“Thank You, I Needed That”

Several years ago, during one of our holiday trips, we went shopping at Downtown Disney. For those who are not familiar, Downtown Disney is an open mall, filled with shops and restaurants. The stores were very crowded with vacationers and locals enjoying the holiday decorations.

Mike, as always, was walking in front of me. I typically walk behind Mike. I am able to guide him through crowds verbally and redirect him, as needed. Also, he tends to walks at an extremely fast pace, whenever I get ahead of him, he speeds up to pass me.

As we were walking through one of the stores, Mike spotted a young man standing in line to check out of the store. The man was in his 20s and had two prosthetic legs. I can only assume that the young man was a war hero. His father was standing behind him and noticed Mike’s course correction in their direction.

Mike was on a MISSION and, in his excitement, picked up his pace. I immediately knew where he was heading and started chasing after him, calling his name – anything to slow him down. In my mind, I was hoping that I could explain his autism before he invaded their space.

As I was rushing over, I locked eyes with the young man’s father, he smiled and mouthed, “it’s okay.” I immediately felt some relief – at least he understands.

As we approached, I began apologizing. I started explaining that Mike has autism and is attracted to uniqueness in individuals. Before I could get the words out, Mike hit the floor to examine this young man’s prosthetic legs. Did I mention that we were standing in a crowded store! I was HORRIFIED!! The young man and his father were extremely kind and understanding – assuring me that it was alright.

As quickly as he hit the floor, Mike stood up. He looked the young man in the eyes and said …

“HIGH FIVE, Robot Legs – AWESOME!”

The young man gave Mike the high five, looked at me, and said …

“thank you – I needed that.”

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Jerry Seinfeld, NO AUTISM FOR YOU!

Jerry Seinfeld announces that he might have autism

– and the crowd goes wild!

After reading a few of the rants, I am left with only one question, ‘when did autism become a competitive sport?’

On occasion, I find myself asking this question when I read my blog. It typically plays out like this…

POST: Send help, Mike has repeated, “her skin turned to ice – her hair turned white” a million times.

     COMMENT: You should be thankful your son CAN talk.

     COMMENT: I would give anything to listen to my child script.

The comments are jolting and typically turn an otherwise positive outlet for parents into an uncomfortable downer. We are all affected by autism, why should any of us be thankful for the trials?

In case you are feeling isolated, please know, we ALL wish your child could talk! While I am happy that Mike has some language, I wish he could have a conversation that did not include movie scripts. Autism or not, as a parent, we ALL wish we could eliminate the challenges our children face.

Accepting autism is a process, wherever you fall on the spectrum, there are hardships, and there is humor.

For me, humor has been my lifeboat. As soon as I was able to laugh, I knew I would be okay. It takes a measure of acceptance to laugh through your life – whatever you are dealt.

I have the unique background of being an autism parent and an autism clinician. I have worked with countless families covering the full spectrum.

To the parent of a child on the lower end of the spectrum who is envious of the parent whose child is on the higher end of the spectrum, I say, be careful what you wish for. If autism were a competitive sport, there would be very few winners.

I can assure you, sitting on the floor of a school bathroom, crying with a 12-year-old with HFA because he cannot understand ‘why’ he does not fit in SUCKS!

In that moment, I was not thinking – gee, I wish Mike could experience this. Quite the opposite, I was thinking, I am so happy Mike does not experience this – he is HAPPY! While he has some desires beyond his limitation, for the most part, he is comfortable in his own skin.

From the outside, we can all look at Jerry Seinfeld and envy his success, for none of us truly knows his struggles – nor are we entitled to know them. I believe George said it best …

 “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

– George Costanza

So, lets all put away our daggers. Let us unify and focus our envy on the people who REALLY deserve it – the smart people, with money and vacation homes. The people who get enough sleep and have nice clean homes. You know them – the people who do not have any children at all!

It’s a JOKE –Yada, Yada, Yada – Serenity NOW!!!

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