Jenelle Evans is of course no stranger to internet experts weighing in on her parenting — namely, how bad it is. She’s faced criticism for tons of stuff lately, but for the most part, that’s all been directed at her. Now her “fans” are taking aim at her son, and that’s deeply uncool.
Take, for instance, this lighthearted picture she posted on Instagram yesterday. It’s a post that highlights how adorably quirky toddlers can be, with her son Kaiser sitting on a tricycle. Toddlers are fickle, so the little dude has lined up his other ride-on toys for a morning of scooting around the house, and this is, according to the many armchair occupational and behavioral therapists that haunt Evans’ page, proof positive that the little guy has autism.
This simple, innocuous picture brought plenty of haters to the yard. It started with a comment that simply said, “I dong[sic] know if anyone has ever told you but this kind of behavior in young children often points to them being on the autism spectrum. Not meant to be hate.”
And then snowballed into lovely comments like these: “I would be more worried that he can barely speak and he’s over two years!” and, of course, the helpful, totally legit professional who said, “This little boy is over 2 years old and sounds like a 12 month old with the one syllable utterances. He needs early intervention, period. (I am a speech therapist.) There are quite a few red flags with this child that any professional can see.”
Sometimes you just want to take the entire internet by the shoulders and shake a little sense and decency into it. Maybe comments like the ones Evans is getting come from a good place, just a little heads-up or cautionary tale that will perhaps prompt Evans to take her son in to be evaluated. But given the Teen Mom alum’s history with the many amateur family court lawyers that love watching her every move, it’s just hard to believe that’s what’s going on here.
Autism can manifest itself in many different ways, and yes, lining up toys is one of those ways. But so are many, many other behaviors that are entirely developmentally appropriate for a child that age. That’s just one of the many reasons moms will take a package of things that they see are “off” about their toddler and ask their doctors to weigh in. It is absolutely impossible for any of the people who occasionally pop by an Instagram page to see pictures or videos that represent a fraction of a fraction of Evans’ life to know for certain if her kid is in the developmental danger zone.
There are times when it is appropriate to say something to someone about their child’s development. Usually this person is a friend and not a stranger. Typically the thing you would bring to that parent’s attention is a physical symptom with which you are familiar, like this little boy, whose life was saved when his aunt noticed a symptom of cancer that his mother missed.
That’s kindness. This nonsense over on Instagram is barely veiled cruelty. If you don’t like a celebrity, that’s fine. But aren’t their children generally considered to be off-limits? That’s the decent thing to do, and we should try to keep it that way.
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