Parents of autistic children often absorb the disapproving stares and comments of others—especially other parents—when their children become disruptive or do something society considers inappropriate. "There's always the parents who say, 'Can't you just keep your child quiet?' Michele says.
"Because they're not in a wheelchair, or they're not blind or not visibly disabled, they're really harshly judged," Katie says.
"What families and children with autism…what we really need is compassion and understanding. And what so often we're confronted with is scorn and disdain," says Alison, the mother of a 9-year-old autistic daughter. "It would be so much more valuable for people when they see a family struggling with a child with autism in a restaurant or on an airplane to say, 'Can I help you?' Or just to offer a knowing smile. Because that's not a child who is acting out, that's not a mother who doesn't know how to control her child or who's a bad mother. That's a family that's doing the best they can."
Despite the difficulties of raising an autistic child, it can be an amazing experience, too. "I often said that years ago I was looking for a 'love past infinity'—that's what I would call it, something that I loved greater than myself. And when Adam came into my life, it was that love past infinity," Jesse says. "The love that he gives me, the way that he goes through all of this therapy and he's always positive. The simplest things are so difficult for him to do, and he tries his best. It's just made me a better person, a more patient person."