During my time as a summer camp counselor working with children on the spectrum, we took a field trip to the local zoo. I stepped away from the group to take one of the younger girls in the group to the restroom. Once we got there, this young girl noticed an older, African-American janitor cleaning outside the door. She pointed at the janitor and asked very loudly, “Why is she so dirty?”
I am not sure if my camper had never seen an African-American woman before, or if she simply forgot, but regardless it was very “au-kward” and the woman was blatantly offended.
I ushered my camper into the stall and rushed out to apologize and speak with this woman. Before she could start yelling at me about the comment, I quickly began explaining that the girl was on the autism spectrum. Since the woman was unfamiliar with autism, she claimed I was making up excuses for the girl’s lack of manners. I gave her a brief lesson on Autism 101 and explained that many children with autism often have a difficult time understanding what may or may not be socially appropriate. You can read more about this here.
Eventually, the woman softened and appreciated my explanation. My camper came out of the restroom and apologized. The situation may have been pretty “au-kward” at first, but it ended well and the woman from the zoo learned something new about autism that day.
— Lindsay Rosen