‘Is your son autistic?’
A simple enough question you would think but it provoked further thought and left me wondering whether it’s acceptable for people to be so blunt.
I was recently asked this question whilst we were on holiday and initially I thought, ‘how nice that someone feels comfortable to be able to ask me that question.‘ I didn’t know the person and it was an opening line from her whilst sat on the beach. I’m not certain as to what Joseph was doing at that particular point and what led her to her correct diagnosis but I replied, ‘yes’ and the conversation initially stopped there.
What do you say after someone has asked you that question? And it was a closed one after all. If the woman had said something along the lines of, ‘I have a son/friend who is autistic and I understand some of the challenges you may face’, then I may have felt a little differently about it but I am not sure what the purpose of her statement was. Did she think that by correctly identifying my son’s condition that she would win a free sun lounger? Did she think that I would shout, ‘YES YES how did you know?’ What if my son had been recently diagnosed and or even worse, not diagnosed? It’s possible that it would have made me feel more uncomfortable or upset by the question.
Would it be fine to ask someone, ‘Is your child Ginger?’ or perhaps, ‘Is your child Ugly?’ (and yes they are with a capital G and U. If it’s something blatantly obvious, does it then make it acceptable to mention it?
If a person doesn’t understand what you are saying does that make it acceptable for you to talk about him or her because it may not register with his/her feelings?
I carried this boy for eight months (yes he even stole a bloody month from me), comforted him when he didn’t sleep, cared for him when he was ill and cursed him when his world didn’t coincide with mine. Despite my own attempts at an injection of humour into our crazy life, it shouldn’t mask what should be plainly obvious to all.
We BOTH have feelings. You just have to scrape below the surface.