by Brandy Pavia

Imagine having a child, a beautiful, perfect-in-your-eyes, child. A child that may not hit all of their developmental milestones at the suggested, “age-appropriate” time, but still, your perfect child, nonetheless. You start to notice as time goes by that your perfect child has a different way of viewing and navigating the world than other kids their age, and you make it your mission to provide the foundation for them to be the most successful version of themselves.

As time goes by, you worry, not about your perfect child, but about the monsters that may be lurking along their journey. I’m not talking about Mike & Sully, or any other cute Disney-esque monster-type character. I’m talking about rude, nasty adults, because let’s face it…some people are just huge a**holes. You’re comforted by the fact that your perfect child doesn’t seem to be bothered by what others think. (That piece of awareness may have taken a back seat, so that other amazing traits could flourish). But you also know that it may leave them vulnerable to these monsters that take advantage of those perfect, innocently naive, children.

There have been many times over the past eight years since my Bean’s autism diagnosis where I have encountered these monsters. Let me back up, don’t get me
wrong, I understand that most people will instinctually look if they hear a person in distress, or making noises that they’re not used to hearing. I get it. I’ve done it myself, glance and move on. But there is something profound that sets these people apart from monsters…Basic. Human. Decency. The monsters I’m referring to are the close-minded adults who have no tolerance for anyone that falls outside of their asinine standard of “normal,” even a child. They are the adults who stare for way too long, make hurtful comments purposely within earshot, roll their eyes, take over-exaggerated deep breaths because my Bean, my CHILD, wasn’t adhering to their self-proclaimed proper “code of conduct.” They are the adults who feel the need to offer unsolicited, condescending parenting advice while my child is in the midst of a meltdown, as if she weren’t already stressed out enough. They are the adults who don’t accept differences; who don’t accept my girl exactly the way she is. Those are the monsters that I’m referring to.

One would think that kids would be more oblivious than adults when it comes to decency, but on the contrary, I’ve found that oftentimes, kids handle differences much better than adults! Sure, they may stare, or loudly ask their mortified parent “why is she doing that,” when my 10-year-old girl is making her noises while sitting in the basket of the shopping cart in the cereal aisle of Acme. But, there is one huge difference between a kid, and a monster adult…kids ask questions out of innocent curiosity. Oftentimes brutally honest, innocent curiosity!

I am a firm believer that kids are products of their environment, and ignorance is a learned behavior. The way we talk to our kids and how we talk when we’re around our kids helps to set the foundation for how they perceive and interact with the world around them, including being accepting of differences. If our kids hear us talking negatively, or making hurtful jokes about a person with differences, they will assume that it’s ok for them to do the same thing. Consider if your child were the butt of a joke or hurtful comment that was centered around their disability, would you be ok with it? More importantly, would they be ok with it?

If we set the standard of respect for our kids to follow from the very beginning, then kindness and acceptance will follow suit. It’s up to us to remind them that “in a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

My Bean is counting on you.

Brandy Pavia is a working mom from New Jersey, with two amazing kids: an autistically awesome daughter, “Bean” & an adorably sweet son, “Bear.” Together with her husband, and their dog, Penny, (who is like one of their kids), she enjoys sharing her family’s adventures and encouraging others to embrace autism along the way!