I get Facebook popups about different awareness groups all the time. Autism awareness, Down Syndrome, seems like every other day there’s a new group, syndrome, disease or illness that has an awareness group. People are pretty aware of autism now. The kid may look perfectly normal, may seem normal to you, but when you are on the playground and suddenly that kid slaps another kid, the mother murmurs, “He’s on the spectrum.” (And that’s supposed to make it all ok for the kid who was slapped?) But, it’s accepted, and no longer questioned as bad parenting. Good or bad, is not for me to say. Autism awareness seems to have been made pretty well, at least in the USA.
Same scenario, same two kids, same two mothers sitting on the park bench. This time, the kid slaps the other kid, and his mother says and does nothing. You are aghast. How could she let her child be such a brat? What a horrible parent!
In both these scenarios, the mother does nothing when her child slaps another child. She doesn’t intervene, get up, remove the child from the situation, nothing. In once case she’s forgiven because her child is “on the spectrum” and therefore doesn’t know better, or some such garbage. The other scenario, because no excuse is given, the mother is looked down upon. The actions of the child were not different in either case.
Let’s take this scenario only the kid who hits is OUR kid. Our traumatized, RAD kid, who is getting overwhelmed on the playground and disregulated. We either miss it or hope he holds out a few more minutes, either way, we know a blow up is coming and we’re trying to avoid it. SLAP! He hits the other kid. Every parents’ head immediately turns to look at us to see our reaction. As a mom of RAD, we know things have now spun out of control and we need to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. We mumble a quick “I’m so sorry!” to the other mom and try to pull our child away from the playground. We know a rage is coming on, we know things are about to go very, very bad with our child. Whatever set him off has set him off in full-blown rage. The minute we touch our child’s arm and say, “Honey, it’s time to go,” he screams as if you grabbed him tightly. ”Don’t hurt me!” he yells. You realize you are now the focus of every eye on the playground and the surrounding block at this point. ”Son, it’s time to go home. Let’s walk to the car and go home, then we can relax, maybe have a snack.” Unseen by the spectators, your son gives his “tell”, the movement he makes right before he lunges at your face, trying to gouge your eyes out. Preemptively you reach out and block his move, in no way hurting him or being aggressive. To the spectators you just hit your kid, even though you technically didn’t touch him, he touched you. You met him partway. No harm was done to either party – BUT – he throws himself down on the ground and starts screaming “you hurt me!”… well, I don’t need to continue this scenario to the CPS, cops, etc. that have now invaded your life. And suddenly, YOU are the bad guy, the bad parent. Why? Because you intervened and prevented a bad scenario from happening on the playground, because you did what you needed to do to keep your child from hurting another child… and you are the bad guy because there’s no “easy” button in this case to say, “He’s a trauma kid, he’s making it up. He’ll be ok in a few minutes, when he’s done raging. I have to put him in this hold so he won’t hurt himself or someone else. I’m not hurting him.” If you had said, “He’s on the spectrum” people would have not thought twice. But you don’t have that handy dandy little phrase. You don’t have a button for awareness, or a tshirt, or a day of the month. You got – nada, zilch, nothing. In fact, you have less than nothing because you have the opposite of awareness – you have ignorance, denial, even by the “experts”, judgements from friends, family, neighbors, pretty much everybody in your life who doesn’t understand RAD.
And that is pretty much why we all become hermits, stuck in our little caves, afraid to venture out in the world where we’ll be judged and found guilty, the only evidence being a lying, manipulative, damaged child.
But this is also the reason we need to keep informing our friends (perhaps former friends?), neighbors, family, teachers, even the professionals in our children’s lives about this “spectrum” of attachment disorders. Without awareness, we’ll be stuck in our own little caves forever. We need to get out of our caves. We need to see the sunlight.
Don’t give up on the world, or your family, or friends, or the world, just yet. Keep plugging along.