"Life will knock you down. You can choose to stand up again."
Monday, February 9, 2015
Autism in Our Home - Perception
Isn't this picture great? This is Colton and his cousin, Miss Eden. Eden doesn't see anything "wrong" with Colton. They are good buddies! Eden isn't the only one who doesn't see anything "wrong" with Colton. In fact, anyone who looks at Colton with their eyes only will see nothing "wrong" with Colton. Colton looks like your average 11 year-old boy. He doesn't have any equipment that would cause people to identify him with a disability. He doesn't have a service dog. He doesn't walk with a limp. He doesn't require assistance with walking or sitting or standing. He doesn't have any facial features that would trigger an automatic reaction in someone who might determine that he is disabled. This can make things even more difficult for Colton and for our family. Now, PLEASE don't judge what I am saying here. Again, this is autism in OUR home. This is OUR story, OUR perception, OUR journey. Because Colton "looks normal," it isn't until he starts to talk, or gets fixated on something, or acts inappropriately that people start to judge. And because he "looks normal," people automatically determine that he is weird or odd or out of control or immature. People automatically assume that he has bad parents, that he is spoiled or just the opposite - that his parents need to be more patient. Yesterday, we were waiting for a restaurant to open so we went next door to a sporting goods store, just to walk around. There is no such things as just walking around with Colton. Josh or I have to keep our eye on him at all times. Within minutes of entering the store, I had to have my hand on his arm and then in his hand. Before we had even been in the store for five minutes, I had to take him back outside. This is not a five year old child. This is an eleven year old, turning twelve in a few months. People stare. It's hard. When we got to the restaurant, he wanted to ask random people random questions, which is normal. In order to keep him "at bay," I handed him my phone for him to play Solitaire and the circle game. That kept him busy for about ten minutes (which is AWESOME!) and then we had to find something else for him to focus on. He got up on his knees, turned around in his seat and faced backwards to watch a show on a tv screen that was right in front of him, had he been sitting on his bum, facing forward. Again, people stared. We are learning to just go with it. He wasn't hurting anyone by sitting on his knees, backwards in his seat, looking up and over the other booths. Last week, we went to Red Robin for dinner. THREE families who were seated next to us asked to be moved within minutes of sitting down. As his mom, I want to go to them and thank them for not saying anything directly to us but to explain that he has autism. I ALWAYS feel like I have to explain myself because by looking at him, you can't tell there is a significant disability! I feel like I need to tell everyone that he does, in fact, have a disability. But, I don't. I choose instead to focus on the family sitting at my table. We are learning to pick and choose our fights. We are learning what works and what doesn't work. We expect a lot of Colton. He has the same responsibilities as the other kids do. Sometimes, well most of the time, he goes about accomplishing them in a different way and at a different speed and that's okay. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, off to the next adventure.