My Child Is Not 'Naughty', He Has Autism

by Jenni Petrey for The Mighty
A sad little boy with autism in a blue jacket sitting alone on a bench
Xavier_S / iStock

To the elderly man at the supermarket last week who took it upon himself to growl at my son and then tell him he was a very naughty boy, do you realize how scared you made him feel?

To the mother who openly ignored my child as he was trying to say hello to you and your child, and who then said to a mutual friend, “He doesn’t have autism. He is naughty, and his mother can’t control him. Period.” Do you know how much you deflated his self-confidence by ignoring him?

To the mother who glared at me when my son was having a moment and then told her own son, “I don’t want you to play with that boy. He is very naughty.” Please do not call my boy naughty.

Do not judge my son’s behavior based on your onetime encounter with us. You saw my son when he was at his most vulnerable, and you have judged him based on that.

My son is not a naughty boy. He has autism.

Jenni Petrey

You just happened to notice his behavior when he was overwhelmed by his surroundings and had entered into sensory overload.

Do you know autism is called autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Do you know ASD encompasses many different attributes but not all individuals diagnosed will present with the same traits?

Do you know that my heart breaks every time either of my children are so overstimulated from their surroundings that they enter into a sensory meltdown? Do you know how mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting a meltdown is?

Do you know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown?

Do you know what sensory overload is?

Many individuals on the spectrum also have sensory issues, and these can affect how they process the environment around them. Sensory issues can make noise, lights, and sounds seem much more intense to an individual on the spectrum. And at times, the only way they can communicate how they are feeling is through a meltdown.

Every time they leave their home, their “safe haven,” they are entering an unfamiliar, ever-changing territory where they can no longer control what happens.

We have learned how to minimize the impact of such environments for my son, but at times, he still struggles. The one thing I can’t protect him from is ignorant comments from individuals.

So on behalf of my son and others like him, please don’t make a comment or pass judgment on their behavior.

We need support, not your negativity.

A smile or nod that you understand means more than you can imagine.