Susan's Blog

Friday, September 11, 2015

“Tough Love” column for OAR

Today I am honored to be published in the Organization for Autism Research (OAR) Newsletter. I love OAR. They consistently produce excellent research that families, self advocates, and professionals can use immediately. They are all about information that can help guys like Nat work, learn, be safe, and succeed. They also put out trainings for educators and employers, on how to integrate a person with autism into the worksite/classroom. OAR is one of my Go-To resources for just about any autism information. Here is the text, below:


Organization for Autism Research




September 11th, 2015 | (0)

Being a parent is hard work. But it is especially challenging when the people in your community are not supportive and understanding about your child with autism. Guest blogger Susan Senator writes about the frustration she felt after a family outing to the ice cream parlor, and the importance of supporting all the members of her family.

I hope this wasn’t the worst father’s day ever for Ned. We just took Nat to his favorite place, JP Licks and he had promised he would not laugh loudly and spit. But he did. Ned stood up, took Nat’s ice cream and threw it away and made him leave. We stood outside on the street while people stared at poor Nat, so upset, so incredulous that he really was not going back to JP Licks. But Ned was right. “He has to learn how to contain this,” Ned said. Yep, the world is not going to change *that* much.

Meanwhile Nat kept saying, “No laughing, go to JP Licks.” Over and over. Walking towards the store, then coming back when we called him. His eyes going to Ned, then back to me.

My heart was breaking. I’m sure Ned’s heart was breaking too. One young family was staring, the mom raising her brows at her husband, and I looked at her and said one word, “Autism.” Shame on you. And another family nearby had two sons, staring and whispering. I said to them quietly, “Don’t stare,” and I motioned for them to turn around, right in front of their dad. Yeah, happy father’s day to you, too, and your sons. So much for living in a town that considers itself one of the most progressive and diverse on earth. Not so much when it comes to an autistic young man and his dad losing it.

I just wanted to be swallowed up by the sidewalk. But I said to Ned, “Okay. I’ll go get him some more. If he laughs again, we’ll throw it away again.”  Ned agreed, reluctantly. I got Nat the ice cream, smiling at everyone (on the outside) who had just witnessed us leaving.

Nat grabbed the ice cream and started shoveling it in his mouth, turning to go in JP Licks and eat it in there as always. No way I was going to do that. He was so upset, but we sat on a bench nearby while he gobbled it down. Finally he said, “Push the button, push the button,” meaning the crosswalk light, because he wanted to go back in the store so badly. “Nat what do you want to go back there for,” Ned asked, though we both knew.

“Wash your hands,” Nat said. They went back to do that.  It went fine.

Ned then announced that he was walking home by himself. I was really glad he had decided to do something that would make himself happy.  He’s always carrying us around on his shoulders. He does the heavy lifting. I guess we both do, but it’s getting pretty hard right now. I’ll never give up, and he won’t either, but sometimes you want to. I hope his walk home feels good.


About the Author: Susan Senator is a writer, activist, and the mother of three boys. Her oldest son Nat, 25, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Through her essays, articles, and books, Susan is trying to make sense of autism, find a way to her oldest son, and help others at the same time. Susan Senator runs a blog, where this post originally appeared. Her latest book, ‘Autism Adulthood: Strategies and Insights for a Fulfilling Life’ will be out in April 2016.

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