A question for parents
Nowadays, parents have many more options for dealing with children who have a tendency to dart off. Disabled parking tags enable parents to park near store entrances and get their children to and from the store much more quickly and easily. GPS trackers can be placed on children so that, if they get lost, it's a simple matter to find them again. Children can be dressed in T-shirts with messages like "I'm autistic, not naughty," to provide a brief explanation of difficult behavior in public places. It's only in recent years that these options have been available.
When I was growing up, it was possible to buy leashes for young children to prevent them from running off. My mother didn't want to use one, though, because she was concerned that it might damage my self-image. So she just did her best to keep a close watch on me.
I've seen a lot of discussion on parent blogs about how useful it is to have autism T-shirts, disabled parking tags, and so forth, but I haven't seen anything about how a child's self-image might be affected. So, here is my question: If you are a parent who uses (or who has used) disabled parking, GPS, autism T-shirts, or other similar means of dealing with behavioral issues in public places, how would (or did) you explain it to your child? What answer would you give if your child asked why there was a tag with a picture of a wheelchair on your car, but nobody in your family used a wheelchair? If your child were to read the message on his or her T-shirt (and even a kid who talks very little may be able to read) and wanted to know why people might not be able to tell the difference between an autistic child and a naughty child, what would you say?
This post is not intended as a criticism of parents' choices; I know it's not easy to deal with kids who dart off or who have other behavioral issues. I'm just wondering how a child's self-image may be affected by various means of managing problematical behavior and what can be done to minimize potential harm. (If any teens or young adults reading this post had firsthand experience of wearing autism T-shirts, etc., how did you feel about it?)
Labels: families with autistic children