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