My four year-old ran out onto the field during his big brother's baseball game tonight. It caused some commotion as we called "time" and my husband had to go after him. After much zigging and zagging, my husband snatched him up and carried him off the field in a fireman's carry. Some of the other coaches were joking around about it, but the episode bothered me.
"Do the other guys know? Have you explained...?" I whispered to my husband. He shook his head.
"I will," he promised.
A big part of being the parent of a child with autism is having to explain your child's condition to others. My son is still young, so sometimes it's not immediately obvious that he has a developmental disability. He just seems like a bit of a lunatic, and my husband and I look like slacker parents.
I often dread the explaining bit because I hate the pity looks. Don't get me wrong--most people do a decent job of covering. Say my son walks up to an acquaintance at a school concert and smells her, I say, "Sorry. He has autism, so he doesn't always understand boundaries." The woman's face will freeze into an expression that is trying desperately to mask a reaction. Then the she will respond, "Okay?" like it's a question. Those are good people. I know they don't know how to act, and they're doing their best.
The people who truly bother me are the ones who cry, "Oh, no! I'm so sorry!" Maybe they mean well, but autism isn't a tragedy. It's a pain in the ass and it's unfair and I wish it would go away, but c'mon.
Then there are the people who, upon hearing that my son has autism, reply, "Oh! So does my son/daughter!" And we are instantly friends.
I should clarify that I don't really care what people think of me. If they don't like my parenting, they can stick it. But my boy...I want people to understand him. He's amazing.