I read a version of the serenity prayer this week written by an autism mum (facebook.com/MommyBuddy). It said: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept that the world doesn’t understand autism-The courage to take my child out in public anyway-And the wisdom to know when it’s time to go home.’
The ‘time to go home’ bit made me laugh…because it is so true. I do think that the world is getting better at the understanding part, and having courage can pay off. Like yesterday when I went to the park with my son. He requested to go. When we arrived he saw children playing over at the obstacle course on the other side of the park and he ran over there. He worked his way through the course, needing help from me every now and then to tackle the big equipment. When he finished the course I suggested to him that we go over to the other part of the park that had a big playground. There were no children over there. He looked at the small group of children playing together (there were no other parents around) on the obstacle course and said to me “please have the boys and girls come over there (and pointed to the playground). I said to him ‘Sure – you go and ask them.’ So we walked over to the oldest girl in the group who looked about 11 or 12 years old. I said to the girl “my son wants to ask you ask question if that’s ok.” She had a couple of younger friends sitting near her. My son turned to her and said “please… you come…you go…this way…go over there… the playground…with me”
My son’s body was not quite facing the girl front on, his speech was clear but a bit laboured, and the sentence structure was…well… wonky tonk (that’s the official word for it)…but he had tried his guts out to ask the girl and her friends to come over to the other playground with him. Every word that came out of his mouth was said with maximum concentration to try and communicate what he was wanting. I looked calm on the outside, but my chest was pounding. This was huge. HUGE! In times like this all the years of work and effort and intervention come together. My mind is flooded with the memory of all those countless little developmental building blocks that have been put in place over the years to bring about this moment. I stepped back a little and held my breath…there are no therapists around, no one scaffolding interactions, no one making accommodations, no one thinking about autism…just my kiddo out in the big wide world…initiating a social interaction. The scariest part is that the outcome is totally out of my hands. It rests in the hands of a young girl and her friends who just happened to be playing in the park late on a Sunday afternoon.
The girl as calm as anything says to my son “sure thing-just give me a minute and we will be right over”. My son promptly sat down in the sand to wait for her until she and her friends were ready.
I am not sure if the girl didn’t notice any differences, if she didn’t care or if she was too polite to say. It didn’t matter to me-I stood there next to my son and smiled. AMAZING!! It would mean nothing to so many other mothers but to me it meant everything. When other people respond like that girl did-I feel so filled with hope. Every day regular people out in the community can do so much and make such a difference. Children can help without even realising it and without doing that much at all. The girl in the park didn’t say NO to playing with my son, she didn’t ask why he talks a bit different, she didn’t ask why his body language was not quite right, she just said YES! She was warm and friendly and was just a nice person.
I don’t always know how the next person I meet is going to react…and whether or not they are going to be as natural and as inclusive as that young girl in the park. This day was a good day! My son got to experience one of the greatest and simplest pleasures in all of life. Playing with some kids you meet at the park late one sunny afternoon and staying until the sun goes down and its way past dinner time, because you have buddies to hang with and you can play chasey and hide and seek and push each other on the swing. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that. Pure bliss for my son. Indescribable joy for me . Just had to share it.