Unsolicited Advice

During my son’s 4-1/2 years of life, I have received more unsolicited comments and suggestions from strangers than I care to recount. Following the instruction of Proverbs 23:9, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words”, I’ve usually just walked away.

Yes, later in the quiet of the sleeping household I abruptly sit up, waking from a sound sleep, thinking, “Oh, why didn’t I say……..”. I know well enough, however, people bold enough to give unsolicited advice are only interested in the sound of their own voice.

Who hasn’t seen a stranger’s child behave in a less than endearing manner. I don’t feel a great need to interpose my views on strangers who are obviously not having the best of days. Okay, so there was that one time, five hours into a twelve hour flight that I, severely sleep-deprived, pleaded with the mother of the constantly-kicking-the-back-of-my-seat child. By her reaction, you’d think I’d suggested tossing him mid-air from the plane.

In talking with other parents of Autistic children, the experience of being accosted by well-intentioned (giving them a benefit of a doubt) strangers is, well, no stranger to them. People’s responses vary as widely as the Autism spectrum itself.

Some use it as an opportunity to eradicate “ignorance” through instruction and education. “Yes, thank you for your concern. My child is Autistic. Autism is a neurological developmental disorder, cause unknown…..”.

Others don’t feel they owe an explanation, instead curtly replying, “Yes, she’s behaving poorly but then she is a child. What is your excuse”. This one, I admit, has some merit.

Then there was the family who decided the best approach was a business card approach. Wordlessly handed to the clueless stranger, it suggested specific, implicit directions which I won’t recount.

I think, if one chooses to respond in a manner even more offensive than the boorish stranger, it may backfire, giving life to the false and destructive paradigms that in some way, the behavior of the Autistic child is directly related to the parent, i.e., “refrigerator mother”. I believe most parents spend more than enough time, Ad Nauseum, doubting and questioning themselves, without strangers throwing more logs on the shame, guilt and doubt fires.

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