Here in Baltimore, the schools are closed for three days this week – yesterday because of Martin L. King Jr Day, today and tomorrow for “professional service”. Since the wife and the baby have their ‘mommy and me’ class on Mondays, I took the Monster around with me, then out to the JCC to pick up the baby so the wife could have personal time.
So, on our way to the JCC, we stopped at Starbucks so I could get a coffee and a treat for the Monster. It was good practice for working on techniques we’ve been trying to strengthen with him – making sure he’s holding a hand in public (that he’s doing most of the work to stay close), especially the parking lot, and ensuring that he’s ‘okay’ in crowded places after how he was reacting late on Sunday night at the aquarium. When we approached the door, a nice woman opened it for us and let us through, commenting that she ‘has one of her own’.
Now, ordinarily, most of us take that the way you’d think, ‘one of her own’ being a child. (And, let’s be honest – the Monster’s awfully cute.) When we were waiting in line for orders, though, she asked further. Specifically – she had noticed that he was doing a little bit of toe-walking, and gently inquired into how the Monster is doing.
I’m hardly shy about the Monster’s Autism, to be fully fair, because I think that the only way that people in general are going to have a greater awareness about Autism and related disorders is if they’re exposed to people with those disorders. So we got into a discussion about him, that he’s on the spectrum and is high functioning, that he’s only partially verbal but quite friendly and social. She crouched down to his level and I coaxed him into saying hello, and she commented on the fact that he made very good eye contact while saying hello…
The subject of discussion while we were waiting for our orders aside (IEPs and the difficulty of getting diagnoses/help), it’s one of those moments that I really do enjoy and can somewhat relax in, when I’m talking with someone who doesn’t have some of the weird conceptions about what Autism is or how to treat it. No being asked why I’m letting the Monster have a cooky for thoughts on the whole GFCF thing. No presumptions that the Monster’s intellectually impaired just because he has Autism, as evidenced by the fact that he can string together a sentence just fine (when he wants) and responds to instructions in multiple languages. And bonus points for the fact that we had a meaningful conversation about the program the Monster’s in with the public schools, and how the district she’s from in New York has a very similar program that seems to get decent results.
I don’t know if it’s ‘weird’ to actually find it nice when folks understand what the Monster has… but I like it.