Parents of autistic children deal daily with hostility, lack of understanding

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 10:51 pm on Friday, April 13, 2012

Autism Awareness Month supporters hope to increase understanding of the disorder. “You get a lot of hard looks and judgments from other parents,” said Tosha Moore about her experiences with her autistic child in public. Moore’s 5-year-old daughter, Kailyn, was diagnosed with autism more than two years ago. Courtesy photo.

There’s nothing easy about life with an autistic child. The temper tantrums, lack of communication, inability to perform even the simplest task … all these are hurdles parents of autistic kids face every day. But the hardest thing is often something as simple as a trip to the grocery store.

According to Tosha Moore, whose 5-year-old daughter Kailyn was diagnosed with autism more than two years ago, one of the most difficult aspects of raising an autistic child is dealing with the public.

“You get a lot of hard looks and judgments from other parents,” Moore explains. “They think your child is just a brat who is throwing a fit because she’s not getting what she wants; that you’re a bad parent. The truth is she might be upset because of the flickering lights or the sound of all the people around her.”

Children and adults with autism frequently act out in ways that seem odd or even frightening to those unused to being around persons with the disorder. Manic outbursts interspersed with long periods of total inactivity are common.

“It can be emotionally and physically trying,” Moore says. “You struggle. I see at times by her aggression or hurt that she wants to tell me something, but can’t. It could be something as simple as that she’s stubbed her toe, but she has no way to let me know that.”

These outbursts and other strange behaviors often evoke negative responses from people in public places, Moore adds. To help resolve this problem, April has been designated as Autism Awareness Month. Throughout the month, those working in the field concentrate their efforts on educating the public regarding the nature of autism; what it is and the best ways to deal with those who suffer from it.

Cyndi Geiger, special education supervisor with the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District, says the overall goal of the effort is to make life a bit easier for both autism sufferers and their caregivers.

“It’s done through a myriad of ways,” Geiger says. “We provide training, distribute flyers, hold conferences; it all depends on who and where.”

The Montcalm ISD will host a parent’s night out event from 6-8 p.m. April 30 at the Seiter Education Center in Greenville. The event will feature several different “break-out” sessions, where parents will be able to get information and discuss various topics with others in similar circumstances. Many of the topics are based on suggestions gleaned from surveys sent out to parents of autistic children earlier this year.

The topics currently being planned range over a wide variety of autism-related issues, in part because the disorder itself produces so many different symptoms and behaviors.

“Due to the spectrum of autism we have to cover everything from low functioning individuals with significant cognitive impairment to those who are higher functioning, like Asperger’s,” Geiger says. “We have some sessions dealing with toileting issues and others that deal with social aspects.”

Educators and researchers have seen a sharp rise in the incidence rate of autism in recent years. This has come about in part due to use of improved screening and diagnostic tools.

“In the past what used to look like something else is now recognized as autistic spectrum disorder,” Geiger says. “Researchers have many guesses as to causes for autism, but none have been nailed down. Maybe it’s environmental toxins. It’s many causes, probably.”

The Autism Awareness Month event is geared primarily toward parents; however educators and other community members are encouraged to attend. The event is free and no pre-registration is required.

The Seiter Education Service Center is located at 1401 East Van Deinse Street in Greenville.

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