I’m Scared for my Black Son with Autism and ADHD

It has been a week since George Floyd was murdered.  This is the country we live in right now… when a Black person can be killed, their rights violated by the very people who have pledged to protect their communities.  Unfortunately, this is nothing new.

Over the last several years and more recently within the last three weeks, we have seen the uncovering of systemic racism that has moved from subtle to overt acts of hatred against people of color.

And still nothing happens.  Nothing changes.

I’m not going to give you a play by play as to what is going on in our country.  Black people are straight up being murdered.   And if it’s not murdered, its harassment… having the police called on you for no reason other than existing in the skin in which you were born.  I’m sick and I’m tired.  And I’m scared.  Not because I am Black or that I have a Black husband, but more so for the fact that I have a Black son who thinks differently… who doesn’t respond or react to things as some would normally do.  Autism affects the brains in different people differently hence it being labeled as a spectrum disorder.  And as such, sometimes my son doesn’t realize the danger in some things.  He is a bit socially awkward as he struggles to communicate with those with whom he is less familiar.  And sometimes following directions can be quite challenging; he often does better with written or visual instructions. When faced with a difficult situation or something with which he doesn’t understand, he might choose to leave the situation and he often struggles with taking direction or feedback.  Autism makes my son different, some of what makes him so unique might be confusing to others.  People with Autism have their own ways of expressing themselves and sometimes this expression can be off-putting to others, coming across as disrespectful or inappropriate behavior.  ADHD presents itself in my son as an extreme inability to focus.  His attention deficit has caused him difficulties with completing assignments in school and remembering to take care of his home responsibilities.  As such, he needs multiple reminders to complete tasks he has to do every day.  I have had to learn patience when parenting my son.  A police officer, however, might not be so understanding.

And that scares the shit out of me.

I’m scared that he will fit the description.  I’m scared that against a non-familiar face of an officer or some vigilante who couldn’t make the police squad that he won’t listen or yield or follow directions.  I’m scared that his being in the wrong place at the wrong time might result in his death.  This sounds all so negative and anxious but as a Black mother, this is my reality.  This is the life for which I have to prepare my son, who still struggles to remember to brush his hair and moisturize his skin everyday.  So in addition with teaching my son with Autism the necessary adaptive skills to one day be independent and the necessary organizational skills to help with his difficulties in focus and attention, I also have to prepare him for the world that he will inherit.  A world that will see him as a threat just for walking down the street.  A world that unless he can shoot or throw a ball will consider him “less than” for just existing.  It’s overwhelming and it makes me sad and angry.

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I keep asking myself what I can do to make things better.  I’m a fixer, and I want to fix this world so my son can be safe.  I can teach him how to communicate and work with him on his eye contact. I can teach him about his history and how to respond when in a scary situation.  I can teach him the skills that are necessary for improving his study habits, encouraging persistence and determination.  I can teach him confidence by supporting his strengths and putting him in activities that encourage his talents and teaches him resilience.  I can encourage him to always give his best effort, regardless of how small the job is.  I can speak out when prejudice and racism when I see it.  I can vote.  I can lead by example.  These are all the things I can do.

There is no doubt that the parents of our deceased brothers and sisters have done the same.  But in the end, it still wasn’t enough.

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My son, and other Black boys (and girls) need your voice, White people.  It is time to open your eyes and not only talk about how things need to change, but actually do something about it.  It is time to realize your privilege and use it to speak up against racism and hatred when you see it.  It is not acceptable for Black people to be killed during routine traffic stops or while running, or in our sleep.  It is not acceptable.  It is not okay.  And I don’t care what the reason was or what excuse people want to give, what is happening to Black people is the result of deep rooted racism and ignorance.  This fear of Black men and what they might do.  There have been White people who have literally gone into schools, malls, churches, and stores and shot up a bunch of people and they are always ALWAYS taken calmly and peacefully.  Why is that?

It is time for this to stop and that takes all our voices, especially the ones to whom society will listen.  I will continue to teach my son and my daughters too about racism, how to recognize it, and how to respond to it.  I will continue to encourage them to be strong in the face adversity and to work twice as hard so that they are ready to inherit this world.  I will do all within my power to teach my son how to work with his differences and not against them but also how to confirm to certain rules so that he can stay safe and stay alive.  I will continue to teach my kids to always be aware of their surroundings.  And I will continue to pray for the safety and security of not only my children but for all Black kids and their parents.  Goodness, it’s so hard to be Black.  It’s so hard.

So White people hear me when I say that the time for action is now.  You may not understand how it feels to be Black, but it’s possible to listen.  To hear our cries for justice not as complaints but as valid fear and frustration.  To to acknowledge there is a real problem in our society that isn’t worth continuing to profit upon.  To speak up at family gatherings and social get togethers when you hear a racist or insensitive joke or comment.  It’s time to educate yourselves by listening to the voices of your brothers and sisters of color; to educate yourself about the history of our country.  My children do not deserved to be sacrificed because someone was anxious or scared.  Think about if this was your child… if your young son was at a higher risk for being killed just for existing.  If anything, use that as your motivation.  For action becomes more purposeful when there is empathy.

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Enough is enough.  My son… my daughters… their lives matter.

18 thoughts on “I’m Scared for my Black Son with Autism and ADHD

    1. Thank you for your response and for reading. I already struggle with anxiety and a perpetual need to fix things. It’s heartbreaking that I cannot make the world a different place, a more loving place for my son and my daughters… I can’t fix this. But I can do what I can to bring awareness to them and to teach them how to respond. I believe that their differences may make things challenging but not impossible. The key with Autism in my experiences is working with the strengths, not against them.

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      1. Yes I can totally relate. I only have one child, she’s three but I feel the same. That last sentence is so true, it really is the key

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      2. Three’s not too early. You can’t prepare them too early honestly. I talked with my five year old today who was playing a game in which the black people were the bad guys and I asked her why and she said she didn’t know that’s just the way it is. It broke my heart that even my 5 year old has this bias based on what shes seen and experienced as being the only black kid in her class for most of her little life. It opened my eyes that I still have much work to do.

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      3. Wow only five and she’s experienced it? That really shows how deep seated these things are!! But somewhere along the way with Gods help we have to break the cycle

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    1. Thank you for sharing. It’s hard to not be terrified of what is going on out there and how it may impact our children. And while the fear is real, I choose not to live in it but instead to use to teach my kids the tools they need to fight. I have to remember with my son that everything is still very concrete for him so we attempt to explain these things in a way that he can understand and then challenge him to think about what responses might be most appropriate for different situations. It’s like a bootcamp in a way but I want my son to be prepared… my daughters too and now more than ever is the time to do it.

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    1. Thank you Stephanie. I have seen you read my work in the past and I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read this piece. The best thing we can do for one another is listen and learn from each other. And I’m so glad to see you and other White brothers and sisters taking a stand for those of us without the privilege to be heard quite as loudly. I appreciate you wanting to take the steps to learn how to do that. You can definitely share to your newsletter!

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  1. I have a 13 year child with autism and today after reading your blog I sobbed. I am Puerto Rican and grew up a melting pot of a city in south Lorain, Ohio. I was raised by a black man and always taught to LOVE. After reading his blog…black autistic lives matter so very much. I never thought about how hard it must be for our black autistic children. Thank you for helping me to see more of what’s going on, about what parents fear for their kiddos. Praying for a hedge of protection around you and your family🙌🏼❤️Keep writing and advocating!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s not just our children but many children of color who experiences challenges that stem from learning differently. It is up to us to keep educating ourselves and each other about how we can best use their strengths as a way to help them be successful and speak up against injustice when they see it.

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  2. I see my son in your son – my kiddo is 9yo and is autistic and ADHD with anxiety (the trifecta, his psychiatrist calls it). When he feels cornered, he will scream and rage and strike out.

    Despite two years of regular therapies, medication and support he hit a pregnant teacher this year. Fortunately she was fine and he was only suspended. I do not know what the outcome would have been if he was black and not a white student. Would we as parents been given the benefit of the doubt that we are doing our best? Would he have been seen as a kid who needed more support? Or a ‘bad kid’? In the initial quick reaction would he have been treated roughly as a black female student was in a neighboring school for merely talking back to the teacher? (she was pulled by her hair.. by an adult.. unacceptable)

    My husband and I have discussed this and it is a motivating factor in our efforts to become anti-racists. Because we see your fear as realistic, which is completely unfair and has to change.

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    1. Thank you for your response. My concern has always been my kids being seen as “the bad kid.” And regardless of how well behaved he might be in class, his skin tone, for some people, speaks volumes that his actions might never be able to compensate for. I don’t have an answer or a way to make things better for him, which is what scares me most. But it is incredibly important that those who have the power and privilege to speak out and to teach their children better, have the courage and the wisdom to do so.

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  3. My heart goes out to you; as a mom it is scary enough to raise a child in this crazy world. To have to worry about your child only because of the color of their skin is terrifying to me; it terrifies me that any mother should ever have to think of what could happen when her son walks out the door. Your family is beautiful and strong; together we can make a difference!

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    1. Thank you. This is the concern as he gets older too. No longer will he be seen as a cute kid, but just like that, he will be seen as a threat. What happens to his right to exist just as he is without people feeling threatened or scared?

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