Dear Lady with Your Comments

January 19, 2015

in Autism Challenges, Happiness

Dear Lady with Your Comments,

I know the other day when my son was tapping the salt and pepper shakers and pretending they were dancing that something rattled your core. I sensed the hair stand up on your skin and thought I saw your eye start to twitch when you chose to scold me for my son’s inappropriate restaurant behavior. I understand I didn’t respond quickly and make him behave for you. However, I was not ignorant to the fact that his tapping,  fidgeting and playing may not be acceptable restaurant behavior.

In fact, I was keenly aware of my son tapping the salt and pepper shakers and pretending they were dancing. I was in a full conversation with my husband about our day, family and life. We were happy. Our boys were sitting there patiently and lovingly awaiting their food. The tapping and the fidgeting to us was busying his nervous system. He was in our world fitting in with yours. We were celebrating that we finally were out at a restaurant as a family; something our son with Autism Spectrum Disorders could not do until recently. We were at that moment, proud he was behaving.

And then mam, you did something that was not unusual for my world. You lashed out.

You picked up the sugar holder at your table and began to tap it loudly. You got my attention as well as the entire restaurant. It got quiet as everyone looked over to you as you continued to tap away madly. You stopped and looked at me with a gleam of anger. You said to me Yes, you over there! Do you not hear your son tapping away? Can you not control him?  And, you turned away and started a normal conversation with your partner. Mission accomplished.

My response was not soulful and dear Lady, I apologize.

I looked at you and said,  You have problems, huh? I am guessing some issues, no? Yes, I guess you do. You should work on them. My son is behaving beautifully, thank you.

And, I looked away also.

You see your comment is one of hundreds (maybe thousands) that my son and I have received over his life time. This was one of the very first times he was behaving in a restaurant. The salt and pepper shaker were keeping his nervous system busy. Being different in terms of Autism Spectrum Disorders does not define how we should love a child or judge a child. It should not be assumed poor behavior is done on purpose or that a child who misbehaves should be punished, ridiculed or persecuted especially in public.

Your issues I mentioned are from a lack of love here. You are not seeing it from your heart, but your anger. However, I should have not judged you back. I should have explained this to you. Perhaps you also have ASD and can not take the noise of the tapping. I should have had compassion with you as well. Or, maybe your behavior is due to some other life related event. I missed an opportunity to embrace and teach you.

My son can only learn the acceptable social  behaviors you want him to have by being in the restaurant with you and learning them. If tapping salt shakers keeps him from whirling around, we will take it and move forward from here. As he learns to sit  and be part of the dining world, we will teach him not to tap or play with things on the table. Small steps make big changes.

Can you ma’m, embrace kids like him? Welcome them into your world of eating, dining and yes, shopping and compassionately  help moms like me teach them how to behave as society so desires (this means for them how to control their nervous system.) Take your ego out of this. I assure you, children like my son are not planning to anger you nor do they mean to ruin your meal. They simply are trying to fit in.

Come from kindness always, dear Lady, as I will to  those who will continue to throw comments at us.

Your Friend in Health and Happiness,


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jodi January 21, 2015

GREAT article on perspective. So few people really understand what is happening to those that are “pissing them off.” Every single adult should read this article. So much to learn from what others are struggling with. Thank you.

Karin January 21, 2015

SUCH an important message Lisa. I heard Kristen Neff, author of Self Compassion speak on this subject when she was on an airplane with her son with autism when he was having a bad reaction to the flight. Your job isn’t to make everyone else comfortable. It is to be there for your child, but it sounds like it was a lovely dinner depsite the ignorance of one adult (who you would hope would have know better). I can’t believe she starting tapping the sugar. Just goes to show you where her maturity, compassion, and intelligence is at.

Chara January 22, 2015

This is powerful, Lisa. You get the message across in such a strong way, showing compassion for all sides while defending your son’s and your family’s needs.

Dr. Lisa January 22, 2015

Jodi, I hope this article gets into enough hands to help spread awareness on how we ALL handle mishaps and anger. This took me so much time to actually feel about another person yelling at my child with a disability. And at times, I still find myself getting angry back. Patience is a very important blessing. Glad you enjoyed the article. ~ Dr. Lisa

Dr. Lisa January 22, 2015

Karin, She was actually tapping that sugar holder madly and with so much anger. At first I had no clue her actions were towards us. I was not shocked though, just annoyed that she removed me from my happy moment of being so very proud of my family. It took us 6 years (my son being 10) to go out to a restaurant! I will check out Self Compassion for sure! ~Dr. Lisa

Dr. Lisa January 22, 2015

Chara, Thank you. As much as I feel the utmost importance to having compassion for the angry lady, I still sink my heels firmly in the ground and defend a child who is simply trying so hard to fit in. ~Dr. Lisa

Jenn January 22, 2015

I feel your pain, Lisa!! When Elizabeth was a baby she had colic and hated to sit still. She fussed a lot. Anyway one Friday (5pm) we were out to dinner with friends. She was with us, which I always tried to avoid because I am really sensitive about disrupting other diners. That night she was great. She only fussed maybe once, but not even enough that I had to take her out of the room. As dinner was wrapping up, a woman from another table who I hadn’t even seen came up to me. She started by saying how cute Elizabeth was, and then BOOM! Her next comment was so is my grandchild and we don’t take her out to dinner on a Friday night!! I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say. After I was so mad. People really need to have more compassion for others. We are all trying our best here. We can’t tailor our lives to accommodate the miserable people in life. They are going to find anything to complain about. If it wasn’t the S&P shakers it would have been about something else. Keep up the great work and don’t let her stop you from enjoying a family dinner!!!

Dr. Lisa January 22, 2015

Jenn, You hit the nail on the head! There just are miserable people; people who are so unhappy and don’t see the love within themselves, so how can they see it in others? I think we need to be compassionate for them, but in doing so, still stand firm in protecting our child. I can’t tell you how many times we carried out son out, and then we just stopped going- 6 years of no restaurants. We did give up, but also allowed him to eat with his disability and embrace the support and love he needed to move through it. Nasty people only make things so much harder. LOVE baby! And now Elizabeth is amazing, so was that such a big deal Lady that yelled at you? xo ~Dr. Lisa

tammy January 23, 2015

Way to go Dr. LISA. WE have an autistic son aswell and people I find are rude and so not tolerant of the silky little quirks my Nicholas has. Things we celebrate like going to target with out holding a conversation with himself out loud (calms his nervous system ) are huge to family on the spectrum. I wish people would take the time to educate themselves.

Dr. Lisa January 23, 2015

Tammy, You are SO RIGHT! Many people fail to realize the little things that may come easy for some can be so very difficult for others. I left many stores, restaurants and amusement parks because my son just could not do them. Love to you and Nicholas! ~ Dr. Lisa

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