Is it worse to stare or avert your gaze?

The last two days have been a bit stressful. We took the boys to Knoebel's on Thursday evening for swimming. We go there often during the summer, because it's reasonably priced and everyone can find something they like to do.

We've been following a bit of routine--eating at one restaurant right across from the pool and then going to the pool. A routine might be an extravagant way of saying it--we've done that twice. This time I wanted to go to a cafe farther away, because frankly there is nothing to eat that fits into Weight Watchers after I've used 20 of my 22 points for the day.

I tried to tell Nathan we were doing this, but my point did not go through. As we walked through the park, he began to scream his distressed noises. When we got to the cafe, he threw himself on the ground and screamed while we waited in line. Then he continued to scream and screamed louder when we tried to prevent him from picking dropped food off the ground to eat it. People stared at us almost to 100%, although a few outliers averted their gaze. I do my best to try to not interpret what people are thinking, but I lose my ability to be flexible like that as I get more stressed. And, boy, was I stressed. Are they angry we're disturbing their dinner? Are they pitying me? Do they sympathize because they know someone like him? Are they afraid of us? Can they tell I'm losing my patience and becoming the bad mom?

I remember watching disabled people have meltdowns before I was living autism. I think I was afraid and sorry for the caretakers. So I don't think I have any right to be annoyed with these people who are as ignorant as I was. On the other hand, I don't have the time, energy or inclination in the heat of the moment to be an educational advocate for autism awareness. The nicest thing someone ever did was come up to my husband in Wal-Mart while Nathan was having a meltdown and tell him he was doing a good job. But maybe I wasn't doing such a good job at Knoebels.

Today, however, I'm wearing my shirt "My kid has autism, duh!" It will be the first time. I'm a little worried it's too 'in your face' but on the other hand it gives me a little cajones. Actually, we're going to a company picnic, so there's that little fact to add in. But I can't be fired. And the all day people all over the park will be getting an education with very little energy expended from me!


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