The Autism Card

When we first received the report that Short Stack is Autistic, of course, we were crushed.  There were nights where crying wasn’t even a remote outlet to the stress that followed.

A few weeks later, we went into a store, shopped around, and then stood in line – for what was at least 20-30 minutes.  I won’t mention the store, but it’s a big box store that spells ‘Wal’ incorrectly…

In any event, we stood in line – Short Stack in the seat in the shopping cart, and me pushing when the line finally moved.

After about 10 minutes, Short Stack was getting highly irritated…and was starting a tantrum.   Now, this was no ordinary 4-year-old tantrum when they didn’t get a toy – this was the full-blown cry/hit throw type that normally two-year-olds dish out.

He was frustrated, as so were many people in line.  Here’s a note, Autistic children are very sensitive to the atmosphere around them…and can have a tendency to mirror that atmosphere in the way they act.

He starts hitting because he can’t formulate the words.   The lady behind me starts commenting on how my child is spoiled – to the person she’s with – as if I wasn’t even there and couldn’t hear her.

Then, she asks me to – and I quote, “shut that spoiled kid up” followed by, “you know what his problem is?  he needs something to eat”…..

…like she really knew my business…

So, I said, “I do know what his problem is, he’s Autistic.”

It was at that moment I wish I had the Autism Card.  Not one word would need to have been said, just a card given.

After I said that, I really wanted to follow up with, “what’s yours”….but that would be my frustration talking…

hence, that card, it leaves that temptation to confront aside – and allows you to focus on the child more.

Above is an Example of an autism card…

Have you ever heard of the Autism Card?  When did you use it?
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Joel Manzer
Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!
Joel Manzer

Joel Manzer

Husband to an Amazing Wife, and Father of a Child with Autism. Founding Lead Editor of this site called Autisable. Click here to join Autisable!

25 thoughts on “The Autism Card

  • April 11, 2010 at 5:59 pm
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    I took me 18 years to pull the Autism Card . After years of embarrassing and angry interactions with store clerks , substitute teachers and other selfish people my wife and I developed our own Autism Alert Card for our daughter to carry. Primarily we developed the Autism Alert Card for Police, Fire , TSA and other legal authorities. It makes no excuses, it just plainly states what accommodations are needed AND that the carrier of the card is protected by the ADA act. My daughter loves it.

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  • May 24, 2009 at 12:32 am
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    With all the other people commenting, I wonder what you all would say if it had been a spoiled child throwing a fit and not a child with autism.  Would you all being acting like the lady too, and not consider it rude?

    If I get annoyed with people who have bratty children, I try to keep it to myself because let’s face it– there are a LOT of spoiled children who throw a fit just to get what they want or scream at the top of their lungs.  I work at Dollar Tree, and there are many parents who just leave their kids in the toy aisles to do whatever the hell they want (usually trash the place, and open items).

    Like others have said, the card seems silly.  Just tell them it’s Autism, and be done with it.

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  • May 23, 2009 at 1:33 pm
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    This from a girl who has an autistic brother and is so frustrated, she wants to kill him:

    Please do not think that just because your child is Autistic, he won’t respond to discipline. 
    My brother is 16 and our parents are divorced. Daddy does nothing to discipline him and he is significantly worse at Daddy’s house. Just today, he got his hands on a can of Monster (if you know the stuff, it smells horrible) and spilled it all over MY car. Daddy says “You shouldn’t have left it out.” As much as that WAS true, he did not yell at my brother for this… at all.
    My mom actually grounds him. He likes TV, Candy and junk food, so when he does soemthing wrong, my mom will ground him from those things and she repeatedly explains to him what he did wrong.
    Being a parent of a child with Autism, I’m sure that you understand that THEY understand everything. They’re not stupid, they just can’t communicate in any way, so whatever you tell your child WILL get through… 
    When my brother spilled the monster, Daddy said, “It’s too late to punish him, now. He won’t even know what he did. We should have kept the can, so we could show him.”
    I wanted to smack him for TWO reasons.
    1. My brother is a human, NOT a dog. He remembers what he did and he understands, he just KNOWS that daddy thinks he’s stupid and he takes advantage of that.
    2. By god, DO SOMETHING! If he doens’t get punished for it, he’ll do it again without a second thought.
    Sorry for the rant… just wanted you to know what it’s like from the perspective of a non-parent who is closely effected by it… and share my observations. No matter how much he acts like a baby, you cannot baby him.

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  • May 23, 2009 at 1:03 pm
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    I know this is kind of a hypothetical fantasy thing… but I agree with @thinkin_up_dreams@xanga about the whole card thing.

    anyway, that lady was a bitch. I think everyone agrees on that. maybe she’ll be less rude the next time she sees a kid throwing a fit since you told her off.

    <3

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  • May 23, 2009 at 10:34 am
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    When I first read this my immediate reaction was “O jeeze what’s next, the Race Card?”

    But then I realized there was the beginning of a good idea. Giving autistic kids a uniform would be even more effective. That way you wouldn’t have to confront people on an individual basis. People could see your autistic child from the start and then proceed to act accordingly. You might find faster checkouts, as crowding wouldnt be a problem. People would respect children in autism uniform.

    “I won’t mention the store, but it’s a big box store that spells Wal in correctly….”

    How is Wal normally spelt? (assuming you didnt’ mean “wall” because your spell-checker should have picked it up. My inner pessemist tells me you spelt it Wal in a “daring” poke at the mega-store. Your display of fear would only promote that vision.)

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  • May 23, 2009 at 1:52 am
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    That’s really a wonderful idea. No one really knows the whole story till they’ve been there. 

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  • May 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm
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    My two youngest both have autism but my daughter is slightly less social than my son. He doesn’t have any difficulty being out most of the time, but baby girl has been known to cry hysterically and cover her ears, that kind of thing. Any place loud and with a lot of people is a place I generally avoid when she’s with me.

    We haven’t been to Hot Topic together in years. I know she loves the type of things the store carries and browsing through it would usually be lots of fun for her, but the music is so loud she’s terrified to go in there. However, the time I took her with me the staff was just wonderful. A lovely and very nice girl with cupcake pink hair spoke very softly to baby girl and tried to make her feel less afraid. Baby girl responded with a wall of sound that is probably still reverberating through the store. I apologized profusely at the front counter as I was paying for my hastily chosen purchases  and did whip out the (figurative) autism card, at which point the two people working behind the counter assured me it was no problem and we’d always be welcome, even when baby girl wasn’t in a good mood.

    They were very understanding –  I have received my share of evil looks and insinuations that I am not parenting effectively (along with comments about how my children have autism because god is punishing them for my sins), and their understanding and great attitudes made my day.

    People can say what they want about Hot Topic. Their staff is amazing and I’ve always had good experiences shopping there.

    Too late to make a long story short, I have pulled the autism card, figuratively if not physically. People aren’t always understanding and sensitive, but I sure appreciate it when they are.

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  • May 22, 2009 at 11:34 am
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    @BohemianLamb@xanga – I’m so sorry that people were disrespectful to you and your service dog!  I do love petting dogs that I see out in public, but I make sure to always ask first, *especially* if it’s a service dog.

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  • May 22, 2009 at 11:14 am
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    @edlives@xanga – They shouldn’t need a card to have a learning experience. Like I said, just say, “He’s autistic.” and then take appropriate action. It’s almost insulting that you have to use a card to explain to others.

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  • May 22, 2009 at 11:01 am
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    @Fool0nThePlanet@xanga – thanks

    @TheGreatBout@xanga – I wish when a child with autism has a tantrum or is acting out it would allow for more eye contact.  Sad to say, it normally doesn’t.  I usually have only one or two cards on hand, and after the tantrum, they usually are returned – and questions with the parties in question start to happen. 

    @thinkin_up_dreams@xanga – The card has been a big help on occassion, as it allows one act to both allow me to address my son’s issue, and to spread awareness of the situation – without causing any more of a scene then necessary.   Without it, I’ve found, frustration from others abound more with others – than with me.  One time similar to the situation posted, a store manager was called.  I didn’t have time to talk, but pulled a card – gave it to the manager.  After the tantrum, the manager appreciated the card, as he didn’t quite know what action to take.  It was a learning experience for them.

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  • May 22, 2009 at 3:36 am
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    Words make the rebuke more real. Words personalize the matter. Eye contact is maintained longer and a stronger impression is given. Even if you say your response with gentleness and a smile, the point comes across much stronger than a silent card.

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  • May 22, 2009 at 2:10 am
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    I have never heard of that before. I work with Autism kids and HOW DARE that lady tells you how to teach your kids, etc. I think the autism is a great idea. ^_^

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  • May 21, 2009 at 11:11 pm
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    I like this – reading between the lines, it seems like a very polite yet non-confrontational way to tell the nosy twit to MYOB and STFU. My brother is autistic… he was very lucky to have a very supportive family and school environment, and fortunately he outgrew his tantrum phase and is even in college now. But I am sure there were a few times when he was younger that this would have come in exceptionally handy.

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  • May 21, 2009 at 9:32 pm
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    I’ve never heard of that before, but it really is a wonderful idea. & I think you should have told that lady off, seriously. Even if your baby wasn’t autistic, she had no right to act like such a F***ing B****!

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  • May 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm
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    @BohemianLamb@xanga – Agree. Honestly, people act that way in ANY situation. I’m glad they DO have that card, though – eventually one person will read it and feel like a complete and horrible ass, and then maybe go learn something about autism. And the service dog thing isn’t cool – granted, I still will go “Oh my what an adorable dog!” And then I realize that I’m attempting to interact with a service dog, and then have to make some stupid comment like, “Sorry I can’t pet you! You’re working!” And then excuse myself. I always feel bad, I just have this knee-jerk reaction when I see any dog at all…working on it!!

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  • May 21, 2009 at 6:22 pm
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    Chances are, the card probably wouldn’t work as you intend for it to. I know this from personal experience on a different matter.

    I used to have a Service Dog, who went with me everywhere. People blatantly ignored the “Do Not Pet, I’m Working” patches on her cape and would just start petting her, talking to her, and otherwise distracting her from her job – being my ears. Even when I asked them to stop petting her, or said “Please don’t pet her” when they were reaching, they did it anyway. I would warn parents about how dangerous it was for them to allow their toddlers to simply run up and hug a dog they don’t know well – service dog or not, but they didn’t care. I also had a lot of problems with stupid idiots who thought that the only legitimate service dogs were “those blind dogs” (Guide Dogs) and that any other type of service dog was just a ruse to bring a pet into the store with you. This was particularly bad with store employees and owners.

    So I thought I’d solve both problems in one shot by making a very well written and laid out flyer explaining that my dog was a Hearing Service Dog, what she does as a Hearing Dog, and why it was a bad idea to give her attention. I also included a small section of FAQ’s. I started handing these out when I had those encounters, only to see them be tossed into the trashed without even being opened. People don’t care to understand. They are only in it for themselves… to pet the dog, to put up a fight, or to make snide comments.

    I know Autism and Service Dogs are different situations, but my point is there are just so many idiotic people out there that I doubt getting an Autism Card would make much of a difference either, you might get a few more “Oh, okays” but for the most part, people only care about the fact that THEY are annoyed and what THEY want to do… which is make disparaging comments so they can feel good about themselves.

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  • May 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm
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    eh. I think it’s silly. It might seem like a cool, easy idea but imagine if that child were older and more understanding of what was happening. Imagine how ashamed and embarrassed that child would be.
    It’s like a homophobic father with a gay son giving his bar friends a ‘gay card’ whenever his son does something stereotypically gay.
    You don’t owe an explanation to anyone. You might think it makes it easier for you but really its an embarrassment that you even have to go so far.
    If anything, its quicker to slip out a quick, “He’s autistic.” then going around handing out cards to whoever asks.

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  • May 21, 2009 at 11:31 am
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    A lot of people dont know what Autism is, I love these kids and have worked with them. I think that the card is a wonderful idea.

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  • May 21, 2009 at 10:53 am
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    is that a real card? that would be wonderful.

    that lady had some audacity to say that to you, but good for you for sticking up for yourself and your son!

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  • May 21, 2009 at 10:24 am
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    I was in the same store and my boy was on a crying spell.  New staff were being trained in to work with him so it was already a crazy day for him.  In the middle of the store right by the electronics department my boy broke up in yelling and crying, really loud crying, crying that the whole store heard.  A man walked up to me and asked if my boy was okay and I responded with the autism card.  It usually works for me when I use it, and if I don’t use it people typically give evil stares and are very judgemental.

    Reply

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