Here is a story from a Mum whose daughter’s journey has not been easy. Emma has had ongoing therapy which has enabled her to start speaking at the age of four and she is being prepared to go to school next year. However, every little set back can be monumental in regards to an autistic child. This Mum has asked us to share her recent experience so that parents of autistic children know they are not alone and to make others aware of how their actions can have ramifications.
“Emma was verbally abused at a supermarket by the shop keeper for putting her finger into a watermelon while trying to navigate getting to the public toilet parent room with my Dad.
When Emma melted down to the floor, went white and cowered over, the owner continued to scream at her in what was described as “diabolical” by bystanders.
My Dad focussed on Emma, helping her come out of her meltdown and make her feel safe.
What has happened as a result of this is a little girl who has had a significant regression into herself, has had 3 meltdowns since and hasn’t been able to feel safe, her mental health and wellbeing has been significantly impacted by this incident.
In my opinion, any child should not be screamed at and the law needs to protect them. They are the most vulnerable members of our society and our law needs to protect them.
Emma’s therapist is helping us support her and we have role-played the scenario to teach her that this is not her fault that she can respond to this in a way that will protect her and avoid her going into a state of shock and overloading her senses.
I can’t tell you how challenging this has been for her and us and I am disappointed the shop owner wouldn’t raise it with the adult and instead of yelling at a child and continue to scream at her when she is on the ground cowering.
The following day we returned to the shop to politely discuss the issue with the owner, with hope to rebuild Emma’s confidence and security. At first, Emma hid under my legs. When she was ready she came out and said “the lady screamed, she scared me”
He apologised to her on her level and explained no-one should scream at her. Emma also understands not to touch the watermelon again.
Let’s hope we can all move on from this and we don’t see the regression in speech and behaviour we have been helping her through.”
Since this event, Emma has had her fifth birthday, been to see the new Frozen movie (and wants to go again) and is taking daily walks to school to look at the children in the playground knowing she will be one of them next year.
Life with a child on the spectrum will never be easy, it will be filled with highs and lows, but ultimately this image sums it up: