One of the most difficult things about raising a child with social/behavioral differences is, without a doubt, the judgmental parents who think that your child is just a spoiled brat who needs a stricter parent. I admit, before I had Matthew I always wondered what kind of parents had children who yelled and screamed in public. Now I never wonder; I know.
Matthew and I went to the USF Engineering Expo today. The expo was designed specifically for kids, and featured lots of hands-on learning, like building with legos, making slime, and a light fixture powered by a stationary bike. We went to a physics lecture as well; the "teacher" froze a ball with dry ice and broke it, blew toilet paper into the crowd (to show the difference between air movement at high and low pressure,) and demonstrated a "canihilator", a machine powered by gravitational force that crushes cans. All of the kids were so into the science, that I don't think they realized how much they were actually learning!
It wasn't easy. Every second must feel like an hour for him, and it was taking all of his effort to remain calm. Despite his best efforts, he began to get visibly more agitated. Then, when he thought he was almost there, another boy, who was "with" the first three but who had been sitting near the wall because he skinned his knee, got in line in front of Matthew so he could have his turn right after his friends.
To his credit, Matthew did not completely melt down. He began to complain loudly about "cutters" and even though the mother of the boys commented to Matthew that the boy was with the other boys and was just sitting down until his turn, for Matthew the world is black and white. If you are not IN line, then you are not in line. I took Matthew out of the room to calm him down, and as I did, it happened. I watched the mother of the boys return to her husband, hold a paper up to her mouth, and from her expression she was clearly judging Matthew's behavior.
I couldn't decide whether to be angry, or embarrassed. On the one hand, how dare a parent judge a child's behavior without knowing the cause! On the other hand, if you don't know Matthew, you might think that he was just a misbehaving spoiled brat. We are open about his challenges, but we don't advertise to others his differences as an excuse for his behavior around others.
In the end, I decided not to address ignorance, and returned Matthew to the line, distracting him from the wait with a video on my phone. When the boys were done, Matthew got to use the controls to move the robotic arm to pick up and put down a water bottle. He really did well, and I'm so proud that he managed to wait long enough to get the experience.