I was pottering around on the Internet, and came across this blog post.
The writer has an 11-year-old with autism, was on vacation (in San Francisco, oddly enough), and right before their scheduled tour of the Bay, the child needed to use the bathroom. Since they were out and about in a crowded area, the only available bathroom was a public one, with a line. BUT a big problem: the child is not able to wait in line. So she asked the first person in line (it sounded like a long line, so he had probably been waiting a while) to let her son go ahead, because he had autism. The man refused, and instead lectured her on her poor parenting skills. She was very angry, and thus the post.
Obviously the man was out of line (because 1. you shouldn't tell strangers how to parent and 2. if someone is desperate enough to ask to cut the bathroom line, you should probably just let them go ahead, both as a basic human decency and because it saves trouble/gross accidents for everyone involved).
But the whole situation as described puzzles me. How on earth can she even expect to go anywhere in public (let alone heinously crowded tourist traps) with a child who can't wait? And why can't he wait? It seems ridiculous.
R is (as far as I can tell) neurologically normal. But normal at 17 months old means her ability to tolerate frustration and control her impulses are at the lowest point in a human's lifespan. Even she can wait. She waits in line all the time, because that's part of city living (especially in a densely populated place like Singapore). While she's too young to wait for the bathroom, she has frequently waited to be fed, for water, and for other biological urges causing discomfort, so it seems analogous. She can't wait nearly as long as an adult (or even an older child), but waiting 15 minutes+ is generally entirely possible, at least as long as I am willing to help her do it (by providing active distraction, soothing and palliatives). And she isn't even that good at waiting, compared to the typical child in Singapore (parents here are generally stricter than I am).
Being unable to wait would be a totally crippling disability. Everything in the modern world is about waiting: wait to eat, wait to buy things, wait in traffic...And pretty much all social interaction is also centered around waiting (in the guise of 'taking turns'). After the first year of life, someone who truly can't wait would be barred from all public life and most personal relationships.
I suspect that her son is, in fact, able to wait. (He has two siblings, after all; presumably he must occasionally have to wait for his parents' attention, for example). Indeed, in her account, her son was waiting (even without misbehaving, which she suggests might be one reason the man was unsympathetic, as he couldn't 'see' the disability). She seems to be the one unable to wait, out of anxiety over what might happen (the fact that they were running late for their tour might also have been a contributing factor).
I feel like a jerk for thinking this (and perhaps I am in fact a jerk), but I wonder if part of her son's problems are due to her parenting. She seems to have very low expectations for him (I mean, I expect more from R, and she can't even talk). She also seems to encourage his self centeredness (particularly unfortunate as this is already something that people with autism struggle with): for example, he didn't tell her he needed to go to the bathroom until "just as we were about to board", inconveniencing the whole family (and ultimately causing them to miss the tour). There is no mention of discussing with him the problems that his behavior caused, or going over what he ought to do differently in future. In fact, she seems to think he has no personal responsibility whatsoever. This is unfortunate for the public, of course, but disastrous for him: how will he grow into a functioning, mature, thoughtful adult otherwise?
Partly this reaction is due to the parenting book I'm currently reading (The New First Three Years of Life, by Burton White: totally awesome BTW). He discusses the process of spoiling children very thoroughly, and I feel like the scales have fallen from my eyes. I frequently have seen parents doing all the things he describes (and have done many of them myself), but never really linked the parents' actions with their children's bad behavior. Now it all makes sense.
NB: I don't know that much about autism and don't personally know anyone with the disorder. So this could just be my ignorance talking: if you know better, feel free to tell me! (Links to actual information/studies etc. are especially good.)