He knows, but he doesn’t know.
There is a boy at school with the same name as my boy. When I met him, I knew. I just knew. I saw it before he even reached out his hand to shake mine. The act of shaking my hand took me by surprise because I knew he was like my son. Like him, but not exactly. I wondered if there was just a sense about the whole thing.
Do other Autism Spectrum Moms just know? I don’t know, because I don’t really know any other moms with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) kids. I do, but I don’t. I should really get to know them better. No one had to tell me that this child was on the spectrum, or on some sort of spectrum.
But he shook my hand, which is strange for an ASD kid, so maybe I was wrong. Maybe my Aspie Mom sense was all tingly for nothing.
Then there was this one day when my boy said “This kid is really weird. He does strange things and is just really weird.” I almost snorted coffee right up to my brain, but suppressed it. My Aspie son was making social judgement on another ASD (at least in my head) child.
How do you tell your Aspie child that he’s weird too?
“Why is that kid so weird?” He asks me.
Um, uh, “I gotta go to the bathroom” I said and in my head continued …”and hopefully you’ll forget that you asked that question.”
Just how do you explain it? I mean, I tried. I told him kids are different and we are all valuable even if we do things differently than others. I told him that some people have disabilities you can’t see but affect the brain and that makes them act different and not process things like others. Inside my head voice continued, “Like you.”
I’ve just never really seen him as weird or different or disabled. I’ve never talked to him about being disabled or special needs. I know that others see him differently and with these labels. In fact, I pursued a label to get him help, but I don’t see him that way…not really. Having a diagnosis helps me understand his behaviors like never before. I like knowing what we are dealing with and how to help him thrive in this world. I have never had the right words to say “Hey son, other people see you as ____.” I have told him that he has “Aspergers Syndrome” and what that kind of means. Really, how do you explain that to a child who thinks he’s “normal”? He just wants to be like everyone else.
I see my son as having a kind heart that bleeds with sensitivity. He loathes to see anyone hurt, whether it be human, animal or insect. He won’t even throw a spider outside on a cold day. Oh no. He’d rather keep them safe in a plastic container in the basement room with him, only to have me find it months later…*shiver* The value he places on life is a beautiful thing, though.
He’s been asking deep, introspective questions since he could form sentences. He asked me why God let bad things happen when he was three years old. What three-year old child asks that? That scratches the surface of questions he would ask and I would have no clue about how to answer them in a way that would make sense to a small child. He would often have me stumped. I’m happy that he is at an age where he can understand many more concepts and it is easier to answer those questions.
My son is a child that will go to great lengths to help and please his parents and friends. His willingness to do things when asked (as long as it’s not school related) is a shining beacon to those around him. This is a beautiful thing when you need him to do the dishes, but can be a harmful characteristic when friends start to influence.
Some people may see my son as obsessive, but I think that he just has focused interests. So what if he can’t think of anything besides Star Wars for three years straight. I’m ok with the fact that every spring he gets excited about looking for insects to take care of and love and try to take inside. I’ve become ok with it, and he’s become ok that the insects stay outside. Every fall we deal with the disappointment that the frost brings. No more insects to love and inspect except those little beetles and spiders that just won’t die when they find their way inside.
But how do you explain an invisible disability to a child who is so incredibly able to do so much?
We talk about strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. When he struggles I relate to him in the struggle and give him examples of those who have overcome to do great things. When his strengths stand out, we are quick to encourage him in them. Like the bug thing.
He doesn’t know. So how do we tell him? Do we have to?