he seems completely “typical” while others he’s laying on the floor flapping and giggling about some recent book or movie he’s seen and has memorized the lines for.

    I just don’t care (honestly) what people think anymore. Though I will say… I tend to take Ashton to the same places (grocery stores, movie theater, Walmart, etc) and since we’re there so often, the staff know him. He’s accepted. And that’s really all I can ask for.

  5. Yasemin March 9, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    As I am coming to grips with my own son’s (probable) Autism, it is nhcokisg to read about other parent’s experiences with it. It is a punch to my gut, a stab in my heart, forcing me, pulling me, to open my eyes to what I have tried to look away from. Your descriptions of your son are so akin to my own experiences with Owen. In many ways it makes me feel so foolish to have not known sooner. Though I feel I have always known, I guess it’s that I finally stopped denying what I always knew.

Leave a Reply