I try to rotate my posts so I write on homeschool, autism, and healthy living somewhat equally (hence my tagline). Every time an autism post is due, I realize my posts get really heavy and meaty. There’s a lot of information and emotion, so for this post I thought, I’m gonna write a light and fluffy kinda autism post. I have tried thinking of some kind of quick, fun tidbit to pass along about autism but as far as I can see, there just isn’t one.
Because with autism, nothing is simple. It’s a complicated disorder.
Yes, there are funny moments (a future post, maybe…?) and you absolutely must have a sense of humor to endure autism, but for the most part, it’s unpredictable, stubborn, demanding, selfish and consuming. There’s very rarely easy answers to anything.
And although John’s not referring to autism specifically, the Bible even warns us about this: “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33). Plain and simple. Life’s not easy. And it’s not. Autism or not.
Yet we’re still surprised. We’re still caught off guard when these hardships and trials happen to us. And the only breath of fresh air we ever really get is grace.
So there’s the light and fluffy side to autism: grace.
I got a piece of that pie this week. Parents of kids with special needs revel in these moments because sadly, sometimes they are few and far between. So when it happens so blatantly, of a gesture large or small, it’s worth celebrating.
Because it took so much persuading to get him ready, we were late for the lesson (second red flag). When we walked in, the tables in the lobby were full (third red flag – a large audience for the inevitable meltdown I was predicting by now) which meant the table we’d sat at the last two lessons was not available (fourth red flag).
Then, right on time, the meltdown:
“MOM!!! GET THAT WOMAN OUT OF OUR SEAT!!!!!
I do not use caps letters non-judiciously in my writing, so yes, that means he was literally screaming this at the top of his lungs in a very small pool lobby.
I quickly pasted on a smile. I glanced over my shoulder to do a head count of all three boys to make sure they were in safe proximity. I held my son who was melting down by the hand. I braced myself for this to get ugly.
I skipped all the defensive jargon that is prone to go through my mind at this part of a meltdown and got right to the point. I looked “that woman” dead in the eye and said, “I’m so sorry; he has autism. He’s not mad at you, he’s upset because that was the seat we sat in the last two times we came.”
There are days we have to carry around our disclaimer like an identification card, “I’m sorry, he has autism…”. I am not apologizing for the autism; I’m apologizing for what he has done or said that causes me to need to explain that he has autism.
“NO! I DON’T LIKE THAT LADY!!! GET THAT LADY OUT OF HERE!!”
Then, before I even had time to get embarrassed, she smiled and replied,
“Oh, nononon. Don’t apologize.” Then she did the best thing; she looked right at my son and said, “Here, hunny. Would you like to sit here?”
I tapped him on the shoulder because he had not acknowledged her question and said, “did you hear that?! She asked if you wanted to sit there. What do you say?”
“Yes.” He mumbled inaudibly.
As I was instructing him to tell her thank you, she interrupted, “oh, you’re welcome, dear” and smiled. She knew he meant it. She knew at the moment he couldn’t say it.
“Thank you” He mumbled, mostly to me.
I thanked her and we took her seat. Everyone went back to their business. There were no looks of disapproval from the crowd, no murmuring. No judgement in the air. Just a nice woman and a little boy who was really happy to have his seat back.
It was a small event. It’s likely that those people in the lobby didn’t think twice about us after they left the pool. But for a mom, it’s sometimes easy to feel defeated. Those little seemingly insignificant events sometimes become tally marks on your heart – one more meltdown. One more place we cannot go peacefully. One more exhausting and unsuccessful battle against autism.
But grace erases the tally marks. Grace clears the slate. Grace lets you walk out of the situation with a smile even though you didn’t play any real part in the success of the moment.
So thank you, woman at the pool, for giving me a piece of that this week.
P.S. Two days later we returned for another lesson. This time we prepped that someone might be in “our” seat. We walked in and in fact there were two women sitting there. My son walked halfway up to them and in his sweet, monotone, under his breathe, most polite voice said, “Excuse me ladies, would you like to make a trade?”
I melted, because I knew exactly what he meant; when his brothers have something he wants, we have taught him to ask “can we make a trade?” instead of melting down or fighting. So in our world, he used absolutely appropriate language to try to get what he wanted.
They didn’t hear him and I was able to redirect him to another seat with no incident where I praised him over and over for his great words.
Even more grace. 🙂