I've talked a lot about the challenge of recognizing the limits of my kids, but it's also important for the adults to recognize their own limits.
Yesterday, Nathan and Dave had an unpleasant finish to the weekly Cub meeting. It was the Cub Car race day and Nathan was very excited about the car which he and his father and grandfather had built. He asked his dad to accompany him to the races.
The meeting was long and full of excited, noisy kids, which ended up taking a toll on both Nathan and Dave. Nathan got upset when his car failed to win any of the races (though he came in a respectable 2nd most of the time). Dave, already stressed and having a hard time, didn't have the mental resources to deal with Nathan's upset and things quickly escalated.
I managed to get them both calmed down once they got home, but after, I sat down with Dave to talk about avoiding a repetition. He'd told me that he'd realized he was having trouble early on. I suggested that in future, he call me and I would switch places with him so that Nathan could still have family there to root him on.
The boys understand that their father has trouble with crowds and noise, just like they do. One of the things I've been working on with them is building up their tolerance, but also trying to get them to understand the early warning signs of overload, so they can ask for a break or take steps.
Because Dave was not diagnosed with autism as a child, the message which he received from society as a whole was to stop being difficult and tough it out. When I hear of parents who don't want to get their child diagnosed or who won't tell a child about their diagnosis, I think of Dave, struggling and not understanding why these things are so much harder for him than everyone else. It's discouraging and demoralizing in the best of circumstances.
I can understand not wanting a child to be ostracized or labeled, but if the challenges are there, simply refusing to acknowledge them is one of the most harmful and isolating choices possible. Imagine a child with a missing foot being constantly pushed to run or walk faster and farther. It would be horribly cruel, and pushing someone with autism to be social without giving them the tools to cope is just as cruel.