xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: A dog analogy

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A dog analogy

Child 1 is afraid of dogs; irrationally and completely scared shitless. It doesn't matter the size or the temperament, he will walk the widest arc around even the sweetest, calmest dog in the world who is sleeping on the sidewalk, nevermind the happy-go-lucky-I-want-to-lick-your-face ones. He runs in abject terror when he encounters them, even as their owner explains "don't worry, she's friendly!" That doesn't help, friendly is even worse.  I've learned, over the years, to put my body in between a dog and him whenever we encounter one; if he's hiding behind me he won't feel the need to run into the street to get away from it (and he's done that).

Earlier today I was walking home from the store (by myself!! OMG!!) when I passed a house that had a dog inside a fenced in yard. This was one of those little yippy guys, with LOTS of energy, and he had very very strong opinions about the fact that I was walking past his yard. The yard, and the fence, was rather long, and as I walked by, he jumped and jumped, and ran back and forth, and barked his opinion at me quite forcefully. It was actually a little unnerving, even to me, but this guy was so small that even his highest possible jump only got him halfway up the height of the fence; there was no way he was getting out.

And I thought, as I walked by, that I was glad Child 1 wasn't with me, because even though he would have been physically safe, he would have been emotionally very upset by the experience. And then I thought that there were probably some people in the world who would complain to the person who lived there that they had an autistic child who was terrified of dogs and the owner needed to keep their dog inside so as to not upset their child.

Are there really people like that? I don't actually know (who knows, here in Berkeley. Probably). Regardless of how unreasonable this request is, however, it seems to be to be a good analogy for a manner of child raising in which I do not subscribe: that the world needs to bend for my child because he is autistic. That I have the right to place unreasonable demands on other people, and that I should expect other people to acquiesce to my unreasonable demands, because my child is autistic.

I don't think that is my role as a parent of an autistic child or even an NT child. I think my job is to prepare them for the world, the world as it is, not the other way around. If I just happen to have some spare time I can do my best to try to educate people about autism, but that's all I can do. I can't expect other people to change for my son, but I can expect to teach him to prepare for them. The world may not be a completely fair and happy place, but it's my job, as his mother, to make sure he enters the world with the tools and the fortitude in order to deal with it. 

I have no right to ask the dog owner to keep his dog inside, but I do have the right, and the ability, and the presence of mind, to cross to the other side of the street so that my son can still make his way down the road.