Autism in Public Places
www.brighttots.com          Developmental Disorders          Autism          Parenting Issues
For parents, caregivers, and family members of individuals with autism it’s disturbing dealing with society’s
lack of knowledge about autism. People with autism don’t have any physical characteristics to give the
public a clue that they could possibly behave or speak differently. Some autistic behaviors considered to be
inappropriate, such as outbursts, tantrums or "meltdowns" may be the child’s only way to communicate
their needs, wants and frustrations.

Many times when children with autism have an “overload” in a public place, strangers stare and some may
go as far as to a make an offensive comment. If a child with autism has a meltdown in a grocery store, for
example, other customers might stare with disapproval at the parents. Some parents may try explaining
politely that the child has autism and does not have a discipline problem and then ask politely not to stare, or
some parents just ignore and move on disregarding the stranger.

Children with autism have an unusual sensory system and when aggravated their senses become unbearable;
their system overloads causing some children uncontrollable outbursts which at times may be destructive.
Autism causes sensory triggers which may include emotional and environmental; the child may become
disorganized, distressed and overwhelmed suddenly and unpredictably. Society does not understand these
overloads and may just stare at you and your child shocked. Sadly, the majority of people in our society just
see an out-of-control child.

Parents of children with autism are often put in situations out of their control which may make them feel
uncomfortable. Any parent raising a child with autism will tell you that overloads are most common in public
locations. Stores, malls, parks, or restaurants - anywhere with a lot of people, activity, and noise these
environments increase experiencing a sensory overload. In social situations children with autism may have
the tendency to exhibit autistic behaviors in crowded settings because their awareness of sights and sounds
is often heightened in these areas. What appears to us as a normal room, a child with autism might
experience it as being in surrounded with loud noises echoing everywhere. Walkways and tunnels are often
a problem it may make a child with autism feel enclosed.

Disruptive Behaviors

Sometimes as a parent of a child with autism you find yourself at a playground observing how the other
parents look at your child. Sometimes children with autism present echolalia, weird noises, constant
humming, and strangers probably wonder what’s wrong with him or her. During disruptive autistic
behaviors it seems as if the people around you are staring at your child. A child with autism may behave
oddly or display some different behavior but just as typical children they enjoy playing outdoors and having
fun. They should not be isolated.

The entire world needs to change their attitude towards autism. Parents, relatives, friends and professionals
must to educate society on being kind and patient to individuals living with autism, rather than excluding or
ignoring them.  Keep in mind that some people are interested in learning about autism and you may have an
opportunity to educate them. Even with the increased awareness about autism, unfortunately there’s still a
misconception surrounding the disorder, and it’s definitely a problem for families living with autism.

Autism cuts across racial, social, economic, and geographic boundaries. Even in the best of circumstances,
your life raising a child with autism becomes very different. Parents are frequently adjusting, doing what
they have to do just to overcome the trials and tribulations that autism brings, while maintaining of oomph it
requires maintain healthy it’s, hard to imagine if you haven’t lived it. Anyone living with autism knows
parties and family events can be challenging, and at times embarrassing. Many families have found that
invitations to social occasions do not come as frequently. Some families have found that friends with
“typical” children may not want their child around a child with autism. This is pure ignorance because
autism is not contagious.  

During an overload, a child with autism does not look, nor care, if those around them are observing his/her
behavior. A child with autism in the middle of a meltdown does not consider his/her own safety, and has no
interest on the social circumstances.

Outbursts will usually continue and on their own or may or with assistance wind down slowly. An overload
makes it known that no one is in control; neither the parent nor child.

Leading Causes of Inappropriate Behaviors

Language delays:
Children with autism may not always understand what is being said to them or asked of
them, due to their communication delays. They also may lack the language to clearly express their wants
and needs. Misbehaving, or throwing a tantrum, is a good way to get attention and often is the only way the
some children can express their emotions and themselves.

Sensory disorder: Sensory integration disorder can also be a primary cause of behavioral issues. A
common feature of autism is oversensitivity to sounds, texture, smell and lights. Watch out for telltale signs
of an overload such as covering eyes, banging the head, and being unusually sensitive to sound.

Change in routine: The need for sameness or routine is common for many children with autism. When
children impose a high level of rigidity and structure on their environment, they are setting up unrealistic
expectations. When these expectations are not met, it leads to an increase in anxiety and frustration, which,
in turn, leads to an increase in behavioral problems.

Manipulating Meltdowns

When a child with autism understands and manipulates a meltdown to get his/her own way, you are dealing
with an intelligent child who can stop the behavior if it is caught in time. A meltdown usually occurs
because of a specific want is not permissible. Show the child you are in control. Keep in mind that a child
with autism, regardless of how well they understand that the tantrum is not wanted, after a limit has been
reached, nothing can satisfy the child until the situation is over.

Another cause of meltdowns can be other health issues. When your child begins a meltdown, remove
him/her from any areas that could harm to the child such as glass shelving and doors or any objects that
may cause injury.

It's important to always keep in mind that children with autism spectrum disorders are not necessarily being
manipulative or stubborn when they are having behavioral difficulties. They may not have any other way to
express what they are experiencing. If we learn to listen to behaviors, we'll be able help them handle them in
a more effective and productive manner.