"Don't judge a book by its cover" - by Christy Smith

Published on 15 May 2022 at 00:50

I would like to discuss a past event, September 2019, that aimed to educate and create an understanding of how to change the world around children who are emotionally, mentally, and behaviorally challenged.   

When it comes to children, the world's judgment eats at me the most. I usually brush it off because I know it is due to a lack of knowledge and respect, but this time, I just needed to speak out. I went to the gas station with two of my sons, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder/bipolar. As usual, he is curious about how things work and enjoys looking at everything. He is a hands-on type of kid who learns by touching everything. He was not bad; he just had a lot to say about whatever he picked up or was curious about. In my opinion, he was being good. I understand that this is not everyone's usual, but it is mine. I looked up as I prepared to pay for my items, and the cashier gave the customer behind me a look. I know this look. Furthermore, I experience it on a daily basis in this world, as I cannot imagine how others perceive my child or what they say to him while I am not present to help him. He wears tie-dye, and he prefers bright colors. I panicked and explained that I have five children and my hands are full. I did not know what to say at the time, but I felt the "bad parenting" stare coming my way. She went on to say, "If my children behaved like that, I would hang them upside down by their toes." I turned around as I walked out the door and told her, "Well, one of them has autism," before leaving.

I drove around the block, holding back tears. I was upset because she said it not only to me, but also in front of my children and another customer. I HAD to go back and try to open her eyes. I dropped off my children at home and returned to the store. I explained to her that this is my child's world of judgment and struggle. I went on to explain how I fight every day for my child. He would not be where he is today if my husband and I had not worked so hard to help him succeed. I fight to keep him in school. Our every day is a battle. I fight to teach him how to live in this world, even when surrounded by judgmental people like her. I told her that while he appears to be "normal," he has autism and lives a difficult life. I felt he was doing well in the store. Hold your tongue if you have not spent a day in someone else's shoes.

What she said to me was unacceptable to any mother or child, autistic or not. You have no idea what life challenges the other person is facing. I wish people would open their eyes with love and acceptance, rather than judgment and disapproval. When I returned home, I noticed an employee following me. She had overheard everything and followed me home. She explained that she is also familiar with the life of someone with autism. We shed tears together and shared a moment. She was the first person who could SEE me that day. She hugged me and said she was proud to see a mother standing up for her children. Not only that, but she was very aware of how I felt. It was nice of her to stop by. I needed the hug. You have no idea! If only everyone understood as she did.


* Side note:


To an unknown angel on this day,

I did not know who you were, but thank you. There are no words to express what you did for me that day. This isolation felt endless. My battles were always fought alone. Nobody understood, and no one was there to help.

My child's brief moments of happiness were hanging by a limb, minute by minute. Almost everything was a trigger at this point. What I did not realize at the time was that my child and I were fighting medication (antidepressant)-induced rapid cycling from bipolar, not just Autism. His doctor later confirmed him as having ongoing manic episodes. My son was fighting to live. 

I was a mother clinging to every string I could in order to stay afloat, and in my darkest hour, you brought me peace through kindness. 

"Thank you" does not seem like enough. I will not forget you. I hope to show the same kindness and understanding to other families. 


—Christy Smith