The day started with the class greeting the parents in the school foyer. My son was next to the teacher on the walk up. When he saw that big crowd he promptly flopped on the floor against a wall and started crying. Now at home we know how to prepare him for big crowds. The teacher suggested I walk him down to the classroom before everyone else so we could get settled.
I felt lost, sad, and isolated. I knew the other 24 parents in the class saw my kid on the ground. I got my son up and walked him to his classroom where a support staff person showed us a quieter place to sit. We sat and waited for 50-60 other adults and children to enter the room. I watched my son curl into a ball and the tears start to roll down his face.
I looked up to see parents walking by with looks on their face that seemed to say, “Oh great- he is THAT kid. He’s the CRIER! He’s the one who takes time away from my child.”
Once everyone was seated the teacher asked the students to gather at the front of the classroom. My heart sank because I KNEW he wouldn’t do it. He walked to his teacher in tears and wouldn’t even stand near the other children. He stood buried between the teachers with his back facing the class and parents. The students sang a lovely song about being thankful and I had to choke back tears as I watched my son struggle and observed the other parents looking at him cowering in the corner.
The lovely poem ended and the children were told to go back to their seats, but my son was so frozen in time he couldn’t even walk back to me. He couldn’t even weave his way past four people. I had to get up to get him and the teacher help guide him back…GREAT now everyone knows I’m Mom and my son is the one who took away from a lovely day with his classmates and families.
The meal service gets underway and I have to walk with my trembling, sobbing son to get food I know he won’t eat. The turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy and corn bread are just not things on my son’s diet. I am lucky if he will drink the juice box at the end of the table. I go through the motions as I get a plate and walk him with me.
We get back to the table and it is now time for a family picture. Wonderful- let’s add another thing to the list of things he struggles with. My son still has puffy cheeks and eyes, but I gathered him on my lap and threw a smile on my face! Fake it until you make it right?
The day ended with a little boy in my son’s class approaching him and asking “How come you didn’t sing with us?” The little boy’s dad was standing right there and he just looked away. I was crushed when I realized that my fear of my child being “different” wasn’t just in my head. I knew 24 peering eyes saw my son and knew that he was different. My son didn’t say anything. I just kneeled down to my son and the little boy and said, “Sometimes things are different.” The boy’s father just gave my son and me a blank look. I took my son’s hand and waved to the little boy as we walked to the car.
I wanted to ask my son why, but I knew I couldn’t! I knew he couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t want to tell me why he didn’t sing today. The reality of the situation is that it didn’t matter- we just had a day where Autism brought us tears, but not of joy. Someday…. right?
This quote stuck with me as I sat in the car trying to choke back tears again…
“Don’t look at my child with Autism and feel bad for us, look at this child with Autism and be happy for what we have overcome!”