Don’t Be an Autism Troll

My class informed me that I’m a troll.

At first I thought they were referring to a hideous creature that hides under a bridge in fairytales or the troll from Harry Potter or maybe Fiona from Shrek. Then I learnt it was for another reason.

I told my class I was going to post a discussion forum online between 9 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. so they could pick tutorial subject options. I created the discussion but forgot to hit the “publish” button. Unfortunately, some kids were still awake at 11 p.m. waiting for me to publish it. They said they could imagine me sitting at home laughing like an evil super villain. So now, I’m the internet troll teacher — someone who causes trouble on the Internet just for fun. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!

Why am I talking to you about this? I’m now going to introduce you to a weird creature — a twisted, nosey, irritating creature. This creature is the autism troll. Autism trolls lurk in the workplace and sometimes, in your own family. They may strike at any time; they will blindside you, and try as you might to forget it, their comments resonate.

One autism troll was a family member. Upon learning that Mr. H had been diagnosed with autism, the troll declared, “Oh yes, I know.” Um, how would you know? “Oh, you can just tell something is wrong with him.”  Boom, troll tries to make a hit; it grazes the chin, but Mom bounces back. I’d been obvious to me that something was going on with Mr. H, and it was probably obvious to some other people, but you don’t say that out loud!

Another autism troll’s habitat is the workplace. Upon informing the troll that Mr. H had been diagnosed with autism, this troll used the opportunity to tell everyone about the diagnosis and inform my boss I wasn’t coping in the workplace. Boom, troll tries to make a hit, but Mom deflects. Not much damage done. Lesson for that troll: Don’t mess with me! Believe me, I took care of business there.

The final autism troll I’m going to discuss also lurked in the workplace. I was in the staffroom, photocopying and chatting when a lovely non-troll asked me how Mr. H was doing. I explained things were going great and out of nowhere the troll said, “My husband has been doing some reading and do you know your son is autistic because you got him vaccinated?” Boom, troll makes a hit. We’ve got a stunned mom down, we’ve got a stunned mom down. All I heard was “Did you know you gave your son autism?” I’d never been spoken to like that before. Dear friends have asked me about the link between vaccinations and autism, and we’ve had some discussions but, I mean, who says that?

What you say and how you say things to a parent of a child with a disability does matter. Be a friend, ask questions, be supportive, but don’t be a troll.


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