Sunday, May 8, 2011

Puppy, don't stare

Saturdays are usually busy with chores around the house. We pick up Puppy's room, do laundry and basic cleaning. Although Puppy helps me on and off, the job gets done. He usually likes to spend time outdoors and will come in to cool down and rest every 20-30 minutes.

Since I had finished most of the cleaning and was only working on laundry, I was sitting down to watch TV as I sorted and folded the clothes. Well, to cut my expenses, I only have the smallest cable package to watch, so that translates into -- nothing. So I called Puppy in to tell him we were going to the convenient store to rent a movie from the Red Box stand. The store is only a few blocks away.

Puppy and I get down at the store and start to look for a movie to rent on the screen. As we are doing that, a man with a cigarette, long hair, in shorts and an undershirt, scruffy looking, comes up to the Red Box and begins to look at the poster of movies available. Puppy turned to see him, but not because of what he looked like, but because he was smoking. There's a history with Puppy and smoking that I think I blogged about last year. Nonetheless, this got his attention and Puppy began to stare at the man, then would look at me as if to see if I noticed him smoking. But the interest was strong and Puppy couldn't help but look at the man. Well the man didn't like it one bit. He never turned to look at Puppy, but he spoke in a very firm voice and said, "Do you mind not staring at me, kid!" And Puppy being who he is, could not look away. I touched Puppy's arm to redirect him at me and said, "No, don't look." I swear I started to shake. I thought to myself, should I tell this man my son is autistic or that he is only interested in the cigarette, nothing personal about him? Would the man care? Then I thought, this man could care less if he spoke to Puppy that way, it wouldn't matter. So I hurried to finish and grabbed Puppy's hand and walked inside the store.

Once inside I took Puppy aside, away from other customers. He spoke first. "Mom, why was that man angry?" This was a perfect time and example to teach Puppy not to stare at people. He does it often. But I don't mind because I know that his brain is wired to use pictures and by staring he is taking a mental picture. I had already begun to coach him not to stare because other people are not comfortable with him looking at them. I explained all this to him again and waited for him to calm down before continuing with our trip to get a movie and some Icee drinks.

Even after we were driving away from the store, he was looking around for the man. I did too, but only to see if I could find him in a car that I could later be able to recognize it on our future visits to the store. I didn't have any luck though. I'll just have to be more careful. I don't want to go through another incident like this one. I hope no one else has to either. Still just thinking about the man makes me wonder if I can protect Puppy quick enough and keep him safe. This unpleasant incident probably won't be the last and that worries me.


Unknown said...

You should tell people about autism every opportunity you get so it explains the behavior and next time maybe they'll think twice about how to react. Ignorance is autisms worst enemy. It's like that quote, “I thought I would have to teach my child about the world but instead I have to teach the world about my child.” One prick at a time. ;)

Claire said...

You are so right. I missed an opportunity to educate another idiot. I think that I was intimidated by the man because his comment was directed at my son. I knew Puppy would not know how to defend himself and it is my responsibility to protect him. Getting him out of harms way was my first reaction. But I messed up by not teaching his world about him.

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