Don’t Say

My son is autistic, and now he is a teen, he is battling all sorts of demons. I wrote this poem to express how I feel as a mother.

Don’t say my child is slow.
Don’t say he will be pushing trollies around
Tesco car park, because he has big dreams,
Don’t say he won’t work -
will be milking the system and scrimping on benefits,
while his confidence wanes.
Don’t say he will be sitting with some bitch-faced PIP woman
ticking boxes ‘cos he can lift his arms above his head 
and stumble 100 metres on the parapets,
Don’t say he is not disabled ‘cos he can spell 
High-functioning Autism, and read 
the precautions on his night-time melatonin.
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Don’t say my child doesn’t care,
that he lives inside some insulated igloo, that 
strange boy who doesn’t kiss his mamma, and retracts like
a snail into his shell at the slightest touch,
Don’t say, when he drags me across the high street
to pull my last pennies from my purse for 
the homeless man who has no legs, just a crutch,
that he has no empathy - when he says 
if he won the lottery he would
put a roof over the street sleepers and make sure
their stomachs were happy.
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Don’t say, ‘Have you seen Punch and Judy, where
you are Punch and your mum is Judy?’, 
‘cos he used to thrash with his fists and I 
was the pad taking the hit and 
turning the crimson canvas into rose pink.
Teacher, who the hell do you think you are?!
Don’t say that he is spoilt because he would smash up
toys and hurl chairs at walls and make holes in
plaster and scream,
and scream,
AND SCREAM – 

because he was 9 in his head, but 18 months in his heart, and
the psychologists with their fancy words
sent reward charts and hugging pillows and resistance bands,
and false hopes and shallow dreams, in educated hands
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Don’t say that he should be walking to the shop,
that he’s nearly 15 and a big, tall tower. 
That I wrap him up in cotton wool when he should
be free, like a windswept wildflower,
and he calls me a helicopter parent but 
he knows no danger and 
is not wary of strangers and 
the gangs would have him, and there are 
hidden knives and luring drug dealers,
and I feel the fear – that 
his vulnerability will be a smear on his
safety - that one day 
he might not make it home. 
Don’t say he should look you in the eyes,
that he should say thank you to the bus driver in
a confident voice,
when he shrinks if anyone speaks to his face
and mumbles to the floor if questions take the place
of his introverted haze.
When he didn’t talk properly until he was eight,
that his throat swallows his words like smashed glass bottles
and his mind hangs on to the fragments of hate. 
Don’t say.
Don’t.
Say how he shines when he feels loved,
Say how he speaks with eloquence when he’s telling you
about his fans, air volumes, velocity, diameters,
Say how he writes stories with vivid imagery,
how he crafts words and weaves plots,
Say how he rolls his eyes and shrugs when the other kids
are being kids and he is not,
Say how his mother loves him and has fought like a valiant warrior,
Say how Autism is not a barrier. 
Say he CAN do this.
Say he CAN do this.
Say he CAN do this.

Don’t say my child is less. 
Don’t say.
Don’t…

©2022 Sarah Drury

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