An Autism Diary

A day in the life of David Hartley

Ready to Stand Our Ground

Today was a pretty laid back day and included me catching up on some cleaning and chores, the boys playing, and a relaxing visit.  Something happened this evening though that quickly threatened to turn it all upside down.  I am so grateful to, and for, the friends who were there when it happened and stood with me in support and encouragement to help me and David get through it both as it was happening as well as afterwards.  What happened you ask?  Someone called the cops on David and tried to make him out to be a troublemaker and a criminal.

I’ve had the unpleasant experience of having to deal with this person before.  She knows of David’s Autism and has singled out my son more than once and it usually was for things he didn’t even do, but was rather unlucky enough to be within site at the time.  One of my “favorites” was when a group of kids were hanging out around her apartment window, making noise and messing around, and after watching them for quite some time, David decided to suddenly climb down off the playground and go over and investigate.  As soon as he did though, she came outside yelling at him, and in turn me, for being near her window and being a nuisance even though he hadn’t even been over there for more than a few seconds.  She never once said or did anything to the other kids or their parents.

Tonight though, she took her behavior too far.  I was outside, with the neighbors that live behind me, hanging out and watching the kids play on the playground.  At one point, Joshua decided to come over and join us and David remained on the play set silently and meticulously letting rocks slide down the slide.  Since he was the only one over there, and wasn’t bothering anyone or doing any damage, we decided to leave him be and just keep an eye on him.  At some point though, this lady arrived home and was walking up the sidewalk with her child behind her.  At the same moment, David decided to pick up a couple of the rocks and toss them to the edge of the playground.  She immediately shouted at him to stop throwing rocks as I was looking up to the noise.  I called out to her that I was his mom, asked her to speak to me if there was a problem, and thanked her for pointing out he had tossed the rocks.  Then I told her I was aware of it too, he literally had just done it, and that I would take care of it.  Her response was to interfere with my ability to call David over by stepping in and yelling at him again.  To this, I firmly but kindly (as possible) told her again that I could handle this and to not talk to my child like that.

As she quickly huffed off and into her apartment, I had David come over and of course got after him for the two rocks he tossed and made him sit in a time out.  For David, that’s actually a pretty effective punishment.  Especially since Joshua decided at that point to go back and play on the playground again.  Before long, one of my friends took note that the lady was sitting at her window watching every move my kids made and looking over at us from time to time too.  Not long after, we found out why.  She had called the police and claimed not only that David had been throwing rocks, but that he had been doing it for a while, had been throwing them at her window, and that he wasn’t stopping.  We knew this because the officers were now walking across the grounds and when they talked to us, that’s the report they claimed to have received.  It felt like the old town with the bully neighbors and corrupt landlord all over again.  Memories were flooding back so fast I could barely keep a straight face and maintain a calm composure.

I am so thankful my friends were out there with me for this one.  They definitely had my back, and David’s for that matter, without me even having to ask them to.   The first person the officers tried to address was Joshua as he was still on the playground when they arrived.  I waited to see if they were just saying hi or if they thought he was the child they were called out on.  At the point of seeing the officer lean over Joshua and start talking to him about throwing rocks, I called out as polite as I could and told him that he had the wrong boy and that I had the one responsible over by me in a time out.  When he came the rest of the way over, he again turned and tried to address the child (David in this case) directly instead of talking with me about it.  This intimidated David as the officer was not one of the ones he knew and it was getting dark and the man was leaning over him and using a tone that made it clear he was upset with him.  As I once again tried to defer the officer’s conversation to me, David took the first chance he got to spring to his feet and dash off down the sidewalk.  As I called out to him he started flapping a little, started swaying and rocking, and he looked very confused.  As I was blocked (due to where everyone was standing) from being able to go after him, one of my friends did instead.  As he was calming David down and bringing him back though, the officer tried to get after David again for not behaving due to running off.  He then proceeded to tell me that it was a criminal offense for David to be throwing rocks at people and windows and that if he throws another one, they will officially file an indictment against him and he and I will held responsible for his crimes.

As I tried to explain what had really happened that night and the surrounding circumstances as well, the officer just kept repeating his statement and emphasized the part about David being held for a crime if he threw even just one more rock at any time.  This is the point my friends came through for me and inserted themselves fully into the situation.  One giving character references on both David and me as well as the lady that has been causing problems for us and had called out the officers.  He pointed out also that my kids are never the ones in trouble there and that there is a constant problem of kids in the complex not only throwing rocks, but also kicking balls and these kids were honestly throwing and kicking at the windows.  Yet, even though this lady was witness to all of them as well, she only called in on David and David hadn’t even truly thrown anything at anyone and the two rocks he tossed didn’t even make it to the sidewalk next to the playground, let alone all the way to her window.  My other friend then stepped in with the voice of reason, telling the officers that I am known for keeping a vigilant eye on my sons and that I had noticed and started to do something about the rocks just as fast as that lady had.  And also pointed out that it wasn’t truly reasonable or fair to expect David to never throw another stone again.  That of course we didn’t approve of it, were on top of it, and were going to be doing everything we could to help prevent it, but kids are still kids and need to learn from repetition.  They can’t simply be told “no” or “no more” once and be expected to never mess up again for the rest of their life.

Thankfully the officer listened to her and backed off on his threat, lowering it instead to telling me to keep an eye on him and do everything I can to keep him in line.  It still stung that he was treating my son like he was some kind of delinquent though and the threat of being indicted with a crime was still there, but at least this time it was only if he managed to break a window.

After the whole thing was over, the lady that started the whole mess came out on her porch and proceeded to try and intimidate both us and my kids and was making it near impossible for any of us to enjoy our evening out there anymore.  This is the point where I gave up.  It felt like Clearwater all over again and this time David understood enough to be frightened by it too.  He sat rigid with a bit of stimming the entire time the officers were there and as soon as they left he relaxed, looked up at me, and said he was glad they didn’t take him to jail. 😦   I was ready to just never take him back over there again since the lady didn’t know where we actually lived yet.  I figured it wasn’t worth the trouble she was trying to cause and I could just let them play out on my porch or take them to the town park when I could.  My friends thankfully had my back even in this as they knew I was saying those things because I was giving into fear and old memories and they wouldn’t let me do it.  They helped me talk David through it so he was no longer scared and then they turned and helped me as well.  I am so grateful to them for it.  The thing they said that sticks out the most though is that I can’t let people like that force David and me into hiding.  I can’t let them have enough control over us that I let them undo all the hard work me and others in the Autism community have put into trying to raise awareness and acceptance in our communities and with the people around us by letting her successfully bully me into keeping David “out of site and out of mind”.

Will I go back over to the playground out back on my own?  No.  Will I choose to risk walking that path with my kids still while on the way to the mailboxes? Most likely not.   I admit I am scared, and that I am not up to fighting this alone.  Will I stay away completely though?  The answer to that one is no as well.

My friends have promised their support and their help and we decided that for now, I can take the kids back there to play when it’s possible for my friends to join me.  That way I have both support as well as witnesses, if the lady decides to pursue her attempts to make things miserable for me and David every time she sees us.  To be honest, I am scared.  One can’t live through what David and I were forced to face in our old town and not be scarred by it.  I know I can trust both God and my friends though and I know my friend was right when she called me out on wanting to hide and that I couldn’t let the bully win like that.  She gave me some great advice too.  Every time the old memories creep up to the surface and start to get ahold of my fears, to remind myself this isn’t the same situation.  Here, I have a landlord who is true and just and who as also already stood up for David and me before, shortly after we had moved here.  Here, I have friends who have my back and will stand by me.  Here, I am only dealing with one jerk, one bully.  Not an entire complex full.  Here, key people (the mayor, most of the officers, the landlord, store owners, and a handful of my neighbors) already knows David and knows he’s a sweet and good boy in spite of the struggles his Autism brings from time to time.

I am ready to stand my ground.

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5 Comments

  1. anautismdad

    I am disgusted that you and David should have had to go through this. it may not count for much, but please know that you are a thousand times a better person than the bully is. It is wonderful though that there are people who have your back. If you can, please pass on my appreciation of them from over here in South Africa. 🙂

  2. Horrible,ridiculous,angry, disturbed individual. Bullies need to be stood up to. You have done nothing wrong and you just go where you want to go. America is a free country and this individual can’t take your rights to go where you want away. 😛 to her

    • that was supposed to be a tongue sticking out. I am still mastering emoticons . 🙂

      • Thanks Gentlestitches 🙂 And no worries, I knew that was a tongue lol I am still working on the emoticons too so I’ve come across that one before. : )

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