When cute children grow up

Eric11

“I’ve noticed as Eric has aged, he is seen less and less as an actual person. Which is why he is no longer pitied. To them, he’s no longer a sentient human being. He is seen more and more as a thing. Eric IS a person.

By Lori Pollard

As a young child, my son Eric was quiet and looked angelic, with platinum blonde curly hair, a round cherubic face and saucer-sized deep mahogany eyes. He was so cute strangers stopped me on the street and offered to buy him an ice cream cone. They’d say “get him an agent and put him in commercials.”

At age 6 months the crying fits started, and at around 9 months I became concerned over his lack of babbling. No sounds, no words.

In 1996 at age 3 he was diagnosed with autism, an unusual diagnosis back then. When he was very small, the biggest issues I had in terms of acceptance in the wider society were because of his wandering/bolting and his long term use of a baby bottle and diapers. People assumed I was paranoid (I’d make sure doors were locked, always keeping him in my sight and within reach) or I was coddling him (bottles, diapers). When I’d mention my son was autistic, people would universally respond with pity, which I hated, but at least they were trying to be open to my son. I could educate them about autism. About Eric.

There were, however a few notable exceptions. There were no services back then, the only recommendation from doctors was to get Eric in daycare for socialization and to establish a routine. Yet no daycare would accept Eric because he was a flight risk. So I enrolled us in as many Mommy and me programs as I could find. I found a very good one in an affluent neighborhood near me. It was for the children only, not a Mommy and me, but they allowed me in to assist with Eric. Eric at this point was about 5, no longer a cute baby. Still a cute kid, but his differences were much more apparent. The other children in the group, who were 3 and 4 year olds, had no problem with Eric. They treated him like everyone else. Until break … when they all went out to the hall and had a snack with their parents. The parents clutched their children near to them whenever Eric made his noises. They’d steer their children away from him. They never said a word, in my earshot at least, but those actions affected how the children behaved towards Eric. After the break no child would sit by Eric.

One mom approached me. She asked how she could help her daughter understand Eric and his behaviors. I knew all the other mothers were listening, so I told her that none of the children had an issue. It was the parents who did, and they had communicated that fear to their children. If they want their children to be accepting, they needed to be accepting themselves. Over the next few sessions, several children were pulled from the class. I stopped taking Eric to that program. He didn’t need that kind of discrimination. We only faced that type of discrimination in upper middle class neighborhoods. It was an elitist thing, not an autism thing. When things really started to change was when Eric reached the age of 9 or 10. He was no longer a “little kid”, and daily we were verbally assaulted by strangers. The verbal assaults became worse as Eric became older.

Eric12

Eric is 22 now. I’ve seen people on the bus move to another seat so as not to be near him. I have a niece whose son calls Eric “crazy man” while he hides behind his mom or dad. Eric is not aggressive. He actually has many less behaviors than he had as a child. People no longer pity him. They’ve replaced their pity with fear, or worse disgust.  I’ve noticed as Eric has aged, he is seen less and less as an actual person. Which is why he is no longer pitied. To them, he’s no longer a sentient human being. He is seen more and more as a thing. Eric IS a person. He’s a pretty exceptional person. He is my divining rod, pointing out bad people mascarading as good, and always embracing the truly good people.

****

LoriPollard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lori Pollard was born into a very accepting and open family. In the early seventies, when people with developmental disabilities were forced from their families and hidden, Lori’s parents would bring their adult autistic son home as often as possible, take him out into the community, and made sure he was seen as a PERSON. That acceptance of the neurodiverse instilled in her from infancy was an asset when years later, two of her sons would also be diagnosed as autistic. In the early 90s there were very few services, and even less funding and knowledge. Wider society, in fact even most doctors, had never heard the term autism. Lori disguised herself as a university student to gain access to the only available information on autism, housed in a universities mental health studies library. She educated herself then set about educating society. Lori was part of the early fight that brought about funding and services for autism in Ontario, Canada. Now that her children are adults, Lori fights for acceptance. Through her blog Days Of Whine and Rose she shares the positives of life in an autism household, and through her annual I Don’t Need A Cure Autism flashblog campaign and buzzfeed sites she sheds light on harmful curist practices and promotes autism self advocacy. Lori was recently an integral part in the collection of information and research for CBC’s Fifth Estate episode ” True Believers” and has been quoted by Diary of A Mom and more. Lori’s greatest hope is for the day that discriminating against the neurodivergent is no longer tolerated, and when people are seen simply as people.
Follow Lori here:
I Don’t Need A Cure Flashblog I Don’t Need A Cure Autism Flash Blog
I Don’t Need A Cure on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/idontneedacure
Days of Whine and Rose

 

 

 

1 Comment

  • Anuja says:

    Dear Lori and Eric,

    Reading this was pinching. We talk about humane society but humans who have not experienced special needs just do not want to expand their hearts. I sat next to a young man this Sunday during Champions of the Era meeting (Buddhist SGI event). This young man was listening when people shared their experiences and victories in faith. He clapped for everyone. But when there was dance performance, he was super excited, his entire body moving with rhythm. I felt so happy for him. In the end, I asked him who did he come with? He said, mom and sister, but I did not see them around. Volunteers got his wheel chair and we helped him in. I have been wondering since then…How far will I sit from someone my own with special needs.

    Like you said, its the parents who have instilled fear for the “not like everyone…”. Though I can see children becoming more conscious and compassionate with others with special needs. It always starts with the family and immediate environment. I am sure you are one brave, determined mother.

    Best luck and prayers always,
    Anuja

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *