Since the Peanut Gallery seats typically had the worst view of the stage, it only stands to reason that the seats would be the cheapest seats in the house and that those sitting in the cheap seats, would be sold the cheapest snacks. Yep, you guessed it, those folks sitting in the Peanut Gallery were sold....peanuts. So, not only did these rude hecklers shout at the performers on stage, letting them know what a horrible job they were doing, every now and then, these Peanut Gallery patrons would chuck a peanut at one of the performers on stage. I have not had many opportunities to perform for a crowd on a live stage, but, none the less, I've had a peanut or two thwap me in the head over the years.
If you are a parent loving a child or an adult with autism, chances are good that you have had a peanut or two chucked at your head by someone in the Peanut Gallery. Typically, these peanuts are thrown by someone with a very limited view of the stage, a very limited awareness of the characters in the scene and someone who has never been on the stage with you. Sometimes, this heckler may be someone close to you, someone who may even have a better seat, a better view, but, this heckler still thinks your performance deserves a peanut or two to the head. Even if this someone has the best box seat in the house, and has a perfect view of you and your child, chances are good that they still have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, and even if they did, they would probably still throw peanuts at your head because they have never been on the stage. It's easy to be critical while sitting comfortably in the audience with little to no idea how much work has gone in to making the scene go off with or without a hitch. My advice? Practice throwing peanuts to score a good head shot to such rude audience hecklers.
Back then, Denial, Guilt, and Clueless were on stage with me, and trust me when I tell you, we felt each and every peanut chucked at us from the patrons sitting in the Peanut Gallery. When hecklers in the cheap seats, with such a limited view, would witness a full blown sensory meltdown, that to the ignorant audience member looked remarkably like a tantrum, heckles like, "if he just had a little more discipline", or "if there were more time outs, more consequences, more grabs by the shirt collar, maybe you wouldn't have this problem" along with other critical remarks, felt like a peanut shooting machine gun against my transparent skin.
Sometimes, even the quiet ones, in the good seats, without so much as a boo or a hiss out of them, would look at me and I felt the peanuts pelting off my head. You see, unlike Ryan, I can easily understand emotions conveyed from someone's eyes and I knew and felt the look of "Well, maybe if you just didn't give in to him all the time....". I recognized the condescending smile to my face and the eye roll to my back. Of all the heckles, of all the looks, my personal favorite heckle would come at meal time. Ryan's palate is dictated by the texture of every piece of food he puts in his mouth, so when I'm told by a heckler that, "He will eat it when he's hungry.", I kind of want to shove a handful of peanuts in their face....hard.
Even when I was on a stage filled with others, there were times, that I felt so terribly alone, questioning every move, every line and every choice I made and this made the hecklers' words, and their peanuts, feel more like a direct shot to my heart, than to my head.
We may have all had that initial fear as we stepped on the stage with autism, we may have all felt the sting from each and every peanut, but, in time, we have learned that this is our stage, and how we act out each and every scene is for our child, not for the audience. Sure, every now and then a peanut thwacking me on the temple still hurts, but, my skin has gotten thicker with time, experience, and awareness.
The folks in the Peanut Gallery, who have such limited views of the scene being played out before them, either due to a lack of awareness or due to a lack of concern, will always be ignorant, rude, and careless with their heckles, boos, and peanut tosses. It took me a while, but, I have learned that even if I were on that stage receiving an Academy Award for my performance, there will always be someone who thinks I don't deserve it, there will always be a Kanye West making me doubt that my performance is worthy of such an award. The difference now is that I am the one handing the Peanut Gallery patrons their cheap bag of peanuts to throw at will because now I know that the only person whose opinion really matters when it comes to my performance, is the one who has been standing on the stage with me all along.