Don't judge them in the first 5 minutes.
Not in the first 10 minutes either.
Not even within the first hour or two.
One day last year, I was walking with The Boy and a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Can he talk?"
I know why she asked - The Boy was speaking in jargon, in that high pitched voice of his. But still. It was sort of rude to walk up to a perfect stranger and ask such a question. After I said, yes and explained The Boy had autism. The woman then proceeded to explain the importance of early intervention and services. I let her talk.
I'd like to add on the day this occurred, we were walking in the middle of a snow storm. NYC public schools had closed. But the OT at the Sensory Gym was available and so I bundled The Boy up so we could take the 3 buses to get to Sensory Gym. So yeah, lady - I got that services are important.
So what's the point of this little flashback?
The woman last year heard The Boy for 5 minutes and she was ready to make an assumption.
I know people look at him while flapping, fumbling, mumbling or melting down. I know strangers in the streets wonder why I whisper in his ear and smooth the small of his back, when they assume what he really needs is "some sense smacked into him." Because yeah - that's been said to me too.
But what they w
on't refuse to see is that The Boy is special and super bright and funny and really quite charming.
The Boy is like a gift under the Christmas tree. That strange shaped box that you look at and turn over and wonder what's inside. The one you stare at for the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, guessing and second guessing. Assuming it must be _______.
And then it's Christmas Day and you open the box and you are totally surprised. Because it's so much better than anything you ever expected or assumed. And you realize it was worth the wait.
That's The Boy. That's autism.
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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.