Friday, July 23, 2010

“Just Say He’s Autistic”

We’re taking our family to Great America Amusement park... I know, it’s crazy, but we’re trying to do it, knowing that we may not stay all day. One of the challenges our son faces is sensory overload that can put him into a panic attack. In the past, our son has become overwhelmed by crowds and loud noises, but this was before his mood stabilizer. So we thought we would give it a try, since we’ve seen a big improvement in this area due to his mood stabilizer, Trileptal. Plus, he wanted to go, so we’re up for it.

I’ve read on other blogs about parents getting special accommodations for their kids to help with the long lines that can be overwhelming. I know Disneyland provides this service so I gave Great America a call.

When I explained to the staff our child’s challenges, such as sensory overload, anxiety issues and explosive disorder. Her response was, “Oh yeah, we provide a pass for autistic kids for this. So is your son autistic?”

I explained that no, he had a mood disorder, but faced very similar challenges as an autistic child when it came to these environments (I know this since I babysit an autistic child). I then explained that I was more than happy to provide a letter from his doctor, as well as proof of medication.

Her response was, “Well ok, just come to the front desk when you get in the park and just say your son is autistic and we’ll provide you the pass.”

This got me thinking. As long as our kids remain undiagnosed, their illness remains unseen. It seems lately that autism is everywhere, in movies, books and prime time tv series such as Parenthood. This is a good thing, since it gives a voice to the illness. I believe that society is much more accepting of autistic kids, schools are more accommodating and in general we’re all more educated about it.

But with our kids, who remain undiagnosed because our doctors want to “wait and see”, our kids can’t easily explain themselves, they can’t be understood and we can’t really educate our own kids on what their living with. Instead, we walk around trying to explain a list of disorders that our child has and in the end, society still wants to label our kids, as in the case of Great America, “just say he’s autistic.”


  1. I can't believe she said that!!! That's like calling and asking if kids get in free and them telling you "Oh just say he's 5".

    Not so sure how I feel about that.

  2. Sometimes, I feel it would be easier if strangers just thought I was purely autistic. While I do have Aspergers traits and Sensory Processing issues, they are just enough for people to think I am strange, rude, and irritating. Ironically, my most "autistic" traits come from my mood and psychotic symptoms. The meltdowns - which include things like head banging, biting, etc - and, when I am most psychotic I become, to quote my Ask A Bipolar post, "flat, withdrawn, mumbling, hand-flapping, and nonsense speech". Yet, I could never pass for autistic. My verbal speech is, despite a stutter, where it should be; my vocabulary is above average (which, ironically, is due to the Aspergers); and so forth. Thus, I would never wish the disorder on myself or anyone; but sometimes. I wish people thought I was autistic. Autism, for the post part, is understood and accepted by most as an honest disability. You don't have to explain. When it comes to mental illness, however, ou're almost always up against a brick wall of ignorance.

    With Love,

  3. It's too bad that Society is ignorant to this disease. Mood disorders are a type of disease that people are ashamed of and therefore few speak of. Of course this is the result of society's ignorance. Autism recently obtained public recognition. Hopefully mood disorders will soon follow. What you need is a celebrity to open up about their disease. In the mean time try not to worry about what the minimum wage employee says behind the counter at Great America. Take the pass and have a wonderful time with your family. If it really bothers you, you could send a complaint to Great America and maybe they will relabel their pass. Something else that may help you have a fun day is wait until off season, take the kids out of school and go when it is not crowded. Your whole family will have a better experience.
    Love you,