Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How do you respond to strangers about your child's (or your own) autism?

I have been running into a scenario more frequently as my boys grow older and begin to stick out a bit more to people we see everyday.  The most frequent is the well meaning waitress or cashier who keeps trying to engage Beans in a conversation.  I feel that I have to say something, because he obviously isn't going to answer them, or even acknowledge their existence.  I have a feeling some know that he's different before speaking to him, but try to anyway.  I think they want to be nice by acknowledging him, but don't want to ask me why he's different.  I will eventually tell them that he's autistic and nonverbal.  They usually say something about how he's beautiful or cute.  I'm not sure if that's how I'd like people to respond, but then what IS the protocol for that situation?  What would be the proper thing to say? What is preferred by most parents of autistic kids?

I rarely say much about Bubby's autism.  He is verbal. Not fluently so and is often extremely inappropriate, but verbal enough to seem to not need an explanation to complete strangers. He also gets angry when I say anything about his differences, so I tend not to out of respect for him and his own preferences.

How do you respond to the awkward stranger encounter in regards to your child's autism and what is and isn't helpful reactions on the part of others?