I love to read, but this past few weeks I've almost been ready to give up reading the news.
Several stories of one of a parent's worst fears were in the news - a runaway child. More particular to us, these kids were autistic. One broke away from his helpers and bolted away to the woods. Another run away on his own, from what I remember. In both these cases, it ended happily - the one in the woods was found safe after a long search, the runaway was found at a bar and returned to his family. But while they were missing, I could feel the sympathetic fear, pain and loss of those families, imagining Xander lost on his own in a world not made for him. Even just typing this and thinking of it, I feel a little breathless and dizzy with nerves.
But that's not all.
Many stories came out of special education teachers treating their students horribly. Two attacked a girl for her weight, making fun of her and saying that's why she had no friends. One man taped messages and posted them online, making fun of his kids while wearing a rubber helmet used in class, making horrible comments about them - I can't believe he was any kind of good teacher to them in class. (Nor, indeed, a good person outside of class either.) These not-quite-humans are even worse than the hulking, moronic schoolyard bullies in class, being in a position of authority and over more helpless kids. No one who bullies any special needs child is a good person - but a teacher who does it forfeits basic humanity and, if I had a say, freedom for a time.
Then the Penn State scandal hit the news. While none of the abused kids there were autistic, still, it brings up the specter of sexual abuse and all the terror you can imagine of that happening to your child. We're not social beasts by any means - book club, tae kwon do, and drive-ins are the extent of our usual social interaction - but all this news makes me want to sell the car, subscribe to a weekly grocery delivery service, and nail shut the doors and windows and lock ourselves in.
Even money if I'd make Tracy or Xander snap first.
Sometimes it's hard not to let fear be your main, driving force in making decisions. It can be fear your child can't handle a situation - lights, noise, strangeness - and how it would affect him. It can be fear of harm from your child trying something new and having a problem because of his sensory issues - swimming, driving, riding a bike. It can be fear of your child not being able to communicate his needs and being around people not used to his verbal shorthand. These are more unique fears to us and many parents of autistic kids. Then there are the fears all parents share - your child getting hurt, being taken, being abused.
Another thing we parents of autistic children and parents of "normal" children (why be normal? Aim higher!) have is the need to swallow these fears as much as reason will allow and try to be brave for your child. I'm not very good at that - I'm sure his teachers would probably say so, since I tag along for field trips and the like. It's a compromise for me - he gets to go, I get to be near if something happens. (Of course, is my being there letting him, perhaps, not deal with things like he should, since he can just to go Daddy and get help?)
Yes, I could simply stop interacting at all with the outside world and keep Xander in a managed, planned, artificially safe little clockwork of a world. There are times I really, really want to. I'm sure my parents felt the same way about me many times - I had a rough school career for a while, almost getting expelled from Catholic school (not, I hasten to add, because of the horrible kind of abuse too much in the news. Many, MANY things - not that). But they had to grit their teeth, send me to school to deal with things the best I could, and they would do what they needed to do. (And they did - we moved to Anniston.)
Fear can lead to paralysis, and nothing can grow in paralysis. Sometimes you've got to soldier on through, even with all the bad news out there trying to change your mind, and take some risks that allow your child to grow.
And your ulcers.