You know when you have an unexpected bright spot in your day? I don’t mean some incredible breakthrough of life-changing piece of news, just a small moment that makes you smile and sticks with you all day.
My 2-year-old incessantly asks to go fishing. Every day, he asks. Today my husband took him, so that left me with our 4-year-old, also our special needs child. We needed a few things so I stuck him in the car and headed to the Acme. I’ve been shopping at this Acme for over 12 years and I know many of the staff, at least by face. I always try to park near a cart corral. That way, I have access to a cart when I get there and I don’t have to leave the kids in the car to return a cart to the corral.
As I pulled in, one of the employees was gathering up the carts and taking them back to the store. If, my son should happen to decide that this is a moment he doesn’t feel like adapting to the transition, he’ll refuse to walk. He goes limp, sits down on the ground and refuses to budge. Good times! This is why I strategically plan things like parking and cart access. I lean out the window as I’m pulling in & say, “I’ll take one of those.” She graciously held on to it and offered it to me while I got K out of the car.
“Thanks. This is just easier if he can’t walk into the store,” I replied. She looked at us curiously, then asked, awkwardly, “Can he….do you mind if I ask…can he walk or is he handicapped?”
Ok, just that awkward moment when you’re trying to decide how much to divulge, and determine how much they really want to hear.
“He can walk. But, yes, he is handicapped.” I had lifted K into the big basket portion of the cart, and he was refusing to sit down. He was happy, but he was standing up, flapping his arms and bouncing. “Most of his disabilities are not physical,” I gave a little bit more information. “For instance, he cannot talk. Yet.”
She paused, like she was trying to find the right words. “You know I didn’t talk until I was four,” she said. And she motioned towards K. “And I used to do all of that.” Despite being pleasant and happy, K was in full-on stim mode. “I used to flap my arms and stuff. Does he make eye contact?” she asked.
“Yes. Better than most, better than what is expected.” I was still in the ‘how many details does she really want’ mode.
“Do you know why I don’t like to make eye contact?” she asked me. “Because faces are complex. Faces hold a lot of information. Sometimes it’s too much for me to process, so I just look away. ” She motioned towards the Acme. “In there, we have flickering lights. It bothers me, too much to process. Faces are the same way. I didn’t talk until I was four,” she repeated the information. “And now…” she trailed off.
I thanked her again for the cart and we walked towards the store. Here is a nice young woman, who presumably was autistic. Or still is. I guess once you are, you always are. And now she can hold down a decent job, I’ve seen her doing multiple responsibilities at the store. She can hold a decent conversation, and give a mom hope by trying to relate. Her parents must be very proud.