Quite recently I was on a weight loss forum and this poor woman on there was extremely upset about her recent encounter she had at a coffee shop. This woman has a 10-year old son who is at the severe end of the autism spectrum. He is non-verbal, he is dependent on her for almost everything except for eating. He needs to have his diapers changed and when she changes his diapers, he kicks and screams. Needless to say, she is dealing with some heavy challenges. She is married and has another son who is typically developing but her husband does everything he can to avoid the child with the disability. She is basically the sole caregiver.
As a result of her caring for her autistic son 24/7, she has neglected herself. She fell into a huge depression for understandable reasons. She put on 100 lbs, she doesn’t even bathe everyday. She also wears very frumpy clothes and almost never brushes her hair. She is not only burned out, however she is filled with a lot of despair and sadness.
This woman stated she went to a coffee shop since she was able to get a caregiver to watch her son just so she could get some respite. She ordered a coffee and a muffin. She admitted she left her home with messy hair and messy clothing, and has stated that she has gotten to a point where she doesn’t care how she appears in public. There were 3 other moms sitting not far from her, all neatly groomed, had decent figures and all talked about their children which sounded like they were typically developing. This obviously had upset this woman but that is not what made her cry. When the 3 women were leaving, 1 said to the other 2 that she could not believe how anyone could not care about her appearance, looking at the woman. One of the others laughed and said out loud “what a fat slob”.
I had to say I really felt for this woman because when my son was newly diagnosed with autism, I let myself go in a similar way and I am just starting to regroup and to rebuild myself- after nearly a decade after the fact. Now, if my son was on the severe end of the spectrum I am not sure if I would have found it within me to regroup at all. I can’t say because thankfully I am not in that situation.
It was clear that these women who harshly judged the struggling mom don’t face the same or even similar struggles. They are not likely coming home to screams and broken dreams. They aren’t likely changing their 10-year old’s diapers. If they knew what it was like to raise a child with profound special needs, then they would not as likely be quick to judge her and call her cruel names.
My message to anyone reading this- especially if you are not dealing with the struggles like many parents are that have kids with special needs- please do not judge those parents in any way. If you see someone who appears not to have taken care of him or herself- don’t start calling that individual a “slob” or other nasty names. You have no idea what that individual may be dealing with behind closed doors. I am not condoning that anyone should go out looking not presentable either. Even this woman on the forum realized that, hence that is why she is on a weight loss forum. However, don’t judge anyone! Parents caring for kids with special needs are exhausted and are dealing with a lot of emotions that those who are not dealing with that cannot comprehend.