Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"I Have Autism"

I heard him say those words in public for the first time ever. Z has never discussed the fact that he has autism with anyone except family. I've never discouraged any discussion; autism is just as much a part of our regular lives as breathing.

Our local ShopRite grocery store has been gearing up for the beginning of Autism Awareness Month (April, with April 2 being World Autism Day), for the past couple weeks, by selling papers with the iconic puzzle piece to put your name on, lanyards, pencils, etc to raise funds for Autism Speaks. Each time we have been in there Z would comment how great it is that they are doing all of that for autism. (mixed in with the usual scripteds "I love this ShopRite", "This ShopRite is my favorite store", "Everyone is so nice here", "This is the best store")

Z and I ran to the store for a quick trip for just a few things. As soon as we walked in my beef lover smelled the hot dogs and there was a woman saying "hot dogs, doughnuts, drinks (etc) for autism awareness" by a table. We walked over because Z wanted to know how much everything was since he had allowance money. He ordered a hot dog and soda and the lady, a store employee, started telling us how the money would go towards autism research, and Z thanked her so much for doing this and told her it really meant a lot to him. My gut feeling was that he wanted to tell her, and even though my heart hurt a bit with worry, I asked him, "do you want to tell her why you feel that way?"

With no hesitation, Z said "I'm Z (ok he said his whole name lol) and I have autism!"

The woman was obviously caught off guard, and fumbled just a bit before responding with "Really? Oh you don't look like you have autism. You seem very smart. Here, have a doughnut, my treat."


Okay, before you get too upset at her response, let me tell you that as far as I know, Z was so deeply basking in self-pride and amazement that he said it out loud that I don't think he realized what she said; unfortunately I heard and processed every word and while those words made me wince a bit, I followed Z's lead and just smiled.

This isn't the first time I've heard that type of presumption. Sometimes those types of words are used in a person's flawed thinking that they have to comfort me with an assumption that I wold be sad about autism. This was the first time it was said in front of Z. I know that she was simply attempting to say something nice. Here's a suggestion to those of you that might struggle for a quick but nice response in a similar situation, say "Hi Z, nice to meet you!" (a friend of mine commented that, it's brilliant isn't it ;) )

We embrace everything about his autism. Yes he struggles with so many everyday things, and YES of course I am human and have my moments when I lose my patience as do his siblings; but I would not change a thing! As Z himself has said, he has autism but autism doesn't have him.

Follow his lead and enjoy the view.

No comments: