There May Be More To The Crying Child Than You Think


Periodically, we see children melt down and have a tantrum in a public place.

Do we look at the child with compassion or do we look at the parent with derision and think, ‘Why can't you control your child?' or ‘If you can't control your child better than (better than I can), why didn't you leave him at home?'

For a steadily increasing number of children, the problem is not that their behavior is deplorable or that the adult's parenting skills lack luster.

A developmental disability called autism is the culprit.

From 1992 to 1993, there were 199 children in Arizona, aged 6 to 21, served by the Individuals with Disabilities Discrimination Act, according to statistics complied by the U.S. Department of Education. In 1999 to 2000, there were 897.

Nationally, in round terms, for every two children registered through IDEA with autism in 1992-93, there were almost 11 by 1999-2000.

What struck reporter Carol La Valley when she visited the autism classroom at Julia Randall Elementary School was the inquisitiveness of the children and the soothing, patient voices of the classroom aides and teachers.

She was touched when Michael made eye contact when he said "goodbye," because it is often hard for autistic children to make eye contact.

We take for granted, the integration of our senses.

For instance, as we sit in a lawn chair at Green Valley Park, listening to musicians on the bandstand, we easily ignore the whispers of nearby conversations and the movement of people, as they walk and play in the park.

For an autistic child, or for that matter, an adult, the variety of sound and activity may be too much.

Imagine not being able to eat a peach because, as in the Autism Society of America's example, you experience the fuzz as painful. The smell is overpowering, so it makes you gag. The sensation of juice dripping down your face is unpleasant.

Autism shows itself across a spectrum, and while children can learn behaviors that control it so they can interact, autism does not disappear.

So here is a parent, who needs to stop at the store for a few items.

A parent who wants to give their child normal experiences so he (autism is far more prevalent in boys than girls) can become a bit more able to function in the world the rest us of call normal.

Keep in mind, autistic children look like regular children.

That fact could make us less understanding when we see a public tantrum.

Yes, we know there is a whole host of children out there to whom this editorial will not apply, but before you judge, or open your mouth and criticize, stop and think, there might be more than what your senses are telling you.

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