Surviving Thanksgiving and Autism

The  Holiday Season officially begins with Thanksgiving.  The time of year, you can see the visible shudders of parents and grandparents of children with Autism.

While your child’s social awkwardness spotlighted, so is the ignorance of those not normally around an Autistic child.  Every cliche that has ever been said about Autism will be said over, and over again, during the Holidays.  Relatives seen only annually will have great expectations of the Autistic child from a year ago.  By now, the child should be speaking, toilet trained, reading, sitting quietly at the dinner table, etc.  And why aren’t they??  Don’t you have them in the right school or Program?  Well, you will be told, “Don’t Worry, My friend’s cousin’s daughter’s best friend’s son started talking magically at 13.”  There, You see!  Everything will be all right. Your child just needs  more time, that’s all.   It’s as if the more it is recited, the truer it becomes.  You will be given the names of books to read, websites to look at, and yes, the name Jenny McCarthy will come up, and how she “cured” her child.

What it comes down to is tolerance.  Not towards your child’s behavior, this time, but  towards those who truly do not understand, and perhaps only ever remotely try to, for a few days out of the  year.  It is brain numbing enough for them to endure Autism for Holiday season, or God forbid, year round.  The best way to deal with these people??  Nod, and say nothing.  Things are too hectic to truly teach them anything this time of year, and frankly, they really don’t want the specifics of all the ABA and Hippotherapy that your child is getting, nor do they want all the updated statistic regarding autism and it’s  diagnosis.

What they really want, deep down is to show, in their own awkward way, that they care.  Because, family is family.  So, just nod, pass the gravy and take a deep breath.  Soon enough, they will be gone, you will be doing the dishes, and life will be back to normal.  At Least, your kind of normal.

Halloween was a Treat this year!!!

Mattie did SO well this Halloween, thanks to his on going ABA training, and his PECS “Trick or Treat” card his teacher made him.  We went to about 15 houses with my twin Godsons (one of which is also Special Needs), and everyone was in a great mood and VERY well behaved!!  Remind me to bring that card again next year, because that was the key.  Not only did Mattie use it PECS appropriately,meaning he handed it to each person opening the door, and then pointed to each word as he has been taught, but now my neighbors are more aware of Autism and it’s impact on not just one child, but the entire community! Win, Win, for everyone this year!! (Oh, and I scored a few Reese Cups as well!!)

Things I know because of Autism

Autism in the family can be a harsh teacher.

You acquire skills,  that never, in your wildest dreams did you think, you would ever need to know. Like how to defuse a potential tantrum, with calming gestures and a gentleness in your voice.  How to get a ten year old to take foul tasting meds, day after day. And the ever un-popular, how to change the diaper of an older child.

You are asked questions, that no one would ever ask a parent of a typical child.  How are you going to “handle” him, when he gets bigger?  Are going to put him in Residential Housing soon?  Why is he not potty trained yet?

You are expected to be an expert on Autism from the day the child is diagnosed. What causes autism?, someone will ask. Have you tried the Gluten-free diet yet? What medications do you recommend for autism? What Sensory issues does your child have?

You face a society, that does not know what to do with your child, or even you.  An outburst in the local Target store, can bring a drove of Security personal.  Neighbors will-and one did, call DMR or, God forbid, DSS to report you, because your child runs into their yard,(even though you are running as fast as you can behind them).  People openly stare at your child’s apparent lack of public behavior skills, until you say, quite loudly, “He has Autism, thanks for the concern!”.

So, what HAVE I learned from Autism?  That other people can say and act more rudely than my son ever will in public.  That no matter what the Doctor ever writes in his Evaluation, my son is still the same little boy he was before I read the report.  It’s just a piece of paper.  People will always stare, ask dumb questions, and invade our privacy, as if they have a right to.
But, most importantly, I have learned that, a little boy named Mattie has changed me, and my family, for the better.  Autism, or not.