You may have guessed this, but in case you didn’t know, Tim and I are introverts. We can handle being social in very small doses, with only a few people at a time – where we can do some serious talking – but then we need a good amount of time to recover! Big parties where I don’t know anyone are by definition terrible for me. Tim has learned a bit more about being social in a crowd, but usually I’m fine if people don’t talk to me because I’m bad at small talk.
All this to say that actually, we have absolutely NO trouble talking to other people about autism, and our lives as parents of an autistic boy. AND, we want other parents to talk to us! The parents who do drop-off and pick-up for the AU classes at the J-man’s school tend to stand around and talk to each other during the wait times, EXCEPT for the new parents. It seems like this year, the parents of the kids in Pre-K (and therefore, new to the school in general) don’t want to talk. They stay in their cars, watch closely for the kids to come out, grab their kid, and GO.
I wish they would stay and talk.
We had a family night at the school last week, and I saw one of the new families there. I went up to talk to them, because I remember what it’s like to be new. The mom talked to me a little, and then mentioned that everything about autism was new to her. She had all these questions, and didn’t know who to ask. I started introducing her to the other parents in the room, because we can answer lots of those questions!
New Mom: well, we were a little late because I had to make more chicken nuggets. (In an aside) I swear I make nuggets 50 times a day. I feel like all he eats are nuggets.
Me: Let me talk to you about the Sacred Six foods that the J-man eats. Really. Yes. Only 6 foods.
New Mom: Oh gosh! I thought we were the only ones who had food issues! (tears in her eyes)
Me: No, I can introduce you to a lot of people whose kids have food issues!
New Mom: I feel like sometimes my son has some sort of odd feelings about touching things.
Me: Yes, the J-man does too.
New Mom: It’s almost like it HURTS him to touch soft, goopy things.
Me: Yep, sensory issues are VERY common with autism. The J-man has had a LOT of therapy to help with that issue, but there are still some things that he shrinks from, or actually gags when he sees.
New Mom: My family has told me I’m just “spoiling him.”
Me: No, for some autistic people, it seems that sensory input is much higher than for others. It’s almost like nails on a chalkboard type of feeling. Let me introduce you to others whose kids are working through some of those issues.
New Mom: is autism something he will grow out of? I’ve only ever seen 3-5 year olds with it at this point.
Me: well, autistic kids do keep developing and changing and learning – it’s just often at a different pace. Let me introduce you to some people who have older autistic kids.
And so on.
I just wanted to hug that woman so much! I wanted her to know that she’s not alone. I wanted her to know that the parents in that room, and the parents she sees during drop-off and pick-up are NOT judging her. I wanted her to know that talking to other parents can help, if not with specific tips, then at least with empathy, because we live it too.
I wanted her to talk to me.