by Tara Cohen
My friend Laura was recently at one of those big-box-nothing-under-100-pounds-can’t-escape-for-less-than-100-dollars behemoth warehouse stores with her husband and daughter, and she thought of me. Now, Laura, being the conservationist-social activist-cloth-diapering-vegetarian that she is, is not a huge fan of oversized portions of toxic plastic crap, so it’s worth noting that they were picking up bulk consumables like kitty litter and rice, not single-use plastics and disposable diapers. As they perused the streets of this indoor mecca o’ stuff, Laura loaded their cart with a super-mega-ultra-jumbo bag of cat food and noticed a woman staring at her with something like disapproval on her face.
Now, me, I’m used to strangers’ stares because children with autism, like my son Will, do tend to become the main attraction when they’re upset. I should charge for tickets to “The Will Show” for as long as some people stare at us. When that child is upset, throwing things, hitting, full-body-flailing in the stroller, crying, or all of the above (yes, that happens, and often), people shake their heads at us. They do the “Wow. That’s one bratty kid” double eyebrow raise. They roll their eyes, cluck their tongues, whisper their disapproval to each other, and stare at me with their appalled “Well, I never” expressions when I don’t look adequately humiliated. But we are living in the year 2 A.D. (that’s “After Diagnosis”) in my house, and I’ve had enough time to learn that my kid absolutely has to come first, and explaining ourselves to strangers takes a last-row-of-a-15-passenger-van type of back seat to taking care of his needs.