While waiting at the airport the other day, I overheard a mother saying solemnly to her friend, “Dillon is such a picky eater. AND he doesn’t like the tags in his clothing. I hope he’s not autistic.” Friend said, “You should have him evaluated.” I looked over at young Dillon, probably age 3, and he was happily playing with his sister, smiling, talking up a storm and laughing. I know it takes a village to raise a child, but I managed to hold my tongue from saying, “Show me a 3 year old who likes tags itching him and every food you put in front of him and I’ll give you a million dollars.”
The problem with certain disability awareness campaigns is that it makes parents paranoid. Parents are scouring their children’s developmental checklists and if there is a slight lag in anything, then the fear of a disability can take over. I don’t blame parents for wanting reassurance that their child is on track developmentally. I do empathize with difficult balance of appropriate awareness and the call for microscopic examination of children that is pervasive in the media (and sadly, sometimes in our own field).
I am reminded of a college biology unit in which we studied microorganisms. We were asked to swab a surface of our classroom and put it in a Petri dish to examine later under a microscope. To this day, I wish I never had such an up close and personal relationship with bacteria that lives on doorknobs. *gags to self* How could I have been so oblivious to the perils of opening doors?!? Look at all those little evil microorganisms just waiting to infect me! I’ll never open a door without a Haz-Mat suit again!*
Truth is, most are harmless. But when you put things under a microscope, you see things you normally wouldn’t see.
And what I saw as I waited for my flight, was a happy little normal 3 year old boy named Dillon whose mom probably caught an episode of Oprah in which Jenny McCarthy told her to send him to the developmental pediatrician at the first sight of any “autistic-like behavior.”
*I recently attended a Health and Safety seminar for my work and am now also paranoid of sneezes. They showed a sneeze up close in slow motion and it was disgusting. The national health standard for sneezing, just so you know, is to sneeze into your sleeve. Spread the word, not the germs.