Often in the morning I get a chance to have a good chin wag with cousin "D" as she commutes into her job. These conversations are usually about what's going on in each other's lives, reality TV, my kiddo, and the occasional waltz down memory lane of some fuzzy hazy night in our 20's where I may or may not of fallen "up" the steps to her apartment after last call. (She has no proof! None I say!)
So thank her,blame her, buy her a beer for this next post. She inspired it. She did ask a very legit question.
"WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A PARENT WITH A KID WITH AUTISM?"
Mad props for honesty. Seriously folks. What is it that we need to hear from people? We all know what is helpful and what is well, NOT! I know many of us have similar tales of woe and "Oh no she didn't!?!? Girl hold my earrings." I also know some things are said in that gray area of "god damn what do I say here?" They mean well but FAIL like Wild E. Coyote falling off the cliff after the Roadrunner.
And I really had to think about it. That's a damn good question she asked. We're running around wanting awareness and acceptance. OK, they're aware. Now what? So here are a few things that sprung to my mind. Feel free to add more.
I don't think I need a magically phrase as much as an attitude. A response of action more than a declaration. To quote that old hair band song, "More than Words". (lighters up for the power ballad!)
Like when you see me struggling, "What can I do to help?" is always perfect. I may play martyr here and say "Nothing". Ask again. Smile. Hold out a hand.
I tell you he's on the spectrum, feel free to share with me if autism or like disorders directly effect you or your family. Not your co worker's hair stylist's nephew. I'll talk shop with anyone. But please, spare me proving your autism street cred. Would you tell a cancer patient you knew that your mailman's daughter's boyfriend's cousin had cancer? See how ridiculous that sounds? But if you are looking for a great speech therapist or a good social story to explain getting ready for a trip to the doctors, let's chat!
Also, when I am struggling, this is not the time for a Frequently Asked Questions session for me. However, just chilling on a park bench while I'm watching my kid go on the slide for the hundredth time, go for it. The only stupid questions are the ones not asked. I don't expect anyone to be able to score a 100 on a autism fact test. I have no red pen. I won't take marks off.
And as open as I am about autism, please pepper in a few questions or thoughts that are NOT autism related. Ask me what my kid is into. Talk to me about what your kid likes to do and I will do the same. Ask about his school, his teachers etc... (You will tell me he is seriously good looking because he is ridiculously good looking. Not trying to brag here. My kid is a handsome hunk.) Talk about parks, stuff to do, movies you like etc... Anything. We're a tired parent who is in need of adult conversation just as much as you.
I'm not solely defined by my son's autism. Anymore than he is. It's a part of us but not all of us. We're a pretty cool duo and I must say, and a damn good time.
We even share fries. :-)