I’ve had several people ask me about telling kids about their diagnosis. I’ll admit, I may not be the right person to ask. I’m so totally matter-of-fact about things, that in our house it goes something like this:
“So, little dude, you’re autistic.”
“A-u-t-i-s-t-i-c. Autistic. It means that your brain takes in a LOT of information and processes it (like a computer does). This is true for everyone, but your brain goes about it a little differently. It also means you might have difficulty with things that are too loud or too bright or involve too many people. And it also means that you may learn a LOT about one particular subject and then teach us all about it. Cool, eh?”
The other day, Speedy was reading the back of my wine glass that we received from David’s Refuge during a respite weekend. “Children with special needs aren’t sent to special parents, they make parents special.” He looked quizzically at me. “Do you know what it means when they say ‘children with special needs’?” He shakes his head no. Then he stops and smiles. “Is it because of my autism?” “Bingo, kid. You got that right.”
So here’s my thought on, well, pretty much everything. Kids pick up EVERYTHING. They hear and see all of it, especially when we think they can’t or don’t. When kids hear the adults in their life talking about their strengths and their abilities, and talking matter-of-factly about the benefits of being autistic, they have a more positive view of themselves than the kids who grow up hearing only about the deficits, the struggle, the “I wish he was never born this way” moments. Don’t get me wrong- we do have the struggles. We do have the nights when I dissolve into a weepy puddle in my husband’s arms- or vice versa- because we just had never signed on for how much work this would be. We do have to have deficit-based conversations at times (when our children are not in the building) because some access to services requires that conversation take place. I end most of our family dinners with my head in my hands.
I don’t want our readers to think I’m all sunshine and roses. No, lovies. I’m coffee and wine. I’m fried cheese and beer. I’m hanging on to the edge of a cliff by my chewed fingernails. I move through emotions so fast it would make your head spin, a fact which has often confused my acquaintances. But it’s all Coping Strategy 101. There is no manual for my children, which is why I write- so that you may have something to go by. A weird combination of Instructional Manual, Coffee Table Book, Bathroom Reader and Comic Strip.
I recently attended a conference where the presenter said “If you’re considering writing a book, don’t.”
I’m not letting that dissuade me.