Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How do You Handle that Awkward Silence....

of when you first tell people you have an autistic child?? You know, you are talking to either a friend or a co worker and it comes up. Or, when talking casually to a first time mom about things like vaccines. There is an awkward silence between conversation when I tell them "My son is autistic". It is the same pause when you tell people someone in your family has died. They don't know how to react. Well, let me tell you. All you have to do is ask the normal questions. You know, all the ones you stop asking when I bring up the "autism" word. He really is wonderful, and I will be the first to tell you so. You don't have to pity us as his parents, or him as the child. Understanding that he is first a 5yr old little boy is paramount. I like to fill that awkward silence with pointing out that he is just a wonderfully, unique little man. I will shout it out to the world if you let me. I will also shout out how wonderful my oldest son is....you know, the one who has to take shots everynight to grow. Don't feel sorry for him either. He does not feel sorry for himself. If anything, he has learned a most valuable lesson very early in life. "We are all the same, even though we are different". Sure, there are days when he does not feel like getting a shot; pleading "can we please skip tonight?? I am tired!" But, more often than not, he is ready when you say so.

So, don't go silent on me when I bring up my kids' diagnosis. To me, that is part of what makes them the unique and wonderful little people they are. They are not defined by it. And you know what? That awkward silence is not going to prevent me from talking about my kids. I am not going to hide them from anyone or the fact that they have some differences. No, life has not gone as I had planned, but I was never really the one in charge of that anyway. If anything, I will shout louder because of the negative thoughts associated with autism. Kind of like saying "Look at this kid. He smiles, he cries, he likes to go places, he likes toys, he likes music and bright colors, just like any other 5yr old! And he has autism." Yeah our days are filled with therapists and evaluations, and other things that most parents don't have to do. But, I would rather be doing this stuff than not have him at all. So, no, I would not trade my life as it is, because that would be saying there is something wrong with my life now.

So, how do YOU handle that awkward silence?? I really want to know.